After being heavy underdogs, the Arlington Renegades punch their ticket to the XFL Championship with a 26-11 South Division Title win over the Houston Roughnecks.
It was a day of season highs and the best performances for the Arlington Renegades. Arlington was able to score 23 points in the first half as it was their first game scoring over 20 points in the first half and only the third time the offense has scored over 20 points in 11 games. Receiver JaVonta Payton became the first player to record over 100 yards receiving for the Renegades and catching two touchdowns. Running back De’Veon Smith had a season-high 94 yards rushing.
As for the defense, they held Houston’s offense to one of their worst performances with just 225 total yards of offense and under 100 yards passing. In terms of points, it was the lowest points the Roughnecks have scored in a game with 11. Houston recorded five punts and converted just 31 percent of their third down conversions.
Arlington wins the South Division after finishing the regular season with a 4-6 record and finishing second in the division. The Renegades now will head to San Antonio in two weeks for a trip to the XFL Championship Game against the DC Defenders.
Takeaways From Renegades Playoff Win
Passing Game Explosion
It was a near-perfect performance from the passing game as everything worked in favor of the Renegades. Let’s start with Luis Perez who once again proved why Arlington trading for him was the most critical move for the team this season. Perez threw for 289 yards and three touchdowns while completing 70 percent of his passes. The key stat also is he didn’t throw an interception in the game. He was about as good as a quarterback can be in the biggest game of the season.
Wide receiver has been a questionable position for Arlington since the beginning of the season as the group has been inconsistent. Each would have maybe one or two big plays this season, but none of them had over 100 yards receiving or proved to be difference-makers. That changed thanks to JaVonta Payton’s 121 yards and two touchdowns performance.
Brandon Arconado had an impressive catch in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Topped it off with an impressive sideline catch by LuJuan Winningham late in the fourth quarter to keep the drive alive. A round of applause for a unit that finally put it all together and overachieved.
All season long, co-offensive coordinators Jonathan Hayes and Chuck Long were taking criticism for their lack of creativity in their game plan. Coach Hayes has been taking heat for his play calling and being too conservative with their approach. The play calling in this game was near perfect with a great balance of running and passing the football. Their increase in deep ball passes played a massive role in their success as well. The timing of the play calls is what made it all work and those two coaches deserve praise.
De’Veon Smith Season Best Game Thanks to Offensive Line
The offensive line deserves a lot of love to start off as they had their best game of the season. Willie Beavers jumping in at left tackle for George Moore made a big difference as he protected Perez’s blind spot as well as opened up the running game as well. Mike Horton did his usual business at guard dominating the line of scrimmage to get the inside running game rolling. Only one sack allowed for the offensive line as they played their best game of the season.
Speaking of the best games of the season, De’Veon Smith ran the ball hard and often. Smith spent the game bulldozing defenders and carrying them on his back. He finished with 24 carries and 94 yards on the ground for his best yardage of the season. While he didn’t reach the end zone, Smith ran with authority and deserves a lot of credit for his vision and taking advantage of it.
Secondary Shines in Biggest Game
There were a few times during the game when fans said De’Vante Bausby came close to getting an interception. Two times he had the ball in his fans and was not able to bring the ball down. Bausby was finally able to get his interception in the fourth quarter to shut down a Houston Roughnecks drive. Cre’Von LeBlanc deserves some praise as well with two big pass breakups in the second half with Shakur Brown being knocked out of the game with an injury.
Joe Powell and Will Hill did what they usually do at safety as they are considered one of the best tandems in the XFL at safety. Hill did a great job of coming up with stopping the run and being used on blitzes as he had two tackles for loss. Powell is good at pass coverage as he has an instinct for getting to the ball wherever it is being passed to.
The defense only allowed 93 passing yards from Houston in the win. Arlington’s secondary forced Houston to only complete 38.7 percent of their passes. They will need to bring the same energy to the championship game if they have any shot of slowing down the DC Defenders’ receiving core.
Donald Payne Surprise Return
One of the most impactful news stories that came out prior to the game was the news that linebacker Donald Payne was removed from the inactive/injured list and added to the active roster. Coach Bob Stoops told the media three weeks ago that he had suffered a high ankle sprain and was considered out for the rest of the season. During the post-game press conference Saturday, XFL News Hub asked coach Stoops about the situation as he said Payne was misdiagnosed and wanted to give him a chance to play.
Payne made the most of his opportunity returning with a team-leading ten tackles in the win. He was all over the field making tackles whether it was in pass coverage or against the run. Having that kind of presence back in the lineup for Arlington made a bigger difference than fans may think. Payne sets the tone with every tackle he makes and should make for a key piece to Arlington’s title run in two weeks.
Coach Bob Stoops Backs Up “Big Game Stoops” Nickname
There’s a reason why Renegades head coach Bob Stoops gets the nickname of “Big Game Stoops” and it’s clearly because he wins at the point that is most needed. It was also clear Arlington’s preparation for the game this week was done well as the team looked focused and cut down on dumb mistakes. The Renegades were the better team from the start of the game to the final whistle blown.
This was something that couldn’t be fully seen back in 2020 as fans were not able to see the conclusion of the XFL season. Now that fans have seen a full season and saw the Renegades in the playoffs, coach Stoops got to show off why he was brought to the league. His teams always come prepared and ready to win. Expect more of the same in San Antonio with the Defenders standing in their way of an XFL Championship.
Renegades Offensive Stats
Renegades Defensive Stats
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