UFL-Thrills, Heartbreak And Another 60 Yd. Field Goal

With 54 seconds left in the game, the Arlington Renegades could finally breathe a sigh of relief. Their five-game losing streak to start the year was about to end as kicker Jonathan Garibay sent a beautiful 48-yard field goal straight through the uprights. The score was 27-25 in favor of the Renegades over the Michigan Panthers.

UFL-Thrills, Heartbreak, And Another 60-Yard Field Goal

A Thrilling Last-Second Victory

Instead, the Renegades, a team far better than their record would indicate, watched helplessly as wide receiver Marcus Simms returned the kickoff 45 yards to put the Panthers in an ideal position for Jake Bates to kick his fifth field goal of the afternoon. Bates delivered a stunning 42-yard kick that sealed the victory for the Panthers with a score of 28-27, raised their season record to 4-2, and put them in a likely position to claim the USFL division’s second playoff spot.

A Masterclass In Field Goal Kicking

There is a reason why Jake Bates has been the talk of the UFL this season. On Sunday, he delivered five field goals from 43 yards, 60 yards, 29 yards, 49 yards, and the game-winning kick of 42 yards. As impressive as those numbers are, they don’t tell the entire story. As a result of two Renegades special teams penalties, Bates kicked two other field goals that were negated in favor of giving the offense first down yardage. Bates’ first kick on the afternoon, a 55-yard field goal, didn’t count because of a defensive offside call. But a few plays later, Bates contributed his 43-yard field goal. Later in the day, Bates had another kick negated when Ajene Harris was called for roughing the kicker. After the 15-yard penalty, Bates responded with his third field goal, a sweet 29-yard boot.

It should be noted that the UFL has become a field goal kickers paradise with six of the eight kickers recording field goals of more than 50 yards. Bates, Andre Szmyt of the St. Louis Battlehawks, and Matthew McCrane of the D.C. Defenders are currently tied for the lead with the most field goals this season (12/14 field goals) and Matt Coghlin of the Memphis Showboats (11/12) is close behind.

A Snake-Bitten Team

This season, the Arlington Renegades have tied or led their opponent in five hard-fought games, only to see the lead evaporate in the fourth quarter. In three of the five games, the loss resulted from a game-winning field goal in the closing seconds. It has been a heartbreaking season for quarterback Luis Perez, who leads the league in passing with 129 /198 for 1330 yards and is averaging more than 221 yards per game. Perez is a terrific quarterback with experience, leadership, and superior talent. Sadly, his impressive numbers have been offset by 10 sacks (amongst the highest in the league) and a lack of scoring production with only seven touchdowns.

The Renegades’ record could be explained by too many dropped passes, too little protection, and a ground game that has not been as effective as it could have been. While running backs De’Veon Smith and Leddie Brown have looked solid, the production isn’t there. Smith is ranked in the top ten for rushing yardage with 178 yards on 57 carries, but he has only a single touchdown on the season.

Headed To The Playoffs 

One of the biggest stories this weekend has been the superior play of the league-leading 6-0 Birmingham Stallions. The Stallions are on cruise control, headed into their third consecutive playoff with two back-to-back Championship titles in their pocket. Are the Stallions destined for a three-peat?

Watching them crush the Memphis Showboats this weekend by a score of 39-21, it’s not hard to imagine. The Stallions have an outstanding quarterback in Adrian Martinez who proved he can do it all this weekend with an MVP performance, throwing 23/36 for 368 yards, 4 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Martinez rushed for an additional 25 yards and currently ranks number two in the league with 327 yards on 31 carries, just behind running back Jonathan Lovett of the San Antonio Brahmas. 

Two Other Strong Teams 

Another exceptional team headed straight for the playoffs is the St. Louis Battlehawks. The Battlehawks secured their fifth-straight win over the Houston Roughnecks this weekend, 22-8. Quarterback A.J. McCarron continued to demonstrate why he is the best quarterback in the league, passing 135/199 for 1,306 yards this season with 13 touchdowns and two interceptions. Unlike his closest rival for that title, Adrian Martinez, McCarron doesn’t have the rushing statistics, but the Battlehawks have an excellent running back in Jacob Saylors. Averaging close to 50 yards per game, Saylors has 242 yards on 48 carries.

With the most complete offense in the UFL, another reason for the Battlehawks’ success is wide receiver Hakeem Butler who leads the league with 478 receiving yards on 31 catches and five touchdowns. The Battlehawks have an outstanding kicker in Andre Szymt who, in addition to leading the league in field goals, has long-range capability with a 54-yard kick three weeks ago against the Brahmas.

Finally, not to be overlooked, the D.C. Defenders are a strong team with the potential to make a late-season run. The Defenders won a decisive victory 18-12 against a strong San Antonio Brahmas team this weekend, to raise their record to 3-3 and keep their playoff hopes alive. D.C. Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu has been very efficient this season passing 90/168 for 1,067 yards with eight touchdowns. Although five interceptions hurt his quarterback rating, Ta’amu is amongst the league leaders for passing yardage and has another 123 yards rushing on 29 carries. Ta’amu currently leads the Defenders in rushing ahead of running back Darius Hagans who has just under 100 yards this season on 25 carries.

Next weekend, the Arlington Renegades will look for their first victory against the Memphis Showboats on Saturday, May 11th. The game will be televised on ESPN at 1:00 pm EDT.

The Birmingham Stallions host the St. Louis Battlehawks on Saturday, May 11th. The game will be televised on FOX at 4:00 pm EDT.

In a game with huge playoff implications for both teams, the D.C. Defenders host the Michigan Panthers on Sunday, May 12th at noon EDT. That game will be televised on ESPN.

Also on Sunday, May 12th, the Houston Roughnecks host the San Antonio Brahmas at 3:00 pm. The game will be televised on ESPN. 

Main Image: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

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