2024 UFL Championship Game Takeaways

Let’s face it: there’s not a lot going on in the NFL right now. We’re currently in the slow period of free agency, and training camps don’t open for a few more weeks. Only one thing can fix this problem: more football of course! College football isn’t around either, but we have the UFL, which formed through a merger between the USFL and XFL. This isn’t a league I cover often, but why not for this week? After a slow start, the Birmingham Stallions broke the game wide open, throttling the San Antonio Brahmas in a 25-0 shoutout win. To see what else we can learn, here are my 2024 UFL championship game takeaways!

Offenses Stifled for 25 Game Minutes

If you crave offensive-minded football, this first half was not for you. Birmingham struggled to get anything going against the UFL-best Brahma defense, while San Antonio went up against the #2 defense and themselves. As occurred last week, the Brahmas struggled to beat the play clock, burning a timeout and taking a delay of game penalty on 3rd and 1 delay in the first quarter. Neither team reached opponent territory in the opening frame, and we began the game with 7 consecutive punts. The Stallions eventually reached midfield, but WR Marlon Williams lost a fumble on the very next play. Ugly stuff to start.

Stallions’ Rushing Attack Finally Breaks Stout Brahmas Defense

After San Antonio did nothing at all with the fumble, Birmingham turned to the run game. It worked. RB Ricky Person Jr (13/102) ripped off 10-yard and 44-yard gains on consecutive plays runs, and a pass interference penalty set the Stallions up in the red zone. QB Adrian Martinez found WR Gary Jennings for an 8-yard TD before hitting WR Amari Rodgers for a 2-point conversion (there are no extra points in the UFL). That 8-0 lead held for the remainder of the half. Birmingham marched down the field for another TD+2 to start the 3rd quarter with the Brahmas seemingly worn out defensively.

San Antonio’s offense certainly didn’t help with that effort. Down 16-0, WR Jontre Kirklin, the team’s best offensive player, fumbled for the second time. This one was lost, and it set the Stallions up at the plus 24. Taking advantage of the great field position, Martinez ran for a TD to put Birmingham up 22-0. Those 3 consecutive scoring drives were killers. Martinez (13/23, 98 yards, TD; 11/52 and 2 TDs rushing was named the game’s MVP (he already won the league MVP award earlier in the week), but the passing game did next to nothing. His rushing was more impactful, breaking the Brahmas’ backs in the second half.

Birmingham Defense Stole the Show

If I had a say in the MVP decision, I’d have given it to someone on Birmingham’s defense. That unit deserves all the credit in the world for completely shutting down the Brahmas’ offense. LB Kyahva Tezino was a menace, using his speed to make a game-high 9 tackles. Fellow LB Damon Lloyd earned 5 tackles and a sack. I could go on, but there are too many players to name. DC Corey Chamblin, who replaced John Chavis following a health scare, seemed to always be in the right call. He set his players up to make plays, and every one of them delivered.

No matter what level of football you’re playing, pitching a shutout is a tall task. That’s doubly true in a championship game. The Brahmas are a run-based offense, but Birmingham held them to just 3.2 yards per carry. By the time K Chris Blewitt tacked on a 49-yard FG to stretch the lead to 25, it felt like that kick alone would’ve been enough to beat San Antonio. That’s how good this defense played. I’m not sure if all the talk of Wade Phillips’ #1 defense angered and motivated the Stallions, but whatever happened, they posted the finest defensive performance of the entire season. Give that whole unit the MVP trophy.

One Second-Half Sequence Exemplified San Antonio’s Day

It’s hard to say too much about San Antonio due to how little they accomplished, but one series of events was emblematic of their performance. At the end of the 3rd quarter, down 22 and facing a 3rd and 1, QB Chase Garbers (18/26, 116 yards) ran a read option play and appeared to have a clear path to the first down. Inexplicably, he slid short of the sticks and gained 0 yards. On 4th down, he threw behind the line of scrimmage to TE Alize Mack, who couldn’t do more than not lose any more yardage. That turnover on downs essentially ended the game, and the Brahmas’ defense was outraged at Garbers’ cowardice.

I don’t think Coach Phillips was thrilled either, as backup Quinten Dormady (6/9, 58 yards) came into the game on the next series. Dormady led a really nice drive and finally reached the red zone. However, the Brahmas couldn’t have nice things, and Dormady took a 16-yard sack on 2nd and 5. The worst part is that no Stallion touched him: the turf monster got him while he tried to backpedal away from the rush. That sabotaged the drive and ultimately preserved the shutout. Adding injury to insult, Jontre Kirklin and RB John Lovett were injured and left in the 3rd quarter, but it didn’t matter. This wasn’t San Antonio’s day.

Stallions HC Skip Holtz is the Undisputed King of Spring Football

Last year, I wrote how Skip Holtz was owning the new USFL. Following this season, which culminated in a threepeat, I think we can go further. With 4 different QBs over 3 seasons, Holtz has guided Birmingham to both USFL titles available since its rebirth and the inaugural UFL championship. He and his assistants assembled a great roster, which led the Stallions to their first title. These leagues have a lot of turnover though. Somehow, that didn’t affect Birmingham, as they looked even better in year two. The merger with the XFL theoretically made things more challenging for Holtz. His team lost just 1 game all year (ironically to SA).

Arguably the best part about this league is the access we get to the sideline. We can often hear the conversations between coaches and QBs, granting us immense insight into the in-game process. Every time I watch a Stallions game, I find myself in awe of the way in which Holtz manages his team. He rarely yells or becomes flustered. Everything is about teaching; when his QB makes a mistake, he instructs him on what he should have done for the next time. I personally love this positive style of coaching, and I believe it’s more effective than the bully method. Holtz’s 3 straight championships seem to back that up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Similar Posts