ESPN staff14 minute read
The football season continued this weekend as the XFL made its debut with Saturday’s game between the Vegas Vipers and the Arlington Renegades at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington, Texas. It is the third iteration of the XFL, following the original season in 2001 and a restart in 2020 which was canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
XFL 2023 got off to a fast start: The Renegades beat the Vipers 22-20, rallying from a 14-3 halftime deficit with 19 straight points before fending off Vegas’ 2-point conversion attempt with eight seconds to go. The Houston Roughnecks toppled the Orlando Guardians late in the game, scoring on four straight first-half possessions to overcome an early deficit in a 33-12 win.
Sunday started off with a thriller, as the Battlehawks used a 3-point and fourth-and-15 conversion to keep possession in an 18-15 comeback win over the San Antonio Brahmas. The DC Defenders ended Week 1 with a comeback win over the Seattle Sea Dragons, forcing a late Seattle fumble to clinch the 22-18 victory.
All XFL games will stream live on ESPN+ and are available on the ESPN family of networks (ABC, ESPN and FX).
LV-ARL | ENT-HOU
STL-SA | SEA-DC
Michael Joseph had two assists for the Defenders (1-0) to turn around a game the Sea Dragons were controlling, returning one for a 15-yard touchdown to bring the Defenders back to 18-16, then pulling the quarterback out of Seattle Ben DiNucci at the start of the fourth quarter. Joseph’s second pick put DC at the Sea Dragons 14, with D’Eriq King putting the Defenders ahead two plays later on a 5-yard touchdown run. DC then held Seattle on the final drive, recovering a fumble from DiNucci on DC’s 4-yard line with 19 seconds left.
The Sea Dragons were rolling early, scoring on their first two drives to take a 9-0 lead. DiNucci finished the first drive with a 6-yard backhand shot to receiver Josh Gordon — a former All-Pro with the Cleveland Browns — for a touchdown. DiNucci threw for 282 yards on 35 of 54 passes, while Gordon had six catches for 74 yards.
The Sea Dragons lead increased to 18-8 in the third quarter on a 13-yard touchdown by Brenden Knox and a corresponding 3-point conversion by DiNucci. But that’s when the DC crowd started to make their presence felt.
The Defenders won despite only 175 yards on offense. They forced three turnovers, Joseph’s two interceptions and the late fumble recovery of defensive lineman Jamal Brooks.
The Battlehawks couldn’t do anything for more than three quarters, as San Antonio took a 15-3 lead with 3:02 remaining. But St. Louis rallied behind former NFL quarterback AJ McCarron, who ignored five sacks. He threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Hakeem Butler with 1:25 left, then hit Austin Proehl on a 10-yard 3-point conversion to make it 15-12.
St. Louis went for a fourth-and-15 conversion instead of an onside kick, and McCarron found Proehl again to retain possession. McCarron and Proehl hung on again for 14 yards for the game-winning score with 16 seconds left to give the Battlehawks (1-0) the unlikely win.
McCarron went 11 of 14 for 133 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
The Brahmas (0-1) dominated most of the game, taking a 15-3 lead thanks to a 4-yard touchdown pass from Jack Coan to Fred Brown in the fourth quarter and three field goals. Coan threw for 207 yards on 25 of 36 passes with a touchdown and an interception while former NFL running back Kalen Ballage rushed for 84 yards on 24 carries.
Houston’s defense dominated Orlando, as the Roughnecks recorded seven sacks on Guardians quarterbacks Paxton Lynch and Quinten Dormady and overcame an early touchdown to set the tone. The Guardians (0-1) scored first when receiver Cody Latimer – who played with Lynch on the Denver Broncos – beat a Roughnecks defensive back for a 27-yard touchdown reception in the game’s first series .
But the Roughnecks (1-0) dominated from there, thanks to four sacks from linebacker Trent Harris and two from defensive end Tim Ward. It allowed Houston to bust for 24 unanswered points, including 21 on four straight possessions in the first half. Roughnecks quarterback Brandon Silvers threw two touchdown passes, a 10-yard to Jontre Kirklin for Houston’s first score and a 46-yard to Deontay Burnett in which the former NFL wide receiver caught him d a hand and moved away for the touchdown.
Houston running back Max Borghi also ran for a 27-yard touchdown.
Orlando beat Houston’s score in the fourth quarter with a 51-yard touchdown pass from Dormady to Andrew Jamiel, but a fumbled punt late in the fourth quarter dashed any hopes of a Guardians comeback, as the turnover turned into a 5-yard touchdown. led by Houston backup quarterback Cole McDonald.
Silvers led the way for the Roughnecks, throwing for 265 yards and two touchdowns on 26 of 42 passes with two interceptions. Burnett had eight receptions for 88 yards, while Kirklin had five catches for 66 yards. Lynch led Orlando with 136 yards on 15 of 21 passes.
After a tough first half, the Renegades scored 12 points in the third quarter on two Vegas turnovers to take the lead and held on to make it 1-0. Arlington’s defense dominated the action in the second half, highlighted by two picks of six. Defensive tackle Tomasi Laulile scored the third quarter run with a 22-yard touchdown return on an errant pass from Vegas quarterback Luis Perez, while cornerback De’Vante Bausby scored on a return from 4-yard interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Renegades’ D also came in big with eight seconds left, as TJ Barnes sacked Perez on a potential 2-point conversion attempt.
Bausby’s pick came after the Vipers (0-1) stopped the Renegades on a fourth and 1-goal situation. Vegas kept Arlington’s offense out of the end zone, as the Renegades settled for three field goals from Taylor Russolino, the third putting the Renegades ahead to stay late into the third quarter.
The first half went much better for the Vipers, who scored on two Perez touchdown passes to receiver Jeff Badet to take a 14-3 halftime lead. Perez hit Badet with a 5-yard pass on the game’s first possession, then connected with the former Oklahoma receiver for 39 yards in the second quarter. Perez also threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Cinque Sweeting with 14 seconds left. Perez threw for 249 yards on 22 of 36 passes with three touchdowns and two interceptions, while Badet had six receptions for 81 yards.
Arlington quarterback Drew Plitt threw for 172 yards on 19 of 25 passes with one interception, while Sal Cannella had seven passes for 70 yards.