Parks’s Pulse – On encores, Flip-outs, and curious calls

Each week during the season, Parks’s Pulse will present a smattering of thoughts on the previous weekend’s games.

Ranking the games

  1. Battlehawks 27, Renegades 24 – One of the few games in which both teams were able to successfully attack through the air. A tight, well-played contest that came down to a last-second field goal.
  2. Brahmas 20, Showboats 19 – Had it not been for San Antonio’s fourth quarter comeback, this game would not have been ranked as high; the Brahmas could not get anything going for three quarters.
  3. Defenders 23, Roughnecks 18 – D.C. held serve at home once again. Houston managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
  4. Stallions 20, Panthers 13 – It’s almost unfair to rank this game last because there was nothing wrong with the play; it’s just that the other games were more exciting. The Panthers were close but it always felt like Birmingham would pull it off. And they did.
Jake Bates #38 of the Michigan Panthers kicks a 62-yard field goal during the second quarter against the Birmingham Stallions at Ford Field on April 07, 2024 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/UFL/Getty Images)
Jake Bates #38 of the Michigan Panthers kicks a 62-yard field goal during the second quarter against the Birmingham Stallions at Ford Field on April 07, 2024 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/UFL/Getty Images)

Jake Bates: The encore

In case you thought the Jake Bates Hype Train would fizzle out after week one, think again. The kicker who, in some circles, put the UFL on the map by nailing a 64-yard field goal in week one, was back for more in week two. Granted, it wasn’t quite the same distance, but Bates connected on a 62-yard field goal as well as a 52-yarder in Michigan’s loss to Birmingham. Unless he absolutely flops down the stretch, Bates will be one of the UFL players to secure an NFL contract after the season. In fact, teams have already reached out to Michigan about Bates and, according to the team’s head coach, Mike Nolan, may be illegally reaching out to Bates himself. Until he can sign with one of those teams, he’ll continue to try to help get the Panthers into the playoffs this season.

All-access moment of the week, part one

Usually, the best sound we get from players happens before or after a play. Rarely does it occur in the middle of the play, as it did in the San Antonio vs. Memphis game. Up 7-0 in the first quarter, the Showboats tried some trickery when they called receiver Vinny Papale’s number on a reverse. Brahmas linebacker Tavante Beckett sniffed it out, stopping Papale for a five-yard loss. As he was wrapping Papale up for the tackle, Beckett shouted, “hey, where you goin’?” at his adversary. The unsaid answer turned out to be, “backward.” It was one of nine tackles Beckett made in his team’s victory.

New rules alert

The rules unique to the UFL have been covered in-depth here and elsewhere. Even after all of the thorough dissection, there are some that seem to have slipped under the radar and haven’t been discussed at all. We saw a couple of those rules in play in Saturday’s early game. The first came about halfway through the second quarter, when Showboats QB Case Cookus dove up the middle on a sneak play in an attempt to convert a 3rd-and-1. The ball popped free and whistles blew, indicating that Cookus was being ruled down. However, both Brahmas and Showboats players continued to go after the ball, which was eventually recovered by the defense. According to UFL rules, in this case, the players are encouraged to continue to seek the ball after the whistle because the play is reviewable. And indeed, when the Brahmas recovered the ball after the play had been whistled dead, it was reviewed and San Antonio was rewarded with the ball. This is different from the NFL, where a whistle blown ends the play. Because of this, refs are encouraged to swallow the whistle on potential turnovers, knowing they can always be reviewed afterward.

Later in the game, Memphis challenged that San Antonio TE Cody Latimer was down by contact on a play where he gained 46 yards. The replay booth overturned the call, crediting him instead with 28 yards. The play, as it initially ran, took the game to the two-minute warning. Mike Pereira explained that, unlike the NFL that would rewind the game clock back to the time when Latimer was ultimately deemed down, the UFL does not wind the clock back on a play like this outside of two minutes. Pereira noted that it is in part due to the league’s effort to fit the games inside the three-hour television window.

The case of the curious calls

D.C. made some, uh, interesting coaching decisions on Sunday night to close out the week two slate. Clinging to a 23-18 lead, the Defenders called time out just before the two-minute warning after Houston failed to convert a 3rd down. The announcers were aghast at this: By calling a time out with 2:11 left, D.C. had to run a play before the two-minute warning after the Houston punt. That effectively saved Houston from having to call a time out prior to the two-minute warning, and left them with two time outs rather than one.

Then, on the last play of the game, with Houston needing to get a touchdown to win the game, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams played man coverage instead of zone as Houston tried to get in from the D.C. 24-yard line. Conventional wisdom says to line almost everyone up at the goal line and play zone: Houston would not have had time to get another play off as their last snap came with five seconds remaining and they were down by five. The Roughnecks almost sneaked it in as TE Braedon Bowman was open over the middle, but QB Reid Sinnett couldn’t connect. This is not the first time Williams has been criticized for his end-of-game play calls.

Memphis head coach John DeFilippo, "He just threw a punch!" (ESPN)
Memphis head coach John DeFilippo, “He just threw a punch!” (ESPN)

Flip-ping out

Memphis head coach John DeFilippo is nothing if not passionate on the sidelines. Through two weeks, he’s been one of the most audio-friendly coaches in the league. This past weekend, he had two moments where the veins in his forehead were nearly visible. First, he was on the refs (correctly) to call a punch that was thrown by Brahmas defender Tavante Beckett. Beckett was ejected for the haymaker. At the end of the first half, he was upset that the officials allowed San Antonio head coach Wade Phillips to change his mind regarding accepting or declining a penalty. In fact, DeFilippo turned into the football version of Karen asking to see the manager, demanding to speak to the head ref before going into the locker room at halftime. Memphis hasn’t always been entertaining on the field, but DeFilippo certainly has been on the sidelines.

All-access moment of the week, part two

Houston’s offense struggled for a game-and-a-half under QB Jarrett Guarantano. When Guarantano left the game with an injury against the Defenders, backup Reid Sinnett entered. Sinnett almost led the Roughnecks to an upset, managing the offense like the veteran that he is. He finished 19-of-30 passing for 221 yards and a touchdown. Head coach Curtis Johnson appeared impressed with his new QB, as he was heard on audio during the game saying, “this quarterback’s ballin’!” During his media availability on Wednesday, Johnson said he liked the way Sinnett got the ball out quickly.

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