Parks’s Pulse – On rocks, benchings, and QB carousels

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

Ranking the games

  1. Defenders 29, Renegades 28 – The hard luck for Arlington continues, though they didn’t get a break with three difficult draws right off the bat. D.C. may be rounding into form.
  2. Battlehawks 31, Brahmas 24 – St. Louis went 2-0 without arguably their best defensive player in LB Mike Rose, who has been hurt. The Brahmas couldn’t quite pull off a second wild comeback in a row.
  3. Panthers 34, Roughnecks 20 – Did Michigan prove they can give Birmingham a challenge for the USFL Conference title? Or was this a mirage based on the level of their opponent?
  4. Stallions 33, Showboats 14 – I’m not sure there’s an offensive line in the league that can handle Birmingham’s defensive front. Memphis was in striking distance at the end of the first half, though it never felt that close.
…I got a rock

…I got a rock

I couldn’t help but think back to the Peanuts Halloween special when all the kids were marveling at the variety of candy they received from Trick-or-Treating, while poor ol’ Charlie Brown only got a rock. In this case, the USFL Champion Birmingham Stallions are the other kids, and the XFL Champion Arlington Renegades represent Brown. Birmingham made a big show of their championship celebration during their first home game of the UFL season, handing out rings to players in the days before and unveiling their championship banner prior to playing the Memphis Showboats. On the other side, the Renegades haven’t done anything of the sort. Their first home game was overshadowed by it also being the first UFL game, so you can excuse them for not holding any kind of ceremony there. But their second home game was this past weekend against the D.C. Defenders, and still nothing. Perhaps some kind of championship ceremony would’ve drawn a better crowd than the numbers Arlington pulled in on Saturday.

“I’m trying to save you.”

All-access moment of the week, part one

With Memphis trailing big against Birmingham in the fourth quarter, and QB Case Cookus having taken five sacks and numerous other hits, head coach John DeFilippo made the difficult decision to pull his starter in favor of backup Troy Williams. The conversation DeFilippo had with Cookus, and Cookus’s later reaction to the benching, was caught on both audio and video. First, DeFilippo told Cookus he was going to pull him if Birmingham scored on a drive heading into the fourth quarter, but would keep him in if the Memphis D stopped him. Flip said he needed to protect Cookus. “I’m trying to save you. You’re getting crushed out there.”

Later in the game, Cookus was conversing with offensive lineman Alec Lindstrom on the sideline. Lindstrom asked about the situation and Cookus replied, “I’m done. I haven’t been pulled in a while, man. It sucks. He says it’s to protect me but…I let the pressure get to me a little bit. Missed a few throws.” Cookus taking a bit of the blame will play well in the locker room. The bottom line, though, is that the Showboats’ offensive line simply got manhandled by a talented Stallions front.

Stallions QB carousel turns

Rarely do you see a 2-0 team make such a drastic change at the quarterback position, but that’s exactly what the Birmingham Stallions and head coach Skip Holtz did prior to this weekend’s action. The depth chart released on Thursday reflected the change: The team was going with Adrian Martinez as starter over Matt Corral. Martinez had come in as a change-of-pace option at times in the first two games, so he wasn’t coming in cold. Holtz has often mentioned that he considers both quarterbacks as his starters, and that his decision to go with Corral was a decision he wrestled with until the last minute. Corral hasn’t exactly set the world on fire with his play, and Martinez’s running ability puts additional pressure on defenses. Nevertheless, it’s a change a coach might make deeper into the season rather than while sitting atop the conference, undefeated. Perhaps most interestingly: While Martinez earned time even as Corral started, Corral did not see the field against Memphis, even deep into the game after it turned into a blowout.

Lucky AND good

It’s almost unfair that the Stallions have come out of the gates this hot. It seems even more unfair when the lucky breaks also go their way. But that’s what happened in the first quarter against Memphis. Facing 3rd-and-goal from the Showboats’ six-yard line, Stallions QB Adrian Martinez had his pass tipped at the line of scrimmage, popping it straight up into the air. Somehow, the ball landed in the waiting arms of TE Jace Sternberger in the end zone. Some would argue that good teams make their own lucky breaks. That seems to be the case early on in the season for the Stallions.

All Vaughns, all the time

Over the first couple of games, Arlington’s receiving corps has lacked a stand-out, go-to receiver. Tyler Vaughns may have emerged as that weapon on Saturday. On the first drive alone, Vaughns was the target on five of Luis Perez’s passes. For the game, he caught nine passes for 109 yards on 13 targets. If Vaughns can get this open on a week-to-week basis, it will give Arlington a needed dynamic presence in their passing game. As a group, Arlington’s receivers are solid, but if they can establish that one field-stretcher, it will give defensive coordinators something more to think about during their game prep.

All-access moment of the week, part two

Our first all-access moment was pretty heavy and serious, so let’s bring some levity to the situation with our second. It came in the Houston vs. Michigan game. Roughnecks DT Ethan Westbrooks got an early start on a two-point conversion play, drawing an eventual offsides call. He managed to take QB E.J. Perry down before the whistle blew. An unidentified teammate of Westbrooks’ could be heard shouting, “Yeah, Ethan!” Perry fired back, “It’s a penalty! He jumped like nine yards offsides!”

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