Roughnecks 37, Wildcats 17
Roughnecks vs Wildcats: Good, bad and ugly
The Houston Roughnecks kicked off their inaugural season with an impressive victory over the Los Angeles Wildcats in front of nearly 18,000 spectators at TDECU Stadium. The game had a party like atmosphere as the city of Houston welcomed its newest professional sports team to town. There was a lot of scoring, big hits, and even a little defense for the first ever XFL game in Houston.
- The Roughnecks didn't waste any time getting on the board to start the game. It took only three plays for Quarterback P.J. Walker to find an open Cam Phillips for a 50- yard touchdown. Walker was by far the standout player of the game. He finished his Roughnecks debut with 272 yards passing and 4 touchdown passes on 23-for39 passing attempts. He was named the starter over former Raiders Quarterback and 4th round pick Conner Cook on Thursday, and it looks as though June Jones and his coaching staff made the right call. Walker worked well under constant pressure and was able to throw the ball deep down the field on multiple occasions. Walker looked as though he had a little bit of Deshaun Watson in him by eluding would be tacklers and even flashing the H-town sign after picking up a first down.
- It was a back and forth game offensively between both the Roughnecks and the Wildcats with neither team playing particularly well on defense. That is until the second half started, for Houston's defense didn't allow the Wildcats to score at all after halftime. The Roughnecks did a great job getting after both L.A. quarterbacks with 16 QB hits and 5 sacks as a team. In a league that predicates itself as a high octane offensive league, it's good to know that the Roughnecks have a defense that can step up when needed. The defense had two key turnovers in the second half that killed all momentum for the Wildcats. One was an interception by Deatrick Nichols with 12 minutes left to go in the 4th quarter, and the other was fumble and recovery by DeMarquis Gates. This essentially sealed the game for the Roughnecks.
- June Jones is back in Texas and looks as if he never lost his offensive touch. Jones coached at the University of Hawaii and SMU before taking his coaching talents to the CFL to coach the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. This season, he left his position with Hamilton to become the head coach for the Roughnecks. Everywhere he has gone, he has instilled an offensive game plan known as the Run N Shoot, now known as an up tempo offensive spread. Walker and the Roughneck's offense ran this scheme amazingly. With Jones at the helm and Walker as the go-to quarterback, who knows how good this offense can be going forward.
- The Roughnecks' running backs combined for only 12 rushing attempts and 50 yards rushing for the entire game. Although one of those attempts was a touchdown to James Butler for a 4 yard score, the offense was too heavily reliant on passing plays to keep the ball moving. It may have worked this time, but Jones should implement his running backs more going forward. Butler performed admirably in his limited offensive role and given some time, Butler could be the next breakout star for this Roughnecks' offense.
- Speaking of potential breakout stars, Sammy Coates didn't have that good of a game to start the season. The former Houston Texan came into training camp as the number one receiver and was essentially shut down by the Wildcats' secondary. He finished the game with only 2 catches on 9 attempts for only 26 yards. He was heavily covered on almost every play which led to other receivers such as Lewis Kahlil, Cam Phillips and Sam Mobley to get the lion's share of catches for the game. As pedestrian as his performance was, this game should be an outlier for Coates instead of the norm for the young talented receiver. Coates will have more opportunities to show he is a number one receiver as the season progresses.
- There wasn't much else that could fit in the "bad" category for the Roughnecks. Sure the defense was mediocre until halftime but I would just be nitpicking if I said that. Instead I'll use the final bad point to talk about the Wildcats' coaching errors. Los Angeles looked great going into halftime. They were answering everything the Roughnecks threw at them and were down only 17-18 just before the end of the second quarter. All the Wildcats had to do was kick a 29-yard field goal to take the lead into halftime, but Head Coach Winston Moss' poor time management lead to the clock running out and the Wildcats never saw a lead again. This was a huge missed opportunity that could have given the Wildcats momentum going into halftime.
- The PAT rules in the XFL are bizarre and may need some time to get accustomed to. Under XFL rules, teams don't kick extra points anymore. Instead they must try to score one, two or three points attempts from two, five, or ten yards out. The Roughnecks were 0-3 on PAT's in the first half but finished 2-5 on total point after attempts. Most likely, these points after attempts will improve as the season progresses and fans will get used to the idea of no more kicking attempts for points after touchdown scores.
- In what can only be described as unexpected, Wide Receiver Lewis Kahlil lined up near the Wildcats' red zone early in the game and the camera caught him losing his lunch on the field. This isn't the first time someone has gotten sick in the middle of the game and certainly will not be the last time. It was an ugly sight to see, but the Roughnecks' offense started playing well after this "fumble" if you will. Maybe it was a good luck charm for a Roughnecks victory.
- Those that didn't attend the game tuned to FOX to see the inaugural XFL game in Houston. After the Roughnecks scored their initial touchdown you could hear Veteran Sportscaster Curt Menefee, who was calling play-by-play for FOX, yell "Touchdown Renegades." Oops. The Renegades are the XFL team in Dallas. It's like if the Texans scored and the commentator yelled touchdown Cowboys! Yikes, a rough start for the Roughnecks already. All jokes aside, this blunder didn't take away from the television viewing experience Roughnecks' fans had watching their team crush the Wildcats.
With Week 1 in the books, the Roughnecks look ahead to the St. Louis BattleHawks Sunday February 16th as they look to remain undefeated. If they continue to play as well as they did Saturday night, the Roughnecks could be a potential favorite in every game going forward.