After a historical first game of XFL 3.0 on Saturday, the Arlington Renegades overcame an 11-point deficit to defeat the Vegas Vipers 22-20.
The story of the first half was about the play of Vipers quarterback Luis Perez who completed 17 of 21 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns. One of them was a 39-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Badet who caught two touchdowns in the first half. While the Renegades struggled to gain momentum offensively with Plitt throwing an interception late in the second quarter. With a lack of a running game and a struggle with big plays, Arlington head coach Bob Stoops found his team down 14-3 at the half.
That all changed with three second-half turnovers for Vegas that led to the Renegades scoring 19 unanswered points to take a 22-14 lead late in the fourth quarter. Both of the touchdowns by the Renegades were scored by the defense on interceptions. The Vipers went right down the field on their final drive to score a touchdown, but a Renegades sack on the two-point conversion kept it a two-point game. Vegas attempted a fourth and 15 to keep the ball but failed to seal the win for Arlington.
The Renegades move to 1-0 on the season as it is the first home win in team history after going 0-3 at Choctaw Stadium in 2020. Vegas dropped to 0-1 on the season in head coach Rod Woodson’s debut. Key players and coaches spoke after the game regarding the game as they spoke about key moments from the game.
Players/Coaches’ Comments on Key Moments
Renegades Defensive Lineman Tomasi Laulile Interception
During the third quarter, the Vipers were riding momentum as Arlington was struggling to establish anything on offense. Perez was playing near perfectly until he tried to throw a screen pass that went into the arms of Renegades’ defensive lineman Tomasi Laulile as he ran it back 22 yards for a touchdown. That play would start an avalanche of points by Arlington who would take all the momentum away.
It’s a moment most defensive linemen dream of to get a pick-six. For Laulile, he was doing his job and got some help from his teammates to make it happen.
“I was really just doing my job. Had to go off of contain. And it was really cause of Willie (Taylor). Willie came in and pressured the quarterback, throw the ball. And I was just at the right place, the right time. I was excited.”Tomasi Laulile, Defensive Lineman, Arlington Renegades
Perez acknowledged that the interception was a mistake and shouldn’t have thrown it.
“Yeah, no doubt. The guy was right there. I should have thrown it to the ground and played another down.”Luis Perez, Quarterback, Vegas Vipers
Vipers head coach Rod Woodson shared the same sentiments as Perez on that play.
“They did a good job of recognizing the one, the boot. Luis (Perez) has to eat it. He knows that. Eat that play. Throw it in the dirt.”Rod Woodson, Head Coach, Vegas Vipers
Vipers-Renegades Strong Defensive Performances
The first interception was impressive and the key play in the game for the Renegades, but they were able to create two other turnovers in the second half to help the team win. Arlington went from allowing 14 points in the first half to just six points in the second half. The Renegades didn’t allow a first down in the second until the last drive of the game for the Vipers. Coach Stoops credits the players and coaching staff for continuing to play the game without adjustments being made.
“Well, adjustments are overrated. In a 20-minute college half time they’re overrated. And in ten minutes in this league, you’re not going to make a whole lot of adjustments. So, Coach (Jon) Hayes covered a couple of things with them, but most of the time when you come out in the second half, you just play better. You’re not going to develop a new defense or whatever in a ten-minute halftime. So, a lot of times it’s just executing better and that’s generally the case.”Bob Stoops, Head Coach, Arlington Renegades
Despite allowing 22 points, the Vipers’ defense held the Renegades to fewer yards than vice versa. Coach Woodson had high praise for his defensive unit.
“Defensively, you know, we had opportunities and we played really good on defense. Honestly, we gave up six points. We played solid football. And I think our defense is really good.”Rod Woodson, Head Coach, Vegas Vipers
Drew Plitt First Start
For many, it was a bit of a surprise when coach Stoops decided to have Drew Plitt be the starting quarterback instead of veteran Kyle Sloter. Outside of the late second-quarter interception, Plitt completed 76 percent of his passes which was the highest of all the starting quarterbacks in the XFL. Coach Stoops was happy with the play of his young quarterback in his first professional football start.
“I thought Drew played well. I really did. He’s a good player. Little overall offensively first half was obvious. Our third downs weren’t very good. He’d like to have that one played back the interception, but other than that, he played a good game. We played a pretty clean game with not dropping the ball, not just him, but anyone to keep that to one shake loose, but we recovered it. But point being, I thought it was a pretty clean game for the first time out there for a lot of these guys for a long time. And I thought Drew did a nice job.”Bob Stoops, Head Coach, Arlington Renegades
Plitt enjoyed his first start but knows more work needs to be done for future games.
“That was awesome. Finally get a first start, especially professional ball. It’s been a little bit, but super happy. Got the win. That’s all that matters. A lot of things to go over, correct, and we’ll be better next week.”Drew Plitt, Quarterback, Arlington Renegades
There are three key statistics fans should look at to know why the Vipers suffered an early season loss. Vegas ran for 25 yards on 15 carries for an average of 1.7 yards per carry. The Vipers had eight penalties compared to the Renegades’ four penalties. One final stat is Vegas had three turnovers compared to Arlington only had one.
This isn’t to say that the Renegades had a perfect game as the offense only scored six total points. The difference is the defense made big plays to win the game. Another key factor is Taylor Russolino going 3-3 on field goals in a day that saw over 11 miles per hour winds. While Vipers kicker Bailey Giffen missed a field goal before the half that could have won the game for them.
It was a competitive football game that showcased two good teams that might meet each other again in the XFL title game in San Antonio. Vegas has the pieces in place to play well but just needs to cut down on penalties and turnovers. Arlington has a young quarterback who shows promise but needs more big plays offensively to spark momentum. Both teams will grow from this game and only improve from here.
Vipers Player Stats
Renegades Player Stats
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