On Saturday night, the Houston Roughnecks defeated the Orlando Guardians 44-16, an absolute beatdown that resulted in Houston getting their fourth win of the season (and ninth in franchise history). Of course, the Guardians are far from the most challenging opponent, but the Roughnecks still cemented themselves at the top of the South division. Additionally, the 44 points scored by the team were the most in XFL history, surpassing the Los Angeles Wildcats (41) from 2020.
At this point, the Roughnecks are well on their way to the playoffs despite not yet reaching the halfway mark of the season. The next two games against Seattle and DC (both on the road) will certainly be a test, but they have set themselves up well for that challenge. Game four went even better for Houston than many anticipated, and hopefully the same can be said in the following weeks.
Top Performers (Offense)
Brandon Silvers, QB, Troy
Silvers once again proved why he will be holding on to the starting job barring any setbacks, completing 24 of 30 passes for 239 yards and 3 touchdowns. He barely had to break a sweat, as the Roughnecks went up 20-0 in the first quarter before eventually putting things away in the third. Silvers has been on a generally upward trajectory since the season started, and is maintaining his status as one of the XFL’s top passers.
Jontre Kirklin, WR, LSU
Kirklin arguably had the best play in the league across all four games this weekend, when he threw a 49-yard touchdown to Deontay Burnett via double forward pass (which is legal in the XFL). AJ Smith called the play in honor of Mike Leach, the late Mississippi State coach and Air Raid architect who was a great influence on the young offensive coordinator. It was a feel-good moment for everyone involved, and allowed Kirklin to show off his quarterback skills last seen in the Texas Bowl.
Dejoun Lee, RB, Delaware
Although Brycen Alleyne got the start against Orlando with Max Borghi out, it was Dejoun Lee who proved to be the better back in this game, averaging 7.5 yards per carry on 6 attempts and scoring two second-half touchdowns. Lee had been inactive in week three, so it was a pleasant surprise to see such a sharp turnaround in his usage. He also gave Houston a much-needed boost that hasn’t been seen late in games (until now of course).
Top Performers (Defense)
Will Likely, CB, Maryland
Despite only registering one assisted tackle in this game, Likely came up big with a fumble return touchdown in the first quarter to extend Houston’s lead. The former Maryland product usually sees most of his action on special teams, so having a very notable and helpful play on defense was a good look.
Emmanuel Ellerbee, LB, Rice
Ellerbee registered double-digit tackles (11) against the Guardians, adding half a sack and tackle for loss to his performance as well. Ellerbee has become a tackling machine for the Roughnecks, and should finish amongst the top in the league in that category by season’s end.
Trent Harris, LB, Miami
Harris had become somewhat quiet after his dominant performance in the season opener, but the Guardians again gave him an opportunity to show his worth. Harris recorded 4 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 2 tackles for loss in the victory. He currently leads the XFL in sacks with 6.
Travell Harris, WR, Washington State (3 catches, 83 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Tim Ward, LB, Old Dominion (5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss)
Thoughts & Notes
As I wrote in my preview article, this was not a game the Roughnecks needed to worry about. Even then, they were still able to make history and put the entire football community on notice once again. Being 4-0 feels extremely comfortable, and even if the undefeated streak comes to an end at some point over the next six games, it would not affect playoff hopes in any way.
As a matter of fact, there’s a good chance Houston will be hosting a playoff game, as it seems unlikely they will fall out of their top spot in the division. There’s a lot of football to be played between now and then, but both the rhythm and culture that the Roughnecks have created in 2023 is hard to come by in the XFL, with DC and St. Louis being the only real runner-ups. With four games now out of the way, it’s clear that this isn’t some sort of gimmick or fluke, and Houston is just as good as they were in 2020 (if not better).
Now that the Roughnecks have shown they can win on the road, they will have to add to that by proving it can be done on a short week. Houston will travel to Seattle for a Thursday night matchup against the Sea Dragons, who have won their past two games after starting 0-2. It will also be a revenge game of sorts, as Sea Dragons offensive coordinator June Jones was the head coach of the Roughnecks in 2020. Of course, more to come on that in the preview article, but for now, appreciate the success Houston has given both the fans and the league as a whole.
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