Parks’s Pulse: On mudders, dropsies, and attendance

Orlando Guardians head coach Terrell Buckley conducts and interview.
Orlando Guardians head coach Terrell Buckley conducts and interview.

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 20, Sea Dragons 18: Another one that came down to the end with the Battlehawks escaping yet again over the hard-luck Sea Dragons to improve to 2-0.
  2. Roughnecks 23, Renegades 14: Houston looks like the class of the XFL so far, with a good balance of offensive and defensive firepower.
  3. Brahmas 30, Guardians 12: Two teams have put up 30+ points this XFL season, and both were against Orlando. The Guardians simply look overmatched in almost every regard.
  4. Defenders 18, Vipers 6: Given the conditions, it’s probably a miracle they scored this much. But the atmosphere in Vegas and the rainy, windy conditions did not make for an entertaining game.

Roughnecks rough’em up

It was difficult to get a read on how good Houston’s defense was after week one given they were playing a struggling Orlando offense. Houston proved their worth against a much better opponent in week two. They held Arlington to 163 total yards – just 4.1 yards per pass attempt and 2.9 yards per carry. They followed up their seven-sack performance with five more this week. Houston will face a tougher test against San Antonio in week three: The Brahmas have given up just four sacks in the first two games.

All-Access Moment of the Week

Take your pick from the Orlando game: There was Head Coach Terrell Buckley asking kicker Jose Borregales about a kick attempt just prior to halftime. “Is it out of your range?” Buckley asked. “We can try it,” Borregales responded, not showing a ton of confidence. He was short on the 55-yard attempt. Then there was Buckley, interviewed on the sidelines out of a break midway through the third quarter, down 27-6: “We gotta get different guys in there. Obviously I got guys out there that are not competing, that are not making plays.”

Even when the Guardians were driving offensively, they couldn’t get on the same page: With the ball at the one yard-line, quarterback Deondre Francois was relaying a play from his offensive coordinator. A player in the huddle was repeating the play out loud, which caused Francois to say, “shut the fuck up y’all and listen.” The censors didn’t catch that one. At the end of the game, Buckley was given the chance to compliment his team in some regard. ESPN’s Dawn Davenport asked if there was a positive he could take from the evening. “No,” Buckley simply replied.

Terrell Buckley’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

Orlando was somehow able to top themselves after a dismal showing in week one, playing even worse in week two. Buckley’s frustrations were on display for all to see and hear thanks to the XFL and ESPN’s mic’d up coaches, and they weren’t shy about sharing Buckley’s feelings with the world. It’s part of what makes the XFL unique, but it also humanizes the coaches; it was difficult not to feel for Buckley. One could imagine the College Football Hall-of-Famer wanting to get out onto the field and make some defensive stops himself.

Defenders prove to be mudders

DC took RB Abram Smith with the first overall pick in the Skill Position Phase of the XFL Draft, giving fans an idea of what kind of offense they were going to run. It turns out that the wet terrain in Vegas Saturday night played into the team’s hands offensively. They used Smith, Ryquell Armstead, and both quarterbacks to keep the ball away from Vegas. DC ran the ball 42 times and attempted just 23 passes. They averaged 5.5 yards per carry. DC’s final 21 offensive plays were all runs, and they scored touchdowns on two of three drives that those plays covered, with the third drive ending when they ran out the clock at the conclusion of the game.

Two quarterbacks separate themselves

Quarterback play has been spotty at best early on, but two quarterbacks seem to have separated themselves from the pack through two weeks. For San Antonio, Jack Coan has completed 68% of his passes for four touchdowns and one interception. In St. Louis, AJ McCarron has led his team to a 2-0 record, with a 64.5% completion percentage, three touchdowns and is the only starting QB yet to throw an interception. Both will be tested against quality defenses in week three: Coan and the Brahmas travel to Houston for a date with the Roughnecks, while McCarron and the Battlehawks square off against the Defenders.

DiNucci’s dropsies de ja vu

Sitting at 0-2, Seattle could just as easily be 2-0 had a few breaks gone their way against DC and St. Louis. Part of the issue has been key turnovers by their quarterback, Ben DiNucci, who has otherwise performed well in June Jones’s offense. On the goal line against DC with :19 left in the game and down by four, DiNucci tried to sneak it in but fumbled and the Defenders recovered.

On the 13th play of a fourth quarter drive versus St. Louis, DiNucci again lost a fumble on a sneak, this time at the St. Louis 33-yard line. Critically, it came on the play right after DiNucci appeared to run for a first down but was marked short. Rather than challenge the spot, Seattle went with a DiNucci sneak. Head Coach Jim Haslett’s reaction in the moment, caught on a hot mic, said it all: “Oh my god…no, not again. Not again. Don’t tell me he fumbled this.” At the time, Seattle was up 12-11 and was looking to pad their score. The fumble proved to be costly when the Sea Dragons lost on a walk-off field goal.

Attendance oddities

While there’s no real reason to doubt the numbers, it is odd that all of the games not held in San Antonio or Vegas came in at the 12,000ish mark in attendance. Most of the numbers were reported by XFL News Hub’s Mike Mitchell on Twitter, having received them either from the venue itself or the league office. The league itself hasn’t publicly released any attendance figures. There’s also no word as to whether the numbers represent people in the stadium or tickets sold, which could be substantially different. Houston was the first team to host two home games; their drop from game one to game two was minimal, from 12,784 in game one to 11,765 in game two. That’s a positive, even if the numbers themselves are lower than you’d like to see.