After finishing with a 2-8 record in 2022, the Michigan Panthers of the USFL came out of the gates hot to begin the 2023 season. They defeated the Houston Gamblers by a score of 29-13, a contest in which the Panthers controlled for most of the contest.
The Panthers put up 327 yards of offense, while forcing four turnovers on defense. That was all it took to get out of there with a much-needed win, a sign of things to come for the Panthers.
Michigan got on the scoreboard first with a touchdown on their first possession. A seven-play, 80-yard drive was capped off by a Marcus Baugh 22-yard touchdown pass from QB Josh Love. The PAT was shanked, giving them the 6-0 lead. Houston responded right after with a touchdown of their own, but another missed PAT kept the game tied 6-6.
Houston went into halftime with a 13-9 lead, but the second half was all Panthers.
Second Half Storylines
The Michigan Panthers forced all four turnovers in the second half, capitalizing on crucial mistakes from the Gamblers. Two fumbles and two interceptions kept the Gamblers away from a opening weekend win.
Warren Saba caused the first takeaway for the Panthers early in the third quarter. Saba flipped the field from their own 37-yard line to the Houston two. Stevie Scott found the endzone two plays later with a one-yard rushing touchdown.
The Panthers extended their lead in the fourth quarter after a 10-play, 70-yard drive. Love connected with receiver Trey Quinn for 24-yards and the score. Michigan was out in front 22-13.
Houston fumbled on their ensuing drive, their second fumble of the game. Although Houston got near the redzone, Breeland Speaks strip sacked Gamblers QB Kenji Bahar, which was recovered by the Panthers.
Seven plays later, the Panthers were back in the endzone once again. Love thew a dime to Joe Walker for 34 yards, extending Michigan’s lead to 29-13. Another Gamblers interception then closed the game out for the Panthers.
It was a remarkable display from Love, who completed 19 of 21 passes for 216 yards and three touchdowns.
Scott was the leading rusher with 61 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Walker led the team in receptions (6) and receiving yards (105).
Overall, a promising season opener for the Michigan Panthers. They will face the Philadelphia Stars(1-0) at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
The Panthers will have their first home game at Ford Field on April 30. Ford Field was selected as an additional host site for the 2023 season. The Panthers and Stars will host their home games at Ford Field, so more football to watch in Detroit.
For more from the author Roman Bruno, check him out on Twitter here: @romanbruno14
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Photo Credit: © Eric Seals / USA TODAY NETWORK