Notes and quotes from Birmingham’s 27-13 victory over Michigan on Saturday at Ford Field in Detroit …
HOW THEY SCORED
Michigan (2-4) struck first on a 45-yard field goal by Cole Murphy at 9:08 of the first quarter for a 3-0 lead. The opening drive of the game covered 38 yards on nine plays and was kept alive by a penalty against Birmingham that negated a fumble recovery following a strip-sack.
Birmingham (4-2) answered back with Brandon Aubrey’s 40-yard field goal at 6:42 of the first to tie the score at 3-3, ending a five play, 37-yard march. Alex McGough got things started with a 28-yard first down run.
Aubrey was at it again at 10:13 of the second stanza, booting a 25-yard trey at the end of a 14 play, 76-yard march to put the Stallions in front, 6-3.
Birmingham extended the lead in the waning moments of the first half, finally hitting paydirt to highlight a 19 play, 62-yard scoring junket.
On a third down play, McGough wiggled out of trouble and found ZaQuandre White on an 18-yard scoring play at :57 of the second.
Aubrey kicked the lead to 13-3.
Michigan quickly moved into the red zone and looked to be headed for at least a short field goal try, but a muffed play call that should’ve been a spike at the Stallions’ 15 became a stuffed QB run, ending the half.
The Panthers did manage to tighten things up with a touchdown at 4:05 of the third.
Going 87 yards on 13 plays, Josh Love found Cole Hikutini on an 11-yard scoring play.
The PAT was good, and it was a 13-10 ballgame.
Birmingham got some breathing room in the fourth quarter after cashing in on a 10 play, 56-yard trip with 13:05 remaining.
McGough connected with C.J. Marable on a four-yard pitch-and-catch for six, and Aubrey’s extra point put the tally at 20-10.
However, a Stallions fumble in their own territory gave the Panthers a chance to get back in the game. The hosts needed a touchdown but settled for a 31-yard field goal, a somewhat disappointing outcome on a five play, 19-yard trek.
Still, it was a one score game, 20-13, with 8:40 to go.
It was a two-score game 3:27 from the finish.
McGough called his own number on a 10-yard TD dash, getting the most important yards of his team’s eight play, 59-yard drive.
Aubrey kicked straight, and Birmingham had the game in hand at 27-13.
BIRMINGHAM COACH SKIP HOLTZ SAID …
“I was really proud of the way our players came out and competed this week. There was an awful lot of adversity a week ago, an awful lot of frustration. But I was proud of the way they channeled all that energy, and they came together and went out and played that football game today.”
MICHIGAN COACH MIKE NOLAN SAID …
“Their quarterback (McGough) did an outstanding job. He’s played well all year and he played well again today. He hurt us early with some long runs and he hurt us in the middle of the game and late as well. He was a difference maker for their offense, without question.”
McGough turned in another sterling performance, going 19-24-0 through the air for 133 yards and two touchdowns, and rushing for 82 yards and another score. He now has 13 touchdowns and 90 points through six games to lead the USFL.
“Alex is playing really solid, seeing the field, taking what people are giving us and really in control,” Holtz said. “I’m really impressed with the way he’s managed the game. I trust him 100 percent.”
Marable hit triple digits on the ground, getting 100 rushing yards on 18 carries and catching a TD pass.
“I see myself as a running back who can catch the ball out of the backfield and get tough yardage,” Marable said. “I give credit to my offensive line … they did their job and made my job easy.”
Eight different receivers caught McGough passes.
Nate Holley and Quinten Poling had six tackles for the victors, although Holtz bemoaned the lack of takeaways.
“I think this is the fourth game in a row we didn’t get a turnover,” he said. “That’s the elephant in our room right now, defensively.”
Love was 20-34-0 for 222 yards and one TD in a losing effort, while Trey Quinn had 108 receiving yards on eight receptions.
Linebacker Frank Ginda was in on 18 tackles, tying a modern USFL record.
SETTLING FOR THREE
Early on a pair of Birmingham drives stalled, and Holtz opted to bring on the field goal unit instead of trying to make a first down with just a few feet to go.
“We went down a couple of times and got stopped in short yardage situations, and I felt like the right play was to take the points. On the road, in a close football game, I didn’t want to drive the length of the field and come away with nothing.”
NOLAN TAKES THE BLAME
The botched play at the end of the first half most likely cost the Panthers three points, but Nolan said it wasn’t Love’s fault.
“One of my biggest disappointments was there was a coaching error in the first half … that was not Josh,” Nolan said. “It wasn’t Josh’s fault at all. It was a mistake. It was a spike situation and mistakenly, someone over the headset – I won’t say their name, let’s just say it was me – the quarterback was instructed to get the first, and it should’ve been a spike.”
TODAY IN HISTORY
On this date in 1991 the Birmingham Fire defeated the New York/New Jersey Knights, 24-14, in a World League of American Football Game at Legion Field.
In the Fire’s final home game of the season, 31,211 fans showed up for a Monday night clash that was highlighted by three defensive touchdowns. Birmingham’s Arthur Hunter had 37-yard interception return for a score, and Tony Bowick picked up a fumble and rumbled 35 yards for another Fire TD.
Knights defender Mark Moore also had a scoop-and-score, finding paydirt from 20 yards out.
Birmingham faces the New Orleans Breakers in a crucial rematch next Saturday, 3 p.m., at Protective Stadium. The Breakers are the designated home team.
Leave a Reply