Three up, three down from UFL week two

A D.C. Defenders fan holds a sign during the third quarter against the Houston Roughnecks at Audi Field on April 07, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/UFL/Getty Images)
A D.C. Defenders fan holds a sign during the third quarter against the Houston Roughnecks at Audi Field on April 07, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/UFL/Getty Images)

My “Three up, three down” column will appear weekly on UFL Board during the season, taking note of positives or things that are happening often (“up”) as well as negatives or rarities (“down”). 

Up: Ejections

Last week, I noted the chippiness between teams in each of the four games, chalking it up to players finally getting a chance to have some meaningful contact after a long training camp. From that came one ejection, D.C. Defenders OT Jean Delance for allegedly spitting on a player. Delance was later released. In week two, cooler heads were not yet ready to prevail. San Antonio Brahmas LB Tavante Beckett was ejected late in the fourth quarter of the game against the Memphis Showboats for throwing a punch at OT Jarron Jones. The passion in these players is appreciated, but it’s important that it doesn’t cross the line into giving the league a reputation for unprofessional play.

Down: Effectiveness of WR screens

Even with the merging of leagues, offensive lines across the UFL are still a weak spot. This has left quarterbacks little time to sit in the pocket and work downfield. Offensive coordinators have tried to adjust, going more horizontal with quick WR screens. Defensive backs haven’t been letting teams get away with it. San Antonio found success with the play in game one, but the Showboats were on to them in game two. Other teams during the weekend also struggled with trying to stretch defenses sideline-to-sideline with these plays. Offenses are likely to open up as the season wears on and lines coalesce. Until then, scoring will be at a premium and offensive coordinators will have to continue to find ways to spark their units in the pass game.

Up: Performance of RBs inactive in week one

A couple of teams found success in altering their running back depth charts for week two. In St. Louis, Mataeo Durant was a healthy scratch in the first week as Wayne Gallman started and Jacob Saylors backed him up. This past Saturday, Saylors was inactive in favor of Durant, who was on the team in 2023. Durant actually started over Gallman and ran the ball 14 times for 104 yards and a touchdown. It’s difficult to imagine him not starting this coming week against San Antonio. Then, in D.C., Darius Hagans was active over Pooka Williams, a reversal from week one. While Hagans didn’t put up the eye-popping stats to match Durant, he did rush for a touchdown, a key score in what turned out to be a five-point victory by the Defenders. The majority of teams have struggled to run the ball early in the season, so look for teams to shuffle through pairings to find an answer at the position.

Down: Houston punt protection

Another week, another blocked punt allowed by the Houston Roughnecks special teams unit. In the third quarter of the first game, Tyshun Render of the Memphis Showboats got a hand on Hunter Niswander’s punt, beating Carlo Kemp on the inside of the formation. This was more of a deflection as the ball traveled about four yards past the line of scrimmage before it was downed by the Roughnecks. On Sunday, after the first drive of the game, D.C. Defender Momo Sanogo got around Tiyon Evans, who was tasked with protecting the left wing in this alignment. Sanogo managed a full block, giving D.C. possession at the Houston 11-yard line. Both opposing drives ended in interceptions, so the blocks didn’t cost Houston on the scoreboard. There are several issues the 0-2 Roughnecks still need to clean up after two games; punt protection is one of them.

Up: D.C.’s home win streak

There was certainly some question about whether the Defenders would leave Audi Field with a pristine 10-0 record at home across three seasons of play, but they did just that in hanging on to best the Houston Roughnecks on Sunday night. It took 59 minutes and 59 seconds for the Defenders to secure the victory in front of over 15,000 fans in their 2024 home opener. Through two games, these Defenders don’t much resemble the dominant team of a year ago. When they’re at home, however, they just seem to have some magic that allows them to get the job done. Their next test will come in week five when they host the St. Louis Battlehawks.

Down: Blowouts

UFL management would have struggled to script better endings than we saw in several of the games this past weekend. Two of the main goals of on-field play in the UFL are parity among the teams, and close games. We’ve seen both through the first two weeks of the season. In week two, the average margin of victory was four points, with a few games coming down to the final play. Week one’s average margin of victory was nine points, still a one-score game by UFL scoring rules. Only two of the eight games played so far have ended with the winning team up by more than nine points. There are many more ingredients that will determine the success of the UFL, but the way these games have come down to the wire so far can’t hurt.

1 thought on “Three up, three down from UFL week two”

  1. Blowouts are a part of life. That 49ers angry spanking of the Broncos in the 1989-90 Super Bowl is an all time classic. Deal with it!


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