2022 USFL Championship Game Results, Takeaways: Studs Charge Past Stars in Wild Finish to Win Inaugural Title – CBS Sports | Mega Mediakw

CANTON, Ohio – The newly restarted USFL’s first championship game had it all: great weather, a full house, big plays, and most importantly, an exciting game between the top two teams in the league. The night ended with the Birmingham Stallions, the season’s best team in the league, being crowned champions after a 33-30 win over the Philadelphia Stars.

The Stallions went 23-20 late and took a definitive lead on Victor Bolden’s touchdown reception after a pass from quarterback Alex McGough, who played to relieve injured starter J’Mar Smith. Linebacker Scooby Wright’s pick-six moments later proved to be the most important play of the game. Philadelphia, also ending the game with a backup quarterback after Case Cookus injured his leg, hit back with a late touchdown. But a missed conversion attempt and a last-minute interception sealed the Stars’ fate.

Here’s a closer look at what happened Sunday night.

QB injuries

Smith left the game during the Stallions’ second possession in the second half after sustaining an injury to his midsection. With Smith on the touchline, the Stallions’ ride ended in a missed field goal. The Stars – who had scored the first goal in every game this season before the championship – took the lead shortly after the start of the fourth quarter with possession ensuing.

While Smith was still sidelined, backup Alex McGough committed the game’s first turnover when he flapped a pass that was intercepted by Stars linebacker Jordan Sewell. But after the Stallions’ defense minimized the damage by forcing a punt, McGough responded by throwing the go-ahead score.

Cookus, who had directed consecutive scoring drives prior to his injury, left the game for good after taking a sack with 8:25 left. He was taken away after breaking a bone in his leg. His backup, KJ Costello, threw the pick six to Wright on his first try of the night. He recovered with a touchdown pass to Chris Rowland with 1:47 left, but he and his teammates were unable to complete the comeback after his final pass was intercepted by safety Christian McFarland with 28 seconds left.

Smith finished for 131 yards and a touchdown on 10 of 18 passes. Cookus overcame a slow throw for 222 yards and three points on 17 of 29 passes.

Big games

With the match taking place over the weekend of July 4th, it was fitting that there was fireworks, particularly in the first half. The list of Sunday night’s big plays included:

  • Bo Scarbrough’s 36-yard TD rush gave Birmingham a 10-3 lead.
  • Jordan Suell’s 25-yard TD catch on Philadelphia’s subsequent drive.
  • Marlon Williams’ 41-yard TD catch less than a minute later gave the Stallions a 17-9 lead.
  • Scarbrough’s 70-yard run that set up Brandon Aubrey’s short FG in the last game of the first half.
  • Dexter Williams’ 34-yard catch on a screen pass that set up Suell’s second TD catch on Philly’s first drive of the second half.
  • Wright’s 46-yard pick-six by less than three minutes.

Missed opportunity

Given the final score, Stars defenseman Chris Brown is sure to follow fall a safe interception at the end of the first half. Instead of an interception, the Stallions ended the half with a field goal that extended their lead to 20-9.

Strong fan participation

The USFL Brass must be pleased with the turnout for Saturday’s championship game. Most of the 23,000 seats at Tom Benson Stadium were packed at kick-off as fans took advantage of a perfect summer evening in northeast Ohio.

All three playoff games were played alongside the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The league’s entire 10-week regular season was played in Birmingham, Alabama, which might explain Saturday night’s partisan Stallions crowd.

The Stars managed to cover the 4.5 point spread offered by Caesars Sportsbook.

Quote of the game

Cookus’ sack that led to his leg injury wasn’t the only big hit Philly’s QB suffered. Before he threw his third TD pass, the Stars leader was hit in the chin by the top of DeMarquis Gates’ helmet on a play where the QB slid. Gates was called to the penalty spot. Cookus was asked upon waking to check his teeth: “I have my wedding in a few days, didn’t want my fiancee to kill me,” he said.

You can relive all the action on our live blog below.

Leave a Comment