Playing conservative and "not your father's football" was the mantra that XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck wanted the XFL to be known for. He went so far as to claim that there is "nothing in common" with the NFL.
So when Houston Roughnecks QB PJ Walker took a fifty-yard shot on the first possession of the game, did you really expect anything less?
Flare, electricity and high impact football ruled the day in the XFL's inaugural football weekend, and the Houston Roughnecks took full advantage, dominating the Los Angeles Wildcats 37-17 in front of a home crowd in Texas.
PJ Walker dominated as the focal point of June Jones' offense, passing for 4 touchdowns and making dazzling escapes to puzzle any sort of scheme to stop them. Big plays benefitted Houston, as their first touchdown of the game came less than two minutes into the game with a 50-yard beauty to Cam Phillips. Two other 16 and 39-yard touchdown passes helped push Houston into the lead at halftime for the Roughnecks.
Walker was a surprise start to many commenters, earning the starting job over Connor Cook, former Michigan State starter and Oakland Raider's signal-caller in their most recent playoff campaign. Cook was considered to be a near-lock for the position because of his NFL pedigree and comeback aspirations, but June Jones is looking more and more intelligent for electing Walker to lead his high-flying offense.
Despite the quick start, Los Angeles wasn't looking to get steamrolled. Playing with backup QB Charles Kanoff, the 2017 Ivy League Player of the Year scrambled to his left and leaned out his arm to grab LA's first touchdown of the evening. Connecting with Jordon Smallwood for an 11-yard score and a quick field early in the 2nd quarter, Los Angeles looked poised to take control of the game. But late in the 2nd quarter, Los Angeles was driving and eyeing a field goal to take the lead going into halftime, but clock mismanagement plagued their efforts and spoiled any sort of momentum they had capitalized on.
The tails of momentum the Wildcats failed to pick up were emphatically scooped and scored by Walker and the Roughnecks, sprinting to a quick score in the 3rd quarter, and building on that lead in the fourth quarter with a field goal and another 5-yard score. Houston scored 25 unanswered points, and Los Angeles had no answers for the Roughnecks, even opting to switch between Kanoff and Jalan McClendon at Quarterback to ignite their offense.
Houston's offense wasn't the only bright spot tonight; the defense dominated in nearly every respect as well. Apart from a couple touchdown drives early, the Roughnecks buckled down and forced the Wildcats outside of their comfort zone, especially their backup QB's. Letroy Lewis picked up a fumble late in the 4th quarter, and the Roughneck coverage nabbed a Kanoff' pass to flip field positioning in Houston's favor.
The Wildcat's made things interesting late, picking off PJ Walker in the endzone late in the 4th quarter, but their offense continued to sputter and eventually fizzled into the night, as Houston captured their franchise's first victory in impressive fashion.
Houston looks like the team to beat. The Defenders took care of business at home against Seattle, but Houston appears just as explosive, if not more intimidating given that they seem like they can fire just a little bit faster.
Calm down, Los Angeles: It's opening night. It would be very easy to pack it in in Los Angeles after an abysmal showing. All things considered, there was life and fight with the Wildcat squad at the end of the game when the outcome seemed bleak, and reinforcements are on the way. Josh Johnson, the first overall pick in the XFL Draft, was sidelined with a quad injury tonight and is considered the most talented Quarterback in the in league and a main reason that Los Angeles is considered a favorite to win the XFL inaugural title. Assuming that Jackson can solve a few of the Wildcat woes, Los Angeles should be able to turn things around.
Houston improves to 1-0 and will take on the St. Louis Battlehawks at home. Los Angeles (0-1) will battle the Dallas Renegades in California.
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