On Sunday night, the Houston Roughnecks moved to 3-0 in 2023 with a 22-13 win over the San Antonio Brahmas. This game was ultimately decided in the first half, with the offense rolling early and the defense being the closer. The Roughnecks maintained their lead in the South division, and will now be tested with three straight away games before returning to TDECU Stadium on April 1st.
Houston is just one of two undefeated teams left in the XFL, with the other being the DC Defenders in the North division. They are also the only undefeated franchise in the XFL dating back to 2020, with an 8-0 overall record across two seasons. How long the Roughnecks will be able to keep the streak going is unknown, but the team has all the confidence they need as they prepare to hit the road for the first time.
Top Performers (Offense)
Brandon Silvers, QB, Troy
Silvers is coming off his best performance of the season thus far, completing nearly 70% of his passes (24/35) for 278 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Most of those stats came within the first two quarters, which is even more impressive. While Silvers has yet to demonstrate a ton of second-half explosiveness, he currently leads the XFL in both passes over 20 yards and passes over 40 yards, meaning any concerns about the deep ball have gone out the window. An equal amount of credit can be given to offensive coordinator AJ Smith as well, with his play-calling being a real test for any defense the Roughnecks go up against.
Max Borghi, RB, Washington State
Despite getting rolled up on early in the game, Borghi didn’t look hindered in the slightest, averaging close to 5 yards per carry on 15 attempts. The Roughnecks gained just over 100 yards on the ground against the Brahmas, with 74 of them belonging to Borghi. The rushing attack has been slowly developing over the past three weeks, and even though Borghi didn’t find the endzone in this game, he is continuing to make a name for himself on both offense and special teams.
Jontre Kirklin, WR, LSU
Kirklin has been one of the XFL’s best receivers through three weeks, and his most recent performance really turned some heads. Kirklin caught 6 passes for 77 yards and 2 touchdowns against San Antonio, and it’s really a surprise that he didn’t get over 100 given the amount of times his name was called. The former do-it-all player at LSU has emerged as a true WR1 for this team, and can always be trusted to make a play when necessary.
Top Performers (Defense)
Ajene Harris, CB, USC
Harris had what was, to many, the best play of the game and one of the best in the XFL on Sunday, when he snagged a pass intended for Brahmas receiver TJ Vasher. The interception was a perfect example of ball awareness, and what originally looked like a deep completion for San Antonio was indeed ruled a turnover for the Roughnecks. Harris is a key contributor in Houston’s secondary, and with him being one of just two returning players from 2020, he seems to be feeling right at home again.
John Daka, LB, James Madison
While Daka’s performance in week 3 may not have been as impressive as the one in week 2, he still earns a spot on this list for getting half a sack and leading the team in tackles for loss (2). Daka knew how to fill out a stat sheet during his time at JMU, and he is slowly beginning to do the same in Houston.
Tavante Beckett, LB, Marshall
Beckett led the Roughnecks in both total tackles (6) and solo tackles (5) this week, notable numbers for what was a slower game on defense. However, just because it was a slower game doesn’t mean the unit played poorly, and Beckett’s role in holding the Brahmas to just 13 total points should not be overlooked.
Brycen Alleyne, RB, Delaware State (7 carries/25 yards, 4 catches/40 yards)
Chauncey Rivers, LB, Mississippi State (1 tackle, 0.5 sacks, 1 tackle for loss)
Thoughts & Notes
Even though this wasn’t a flawless outing for Houston, it once again proved why they are the team to beat in the XFL. Perhaps the most defining moment of the game came just inside the four-minute mark of the fourth quarter, when the Roughnecks defense pitched a goal-line stand against running back Kalen Ballage and the Brahmas offense. The defense had to do plenty of work in the second half, but every time they could have given up and let the Brahmas back in the game, they made a play to set the opponent further back. It was a slow night as a whole for San Antonio, but it was still a once-score game once the clock hit triple zeroes.
The offense, despite noticeably dropping off in the third and fourth quarters, should also be recognized for their contributions here. It was reminiscent of the season opener against Orlando, where the Guardians scored on their first drive of the game before Houston put up a ton of unanswered points. Silvers found nine different receivers on Sunday, averaging over 11 yards per completion and connecting on five 20+ yard passes. Simply put, it was a nightmare matchup for the Brahmas defensive backs.
The win against San Antonio felt like a relief, even though Houston was favored and has yet to lose a game. They will be playing on the road for close to a month, with some of the opponents during that stretch including the other pass-heavy team (Seattle Sea Dragons) and the other undefeated team (DC Defenders). The Roughnecks are an intimidating squad at 3-0, but the next three weeks will say a lot about their future and playoff projections, even more than what we already know with three home games completed.
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