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XFL 2023: Houston Roughnecks Week 5 Recap

On Thursday night, the Houston Roughnecks suffered both their first loss of the season and first loss in franchise history, falling to the Seattle Sea Dragons 21-14. While the outcome was disappointing, the Roughnecks are still in a great position within their division and the rest of the league, so there is no need to worry just yet. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of Houston’s top performers, and see what the team could have done to improve. 

Top Performers (Offense)

Travell Harris, WR, Washington State

Harris finished the game as Houston’s leading receiver, catching 5 passes for 58 yards. His performance was nothing spectacular, but on such a slow night, it was good to see him continue to get targets and make plays. Harris has seemingly settled into a comfortable WR2 role, as his production has never dropped off too much. 

Justin Smith, WR, Norfolk State

Smith had the best offensive play of the night for Houston, catching a 47-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Silvers late in the fourth quarter. Although it wasn’t enough to spark a successful comeback, it was a notable moment for Smith, as that was his first score of the season. Once again, it put a positive spin on the loss.

Brycen Alleyne, RB, Delaware State

Alleyne finished the game with just 5 carries for 35 yards (7.0 average), but it’s more about what he could have done if not for things out of his control. At one point, Alleyne had a 30+ yard touchdown run called back due to holding. A couple plays later, he had a wide-open lane to the endzone on a passing play, but the ball was knocked down at the line of scrimmage. Alleyne proved that he had a ton of speed and was willing to use it at any time. 

Top Performers (Defense)

Tim Ward, LB, Old Dominion

One of the most consistent players on the Roughnecks roster this season showed that he wasn’t going to slow down, as Tim Ward had himself another great game (5 total tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss). Ward helped slow down a potent passing attack from Seattle, and the Sea Dragons may not have turned the ball over four times if it wasn’t for his work up front.

Ajene Harris, CB, USC

Harris picked off two Ben DiNucci passes on Thursday night, and also added four tackles. Both of the interceptions came in the second half, giving Houston multiple opportunities to capitalize. While they didn’t end up using those takeaways to their advantage, Harris kept giving the Roughnecks hope when it seemed like all had been lost. 

Chauncey Rivers, LB, Mississippi State

Rivers helped fill in a void left behind by Trent Harris, who was listed as inactive for the game. He recorded 3 total tackles, 1 sack, and 2 tackles for loss. It’s hard to win losing one of your top defenders, but Rivers demonstrated his abilities as a key depth piece for this team. 

Honorable Mentions

Max Borghi, RB, Washington State (6 carries/12 yards/1 TD, 5 catches/21 yards)

John Daka, LB, James Madison (4 total tackles, 1 forced fumble)

Thoughts & Notes

What should have been a high-scoring shootout turned into quite the opposite for both teams, as it was mostly a defensive battle (6 total turnovers) with Seattle pulling away early. The Roughnecks had a difficult time trying to tackle Sea Dragons wide receiver Jahcour Pearson in particular, who had 5 catches for 82 yards in the first half. 

However, Houston’s defense was much better than their offense this time around, as they had several passes deflected at or past the line of scrimmage. Simply put, it had been so easy for the Roughnecks to push the ball downfield over the previous four weeks, and this was quite the rude awakening. It didn’t help that their top wide receiver, Jontre Kirklin, exited the game early due to injury. 

Seattle’s defense should get the most credit out of any unit involved in this matchup, as they limited an offense that scored 44 points in the previous game to just 14 a few days later. The Sea Dragons offense, which should have been the deciding factor, left some things to be desired. They turned the ball over four times, and after going up 15-0 by half, would not score again until the end of the fourth quarter. Even after beating the best team in the XFL, it’s clear that they still have kinks to figure out if they want to make a push in the North. 

Seattle’s mistakes are what ended up making this game so frustrating from Houston’s perspective, though. The Roughnecks got more chances than they should have, yet did next to nothing with them. It continually felt like this one was in Houston’s grasp even in the final minutes, but for one reason or another, the team would be back to square one and forced to try again on the next play, drive, etc. 

So at the end of it all, June Jones gets his revenge on the Roughnecks. The former head coach and general manager of the franchise from 2020 has yet to lose with or against the team. It’s hard to say that he outsmarted his young protégé AJ Smith this time around, but either way, it made for a game that fans (especially those in Seattle) won’t forget. 

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Football journalist/scout/future coach covering the Houston Roughnecks. Air Raid/Run-and-Shoot enthusiast.

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