Week five of the XFL season had a lot of competitive games but saw some clear-cut standout players who carried teams to wins.
The offensive shootout in the Orlando-Vegas game showcased multiple players on offense who had their best games of the season while also having one of the best individual defensive performances of the year. DC displayed their strong running game in a way that has not been seen in the XFL for five weeks. Superstars were on display this week in a big way.
Week 5 Players of the Week
Offensive Player of the Week: Abram Smith, RB, DC Defenders (23 carries, 218 yards, three touchdowns)
While there were good performances around the league, nothing compared to Abram Smith’s performance with DC as it was the best outing for a running back this season. Smith became the first running back this season to run for over 200 yards in a game and recorded three touchdowns on the ground. To top it off, he averaged 9.5 yards per carry and had 62- and 70-yard touchdown runs in the game.
It was impressive since Smith was going to be the featured back with Ryquell Armstead ruled out of the game prior. The Defenders asked a lot from their first-round pick and he came through in one of the biggest games of the season. This will only lead to DC giving Smith the ball more and leaning on him to be their top back moving forward.
Honorable Mentions: Quinten Dormady, QB, Orlando Guardians (22-25, 256 yards, two touchdowns)
Cody Latimer, TE, Orlando Guardians (eight catches, 124 yards, one touchdown)
Luis Perez, QB, Vegas Vipers (20-28, 269 passing yards, three touchdowns, two carries, nine rushing yards)
Jeff Badet, WR, Vegas Vipers (five catches, 80 yards, two touchdowns)
Brian Hill, RB, St. Louis Battlehawks (14 carries, 79 rushing yards, three catches, 29 receiving yards)
Defensive Player of the Week: Pita Taumoepenu, LB, Vegas Vipers (five tackles, three sacks, four tackles for loss, one forced fumble)
In a game that had the most scored offensively all season by both teams, the Orlando-Vegas game showcased one of the best defensive performances with Pita Taumoepenu creating havoc all game long. Taumoepenu finished the game with three sacks and a forced fumble along with five tackles and four tackles for loss. From start to finish, the Guardians’ offensive line struggled to block him.
One of the biggest plays of the game came in the fourth quarter when Taumoepenu sacked and forced a Quinten Dormady fumble late in the fourth quarter on the onside fourth and 15 attempts with a minute to go. That play killed any chance of the Guardians being able to come from behind to tie or win the game. Vegas Vipers head coach Rod Woodson’s defense has been knocking on the door to being good. Despite allowing 32 points, Taumoepenu’s performance was the singular reason Vegas’ defense was able to hold on for their first win of the season.
Honorable Mentions: Ajene Harris, DB, Houston Roughnecks (four tackles, two interceptions)
Willie Taylor, LB, Arlington Renegades (three tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss, one forced fumble)
Andre Mintze, LB, DC Defenders (three tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, one forced fumble)
Terrance Smith, LB, Orlando Guardians (seven tackles, one tackle for loss, one forced fumble)
Tim Ward, DL, Houston Roughnecks (five tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss)
Special Teams Player of the Week: Darrius Shepherd, WR/Returner, St. Louis Battlehawks (three kickoff returns, 155 yards, 80 long)
For the second time in three weeks, Darrius Shepherd finds himself on top for special teams player of the week. It’s becoming clear that Shepherd is the best kickoff returner in the XFL as for the second time this season, he had a return of over 70 yards to set St. Louis up for success deep in their opponent’s territory.
His return was the tone-setter for the second half as he took the kickoff back for a season-high 80 yards to the DC 16-yard line.
Unfortunately for the Battlehawks, the offense didn’t gain a yard, but it did lead to a Donny Hageman 34-yard field goal to keep St. Louis within striking distance. It was one of a few big plays for the Battlehawks in the second half, but after scoring just three points in the first half, it was Shepherd’s return that sparked new life into St. Louis for the rest of the game.
Honorable Mentions: Taylor Russolino, K, Arlington Renegades (2-2 field goals, 43 long)
Donny Hageman, K, St. Louis Battlehawks (2-2 field goals, 36 long)
Mac Brown, P, Orlando Guardians (three punts, 143 yards, 47.7 average)
Brad Wing, P, San Antonio Brahmas (five punts, 213 yards, 42.6 average)
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