I’ll be the first to admit: I was wrong about the BattleHawks. On paper, they looked to be the thinnest team, but they came out and beat the top-ranked Dallas Renegades sans Landry Jones. Jordan Ta’amu did everything asked of him, and OC Chuck Long called a great game.
Not only did Ta’amu post a solid statline by going 20/27 for 183 yards and a score with a 108.4 rating, he added 77 yards on the ground. He had a 37 yard run that was a thing of beauty, and he was flying out there. I’ve previously said that the BattleHawks will make their money as a ground and pound team, and today the run game was humming on all cylinders.
Christine Michael couldn’t get things going on 7 carries, but RB Matt Jones got it done with 85 yards on the day. Keith Ford scored a TD in rotational work, and could earn himself more carries as the season goes on. They had a league-leading 191 yards on the ground altogether, and they should be able to build an identity around this.
The BattleHawks defense also had a great day, holding the Dallas Air Raid to just 9 points. They effectively neutralized the Renegades run game and didn’t give up chunk plays through the air.
They notched 4 sacks on the day as LB Terrence Garvin, LB/S Dexter McCoil, DT Jake Payne and DE Dewayne Hendrix all brought down Phillip Nelsen. Safety Kenny Robinson was flying around the field all day, and veteran S Will Hill picked off a game-sealing interception in the final minute of play.
Punter Marquette King had a good day, with a 45.2 average and 2 punts inside the 20, while Kicker Taylor Russolino hit a FG from 48.
Not having their starting QB clearly hamstrung the Renegades, and while Phillip Nelsen completed a lot of passes (33/42, 199 yards, 1 INT) he didn’t push the ball downfield at all. It was a dink and dunk game for the Dallas backup, and he only had 5 completions past 10 yards (long 21).
The run game was non-existent and the only time that Cameron Artis-Payne broke out on a ~25 yard scamper, they were called back for a hold. They had 58 yards on the ground as a team. Without a ground attack, and relying on a gameplan/qb that wasn’t airing the ball out vertically, the Renegades stuttered out of the gate. They had 3 Field Goal drives, and no TD’s.
The lone bright spot on this offense today was the tight end group. Sean Price had a good day, and Donald Parham the 6’8″ tight end who proved himself as a reliable option over the middle.
This was a defensive match for most of the game and while they did a good job slowing the BattleHawks through the air, DC Chris Woods couldn’t find an answer for that rushing attack. The pass rushers had two sacks, as LB Tegray Scales and DE Frank Alexander each got to Ta’amu in the pocket in the final minutes of the game.
One bright spot today was Kicker Austin MacGinnis, who hit 3 of 3 with a long of 42, and having a reliable guy in that role does a lot for a team. Renegades fans should take this loss with a heaping spoonful of salt though because former Sooners star Landry Jones will most likely make his XFL debut next week against the LA Wildcats.
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