Game Preview: San Antonio Brahmas at St. Louis Battlehawks, Saturday 1 June, 2024

  • San Antonio Brahmas (7-2) at St. Louis Battlehawks (6-3)
  • Saturday June 1, 2024 at 3:00 PM CT (4:00 PM ET)
  • The Dome at America’s Center, St. Louis, MO
  • Tickets: Ticketmaster and Stubhub
  • Network: FOX (Streaming)
  • Announcers: Curt Menefee (Play-by-Play), Joel Klatt (Analyst), Devin Gardner (Sideline Reporter)
  • Odds: St. Louis -2.5, O/U 42.5 (DraftKings)

The Battlehawks and Brahmas will battle for the top seed in the XFL Conference as they face each other for the second time this season, and third overall. St. Louis won each of the first two contests at the Alamodome. The Battlehawks triumphed at San Antonio, 31-24, in Week 3 earlier this season. They also won 18-15 in the opening week of the 2023 XFL campaign.

The St. Louis Battlehawks and San Antonio Brahmas are scheduled to meet in the XFL Conference Championship at 6 p.m. CT on Sunday, June 9. However, the outcome of this game will determine the game’s location. St. Louis would host the playoff matchup with a win this week, thanks to their head-to-head record against the Brahmas (7-2) this season, even though the teams would have identical overall records at 7-3. If the Brahmas win this game, they will have a superior overall record, and the upcoming playoff game will be played at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

What do we know?

The Battlehawks missed a chance to claim home field advantage in the XFL Conference Championship when they lost, 36-22, last week to the Arlington Renegades at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

QB Manny Wilkins led the Battlehawks back from a 19-9 deficit with a pair of rushing touchdowns on each side of halftime. He scored on a 1-yard touchdown rush as time expired in the first half to narrow Arlington’s advantage to 19-15, and Wilkins ran for a 7-yard touchdown to close the opening drive of the second half to put St. Louis in front, 21-19. The Renegades scored on their next possession, however, to take a 27-21 lead on a 5-yard touchdown pass from QB Luis Perez to TE Seth Green, who also caught the 2-point conversion pass with 6:28 to play in the third quarter.

The Battlehawks were never able to regain the lead. Arlington K Jonathan Garibay made a 26-yard field goal with 11:45 remaining in the fourth quarter, and FS Joe Powell returned an interception 49 yards for a touchdown that extended the Renegades’ lead to 36-21 with 1:31 left in the game. CB Keylon Kennedy scored the final point of the game when he intercepted Perez on the ensuing 1-point conversion try and returned it to the end zone to narrow the margin to 14 points.

The Battlehawks moved ahead of the Birmingham Stallions as the top-scoring team in the UFL after a 22-point performance in the Arlington game. St. Louis leads the league with 247 points scored (27.4 points-per-game) through the first nine weeks of the season, ahead of Birmingham’s 245 points total (27.2 points-per-game).

The St. Louis offense has done the bulk of its damage on the ground the past two games. The Battlehawks rushed for a season-high 159 yards against Arlington, their most since a 173-yard display in Week 5 of the 2020 season at the D.C. Defenders. Week 9 was also their second straight game with at least 140 total rushing yards after a 142-yard effort in Week 8 vs. D.C. Along with a team-record-tying 104-yard performance by RB Jacob Saylors at Arlington, QB Manny Wilkins rushed 10 times for 51 yards and two touchdowns, which tied the franchise single-game mark for rushing touchdowns. Wilkins had 12 rushes for 79 yards in Week 8 vs. D.C.

The Battlehawks also lead the league with 29 total touchdowns on the season and second with 17 field goals. They rank second among the eight UFL teams with 14 rushing touchdowns and are third with 15 passing touchdowns. They also lead the league with 13 combined successful extra-point conversions (four, 1-point; nine, 2-point).

With 618 receiving yards, WR Hakeem Butler leads all UFL receivers. He surpassed his own franchise single-season record of 599 yards from the 2023 XFL season in Week 8 vs. Washington, D.C. He is tied for second in the league with five touchdown receptions, and QB A.J. McCarron is T-2nd with 14 TD passes.

RB Jacob Saylors matched the Battlehawks single-game rushing record with 104 rushing yards on 14 carries last week. He tied a mark set by teammate RB Mataeo Durant in Week 2 against the same Renegades in a 27-24 victory at The Dome at America’s Center.

WR Darrius Shepherd tallied a season-high 152 kick return yards last week in Arlington. His performance was highlighted by a 40-yard return with 5:14 left in the second quarter that set up the St. Louis offense at midfield and a touchdown three plays later that brought the Battlehawks within two points, 11-9, of the Renegades. Shepherd finished with a game-high 216 all-purpose yards thanks to a team-high five catches, 47 receiving yards, and a 17-yard punt return.

The Battlehawks boast the stingiest pass defense in the UFL with 1,486 passing yards (165.1 yards per game), as well as the fewest yards per catch allowed with an 8.5-yard reception rate this season. With eight interceptions and 38 pass breakups for the season, they tie for second in the league.

St. Louis also leads the XFL Conference with 258.4 total yards allowed per game, which is second in the UFL to only the Birmingham Stallions, which have held opponents to 252.3 yards per game. While LB Willie Harvey leads the league with 31 assisted tackles and is third with a team-high 68 total tackles, FS Qwynnterrio Cole also ranks highly among UFL defenders in several categories, but is unavailable for this week’s game due to injury. Among UFL defenders, including teammates LB Mike Rose and SS Kameron Kelly, who played in eight games (6 starts) for San Antonio in 2023, his two interceptions tie for second place.

On Saturday at Arlington, LB Chris Garrett forced his second fumble of the season, tying him for the league lead in forced fumbles with seven others, including Harvey. LB Pita Taumoepenu tied the franchise single-season record LB Travis Feeney set during the 2023 XFL season with 5.0 sacks, tying for fifth in the league.

In Week 9, San Antonio welcomed the undefeated Birmingham Stallions to the Alamodome for their “Hats Off to Heroes” game to show appreciation for all military and first responders in the regular season home finale. The Brahmas wore their road Alamo yellow jerseys at home to pay homage to yellow ribbons that have been displayed and worn to signify support for military troops and their safe and sound return home, as did a loud and raucous crowd also decked out in yellow.

San Antonio entered the week as the UFL’s top scoring defense with the UFL’s top scoring offense, and that top scoring defense did something no other UFL team managed to do this season: hold undefeated Birmingham under 10 points.

The Brahmas (7-2) used a pressuring defense, and quarterback Chase Garbers made his return as San Antonio snapped the Birmingham Stallions (8-1) 15-game win streak, 18-9, and moved into first place in the XFL Conference over the St. Louis Battlehawks.

San Antonio’s defense held the Stallions to a franchise-low nine points. Against the top two USFL teams, the Brahmas have allowed a combined 18 points. The Brahmas defeated the Michigan Panthers in Week 4, 19-9.

Quarterback Chase Garbers made his return to the Brahmas lineup and completed 70 percent of his passes while going 16-of-23 for 139 yards. RB Morgan Ellison rushed for two touchdowns, and RB Anthony McFarland Jr. added 116 all-purpose yards (82 rushing, 34 receiving). Safety Jordan Mosley led the defense with eight tackles, as the Brahmas had five tackles for loss and three sacks.

San Antonio RB Anthony McFarland Jr. and QB Chase Garbers made their returns to the field the last two weeks and quickly picked up where they left off at the start of the season. McFarland returned in Week 8 against Arlington and set individual game highs for touchdown receptions (2), receiving yards (118), and all-purpose yards (136). His 118 receiving yards and 113 YAC rank fifth in the league for most in a game this season. Against Birmingham, he tallied 116 all-purpose yards rushing for a season-high 82 yards on 13 carries and added 34 receiving yards on six receptions.

Garbers, who went on IR after the St. Louis game in Week 3, made his return against Birmingham and played the majority of the game. He completed 70 percent of his passes, going 16-of-23 for 139 yards and rushing four times for 10 yards. Garbers is on the San Antonio depth chart as the starter this week, with Quinten Dormady as backup pivot.

CB Darius Phillips also returned to the line-up against Birmingham after missing the last three games. Phillips had three tackles, a forced fumble, and two pass break-ups.

Defensively, the Brahmas have three players in the top 10 tacklers in the league: Jordan Mosley (75-1st), Tavante Beckett (70-2nd), and Jordan Williams (58-7th).

What should we expect?

With home advantage in the upcoming XFL Championship game at stake, both of these teams desperately want to win this game, making this one of the Week 10 games where coaches have no reason to bench any starters. St. Louis quarterback A.J. McCarron is listed as the starter for this game, but it is unclear how much he will play as he was limited in practice with an ankle injury and marked as questionable for game day. This puts head coach Anthony Becht in a quandary, as he would not want McCarron to worsen the ankle injury that has sidelined him, resulting in his number one pivot not being available for next week’s playoff game. If Becht relies on Manny Wilkins, he might find his offense does not have the firepower to pull off the win.

The home crowd in St. Louis will be loud and proud, working to cheer on the Battlehawks to a potential win. If they can do so, they will be ready to cheer again next week in the XFL Championship game. If they fail, they will wait to see if their hometown Battlehawks can win their way to the UFL Championship game, which is back in St. Louis.

Oddsmakers give a small 2.5-point edge to St. Louis. Truthfully, this should be a close game, but who will come out on top? To find out, we must watch this tilt.

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