Memphis Showboats victorious over the Houston Roughnecks in season opener

Vinny Papale #13 of the Memphis Showboats catches a pass for a touchdown during the second quarter against the Houston Roughnecks at Rice Stadium on March 31, 2024 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Maria Lysaker/UFL/Getty Images)
Vinny Papale #13 of the Memphis Showboats catches a pass for a touchdown during the second quarter against the Houston Roughnecks at Rice Stadium on March 31, 2024 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Maria Lysaker/UFL/Getty Images)

HOUSTON, Texas (March 31, 2024) – The Memphis Showboats jumped out to an early lead and then held off the Houston Roughnecks 18-12 Sunday afternoon at Rice Stadium in both teams’ United Football League season-opener.

Memphis (1-0) opened the scoring with a 27-yard field goal from Matt Coghlin with 4:31 left in the first quarter. The Showboats would extend their lead in exciting fashion just 49 seconds later. Houston wide receiver Isiah Hennie caught a short pass in the left flat, where he was met by Showboats defensive back Kyree Woods, who forced a fumble. Christian McFarland scooped the loose ball up and returned it 12 yards for a touchdown and a 9-0 Memphis lead.

Another highlight play gave the Showboats a 15-0 lead with 6:57 remaining in the first half. Quarterback Case Cookus drove Memphis from its own 16-yard line all the way to the Houston 11. But the Showboats faced 3rd-and-8. That’s when Cookus was able to find wide receiver Vinny Papale in the back of the end zone. Papale hauled in an absolute laser from Cookus, while barely keeping his toes inbounds.

Houston finally got on the scoreboard late in the first half with a field goal to make it 15-3. The Roughnecks added another three off the foot of J.J. Molson early in the third quarter to make it a 15-6 game. Memphis’ Matt Coghlin answered with a 51-yarder midway through the fourth quarter to give the Showboats a two-score lead. But his ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, which is a huge penalty in the UFL. Houston took over at the 50-yard line due to that penalty and cashed it in with the only Roughnecks’ touchdown of the game to pull within six, 18-12, with 5:49 remaining.

Memphis was able to kill most of the clock, but was forced to punt with 46 seconds remaining. Hennie mishandled the high arcing kick off the foot of Matt White and Wes Saxton recovered it for the Showboats to preserve the victory.

Cookus was 23-of-40 for 204 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Daewood Davis hauled in a game-high seven receptions for 43 yards. Jonathan Adams had a game-best 49 yards receiving on four catches. Papale also had four receptions for 36 yards and the Showboats’ lone offensive touchdown.

Memphis’ defense made clutch plays when needed all afternoon. The Showboats tallied four sacks. Greg Reaves got to Guarantano twice, while Maximiillian Roberts and Jordan Ferguson also registered a sack apiece. T.J. Neal led a balanced effort on the defensive side, racking up four solo stops. Ten different Showboat defenders had two or more stops.

Post Game Notes

  • Rice Stadium | Houston, Texas
  • Weather: Cloudy | Temp: 81 degrees | Wind: 12 MPH from North


  • This game was the only intraconference USFL Conference matchup of Week 1
  • Memphis is now 1-0 on the season
  • Memphis head coach John DeFilippo is now 8-3 as a head coach
  • It was the first game for John DeFilippo as head coach of the Showboats. He was 7-3 last season with the New Orleans Breakers in the USFL


  • Matt Coghlin scored the first points of the season for Memphis with a first-quarter field goal
  • Case Cookus finished the game with 204 yards passing, passing for the first offensive TD of the season for Memphis.
  • Cookus led the way on the ground with 16 rushing yards on four carries.
  • Jonathan Adams led all receivers with 49 receiving yards.
  • Memphis was efficient on third down, converting 9-of-15.


  • Christian McFarland’s scoop and score in the first quarter was the only defensive touchdown of the first weekend of UFL action.
  • T.J. Neal led the Showboats with 4 solo tackles
  • The Showboat defense held Houston to just 3-of-8 on third down.

Special Teams

  • Memphis iced the victory with a huge play on special teams when Wes Saxton recovered a muffed punt, allowing the Showboats to run out the clock.
  • Matt Coghlin made a pair of field goals, including a 51-yarder.
  • Matt White punted twice for an average of 34.5 yards with a long of 49.

Postgame Interview

–With files provided by the Memphis Showboats

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