Parks’s Pulse – On rhyming, catches, and leaving’em hanging

In the Michigan press box running backs coach Jordan Pavlisin offered Marcel Bellefeuille a high-five. The OC didn’t see it, leaving Pavlisin hanging. (FOX)

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

Ranking the games

  1. Battlehawks 45, Defenders 12 – If you’re box-score scouting, you’re probably surprised this game ranks number one. While it wasn’t a banner week for exciting games, this was a one-possession game until St. Louis broke it open in the fourth quarter.
  2. Brahmas 25, Renegades 15 – Arlington rebounded from their poor week four effort, but it still wasn’t enough. QB Quinten Dormady continues to settle in as San Antonio’s new starter at the position.
  3. Panthers 35, Showboats 18 – A game with two teams starting their backup QBs, and it showed. This was a big win for Michigan, separating themselves further from Memphis in the standings.
  4. Stallions 32, Roughnecks 9 – This played out about as one would expect. An interesting stat: Birmingham’s defense had just one sack on 40+ Houston drop-backs. OL coaches around the league may be studying this film to see how to slow the Stallions’ vaunted pass rush.

No Marable, no problem

After four games, the prevailing notion was that only injuries could derail the runaway freight train that is the Birmingham Stallions. After game five, perhaps even injuries to key players won’t move the Stallions off their perch. With starting RB C.J. Marable out against Houston, Ricky Person, Jr. stepped in to run for two touchdowns. Active for the first time this year, third-stringer Larry Rountree III rushed for another TD and averaged 5.6 yards per carry on nine totes. Birmingham’s front-line players are talented enough; they’re also proving that their depth is scary good as well.

All-access moment of the week, part one

The D.C. Defenders are struggling. At 2-3, they’re a far cry from the juggernaut that took the XFL by storm in 2023. One reason for this is that their offensive line isn’t as dominant as it was a year ago when they opened gaping holes for the league’s leading rusher, Abram Smith, and whose protection allowed QB Jordan Ta’amu to win the XFL Offensive Player of the Year Award.

Down 14-0 to St. Louis on Sunday, the line was once again malfunctioning. In between drives, offensive coordinator Fred Kaiss, from the booth, spoke to someone on the sidelines via headset. That one-way communication was captured by ESPN audio. “Go calm’em down, please. Calm the O-Line down,” he said. “They’re not playing physical, they’re not blocking their assignments.” We often get to hear the coach-to-QB play calls, but rarely do we hear the between-drives conversation like this.

Fake punt history rhymes

They say history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes. Last year, the Orlando Guardians had two successful fake punts on similar pass plays: One went from punter Mac Brown to WR K.D. Cannon against San Antonio; the next week, they ran a very similar play to TE Jordan Thomas. In week four of this year’s UFL season, the Michigan Panthers ran a fake punt against the Brahmas, with Wes Hills taking the snap on 4th-and-3. He rumbled ahead for 24 yards and a first down. The Panthers came back to that same play in week five against the Memphis Showboats. On their second drive of the game, facing a 4th-and-11, Hills ran the same play and picked up the first down once again. FOX commentator Joel Klatt was aghast that Memphis fell for the fake when Michigan had put the exact play on tape a week earlier.

Keke’s catches

The Houston Roughnecks have struggled offensively this season, but they made the highlight reel in week five thanks to WR Keke Chism. Chism made a one-handed catch at the goal line just before half, a play that earned him the UFL Week 5 Play of the Week on FS1’s Undisputed. Earlier in the game, he went up and high-pointed a ball, coming down with another high degree-of-difficulty reception. Along with Justin Hall, Chism has become one of two top receiver targets for QB Reid Sinnett. If Houston is to challenge for a playoff spot in the second half of the season, more offensive weapons will need to step up.

Left’em hanging

The cameras in the Michigan press box caught a neat little running gag on Sunday. Running backs coach Jordan Pavlisin was positioned in the box next to offensive coordinator Marcel Bellefeuille. At one point, Pavlisin offered Bellefeuille a high-five. The OC didn’t see it, leaving Pavlisin hanging. Pavlisin high-fived himself to end the awkwardness. Later on, Pavlisin eschewed the high-five and instead went with a fist-bump. Again, Bellefeuille did not see him. The person sitting on the other side of the RB coach bailed him out on that one. Pavlisin tried one more time, later in the game, going in for a fist bump. This time, Bellefeuille returned the acknowledgement. It was a sigh of relief to all of those watching at home, as we’ve all had those moments of awkwardness – though probably not in front of hundreds of thousands of people watching on television.

All-access moment of the week, part two

In a similar moment in the same game as Kaiss chewing out his linemen, St. Louis defensive coordinator Donnie Abraham took issue with his defense going beyond celebrating a Mike Rose interception. Abraham called down from the booth on headsets to speak to what seemed to be an unidentified defensive player. “I know you hear me man, that’s not what we do, okay? We don’t taunt like that, we don’t do that.” The announcers lauded Abraham’s handling of the situation, using it as a teachable moment.

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