Houston 27, Dallas 20

The Houston Roughnecks are officially Texas' team

The Rockets aren't the only team in town playing "small ball."

With dynamic playmaking abilities, athleticism and instincts - the -5- foot-11 Temple prodigy PJ Walker has thrown for 987 yards and is responsible for 13 touchdowns [12 passing, one running] to just two interceptions, in the first four weeks of the XFL's inaugural season. Affectionately nicknamed, "Walker Texas Ranger," he has taken the league [and Houston] by storm and been labeled "The face of the XFL."

That "Face" faced off against the Dallas Renegades Sunday afternoon; throwing for 239 yards, 2TDs, 1INT and added another 17 yards rushing on the ground as the Roughnecks moved to 4-0 with a 27-20 win over the Dallas Renegades.

The XFL may be brand new, but Sunday's matchup of the Houston Roughnecks vs. the Dallas Renegades already had all of the ingredients necessary for a stellar rivalry game:

- XFL hype

- Media hype

- A nickname [The XFL labeled it the " #TexasThrowdown " - but I'm calling it the " #TeXFL ." Better, right?]

- Big name Quarterbacks

- Well Known Coaches [who used to rival each other in College]

- Conference rivals

But most importantly, it's simply: Houston VS Dallas... 'nuff said.

#TexasThrowdown HYPE VIDEOwww.youtube.com

While the game definitely lived up to the hype, the Roughneck victory didn't come in the fashion that Roughneck Faithful probably expected...

Here are my 5 Takeaways:

#1.] Don't sleep on the Defense!

Sure, PJ Walker did PJ Walker things... but the defense had just as much to do with the win as the quarterback did.

The premise of this article is supposed to be, "My 5 takeaways from the Roughnecks VS Renegades game"... well, that's ironic, because the Roughnecks actually HAD 5 takeaways [turnovers] off the Renegades!


The first four turnovers came off of Landry Jones, who threw three picks and was also stripped of a ball on a sack that was returned for a Roughneck Touchdown by LB Edmond Robinson. The fifth and final TO came off of backup quarterback Phillip Nelson. His pass got deflected and ended up in the paws of DeMarquis Gates to seal the game.

5th Turnover of the game!#TeXFLwww.youtube.com

All in all, the Roughnecks Defense racked up a sack, six quarterback hits, five tackles for loss, four Interceptions, one Forced fumble, one touchdown.


We've given props to the Roughneck defense for causing five Turnovers... but how in the world does a Defense gift their offense 5 extra possessions and yet the team only walks away with a 7-point margin of victory? [Sounds like something the Houston Texans would do - NOT the Roughnecks.]

A championship team makes the most out of every opportunity. So, moving forward, the Roughnecks need to capitalize on turnovers and turn them into TDs. And while I wasn't present at the post-game presser to ask him - I can almost guarantee you that Coach June Jones agrees.


The Roughnecks actually came out of this game losing the Time of Possession "war" by -16 seconds. [29:52 to 30:08]
Do I need to remind you how absurd this is, given that the Roughnecks defense literally gave their offense 5 Renegade turnovers?!

In a perfect world, the Roughnecks WOULD have had a big lead and bled the clock out, running the ball....

But they didn't.

In a game that the Roughnecks never trailed in, the Renegades still ran the ball five more times than Houston did. Even in victory, a close game like this shows you the importance of running the ball: it wears out an opposing defenses, increases ball security, lessens risk of injury to the QB and [most importantly] keeps the ball out of the opposing QB's hands for a longer amount of time.

And that's not all... The Roughnecks lost more battles than just Time of Possession. They also lost at:

1st Downs [ 19 HOU / 21 DAL ]

Plays Ran [ 60 HOU / 66 DAL ]

Penalties [ 6 Penalties for 57yds - HOU ] [ 3 Penalties for 43yds - DAL ]

The main thing that really saved the Roughnecks from potential defeat was their third down efficiency. They were on point, at a 63% on 3rd Down Conversion rate, to the Renegades meager 27%.

If Houston can clean these things up, they'll certainly increase their future margins of victory - which is currently a solid 10 points on average.

#4. Everybody Steps Up!

PJ Walker's favorite target, WR Cam Phillips, was basically cut out of this game [1 REC / 9 YDs] as he was doubled the entire game, by a corner and a safety... but no worries! Between the Defense and Nick Holley, the Roughnecks offense didn't skip a beat.

NHolley has had some big catches in the past 4 weeks, but Sunday, he had a career game, catching eight passes for 97 yards and one TD.

Kahlil Lewis also came up big, catching six for 53yds - as well as Blake Jackson, who caught two for 26yds and 1TD.

#5. Dallas Unstable at the Quarterback Position...

Thoughts and prayers go out to Renegades QB, Landry Jones, who reinjured his knee late n the fourth quarter. The injury looked gruesome, as Landry appeared to violently twist his left knee under Roughneck DE Caushaud Lyons.

While Landry has not yet been ruled out officially for the rest of the season, he limped off of the field and proceeded to cry on the sideline for the remainder of the game - thus furthering some assumptions that Landry may not return this season.

In the post-game press conference, Head Coach Bob Stoops said, "Fortunately, he had a brace on it and hopefully that minimized the damage." Landry stated that he hopes the injury is an MCL injury, which has an expected recovery time of 5 - 6 weeks. The Dallas Renegades Twitter account [@XFLRenegades] is reporting that Jones will undergo an MRI tomorrow morning

If Jones is out for the remainder of this season, eyes will turn to QB Eric Dungey, who left the team earlier, to mourn the passing of his Father.

If Dungey is not available, the team may potentially look to trade for a QB.

Some names circulating are Tampa Bay Vipers QB Quinton Flowers and Houston Roughnecks QB Connor Cook.

Flowers [USF] and Cook [Michigan State] were both extremely successful at their respective colleges. Flowers believes he should be starting and thus, it's no secret that he wants out of Tampa, as a result of a lack of playing time. Cook was drafted in the first round of the XFL Draft by the Roughnecks and was expected by many to start this season. However a lack of mobility/versatility with his legs would inevitably cause him to lose the starting role to PJ Walker.

Renegade QB, Landry Jones re-injures left kneewww.youtube.com

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The Astros are utilizing a 6-man rotation. Composite Getty Image.

The Astros should schedule an Old-Timers Game, if not annually maybe every other year. Only the Yankees have regularly played Old Timers Games and it’s a highlight in the Bronx every season. The Astros have plenty enough history to welcome back an ample number of guys to make for a fabulous event. Maybe they could tie it into their now annual Hall of Fame Weekend. Anyway, don’t you feel that if Jose Altuve took part in an Old Timers Game in 2050 he’d bang out a couple of hits, and then if the Astros played him in the regular game he’d line one more hit somehow, at age 60?

After missing the first 43 games of the season while recovering from his broken thumb, Altuve went 0 for four in his first game back, but has since been generally fantastic with his OPS through nine games played at 1.013. It won’t stay that high, but Altuve is a direly needed upgrade to the Astros’ offense which has been utterly mediocre. Offense is the reason the Astros continue to look up at the Texas Rangers in the American League West. The Rangers’ offense has been fantastic, outscoring the Astros by a whopping 100 runs through the first third of the season.

As the regular season entered its middle third this week, the Astros are in the middle of playing a game in 17 consecutive days. It’s their longest stretch of the season without an off day. They are inserting Ronel Blanco as a sixth starting pitcher in the rotation for a couple of turns. The point of mixing in a sixth starter isn’t that the Astros are teeming with guys who belong in a big league rotation. The 29-year-old Blanco is not a notable prospect. This is about lightening the load a little on two guys: Cristian Javier and Hunter Brown.

In becoming a rotation mainstay last season, Javier blew past his previous biggest season workload by nearly 50 innings. He’s on pace to go another 25 innings beyond that this year without even accounting for the playoffs. Hunter Brown last year set his professional high with 130 innings pitched encompassing work with the Space Cowboys and Astros. Brown is on pace for about 170 innings this regular season. That’s a significant jump, and of course the Astros are hoping for another postseason of multiple rounds. Javier, Brown, and Framber Valdez are the three most critical pitchers on the staff, and the Astros hope they remain healthily so for several more years.

Lance McCullers’s latest recovery setback makes his plight increasingly sad. Well, except for him on payday. The odds now lopsidedly favor McCullers never again pitching a near fully healthy and effective season. His only one to date was 2021 (until he broke down in the playoffs), the year before his five year 85 million dollar contract kicked in. McCullers pulls down 17 mil this year (And again next year. And in 2025. And 2026), exactly two and a half times what Framber Valdez makes. I reckon Framber’s representation is aware of this, as it is of the five year 63 million dollar deal the Astros struck with Cristian Javier. Framber is more than three years older than Javier, but has been better, and can hit free agency after the 2025 season, the same time Javier could have gone to market.

Timing isn’t everything but it darn sure can matter. The Astros’ two best relief pitchers through May were Hector Neris and Phil Maton. Neris enters June with a 1.19 earned run average, Maton even better with a teeny-weeny 0.68 ERA. Maton has been especially amazing, given that last year while not pitching very well he posted his career best ERA at 3.84. His 2022 ended ignominiously when after giving up a hit to his brother Nick in the regular season finale, Phil took the ding-a-ling of the week award by breaking his pitching hand punching his locker, sidelining him for the postseason. The Hurt Locker won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2010. Now Maton is up for Best Pitcher (per inning worked). Both Neris and Maton were James Click acquisitions. Both become free agents after this season.

Up next

Four games with the Angels at Minute Maid Park through the weekend mean the amazing Shohei Ohtani is in town. It’s “Sho-time” on the mound Friday night in a doozy of a pitching matchup with Framber, with Ohtani batting in at least three of the four games. In one player the Angels have a pitcher as good as Cristian Javier and a hitter better than Kyle Tucker. And the Angels will probably miss the playoffs again anyway. And then lose Ohtani in free agency. After the Angels series the Astros are on the road next week. They start with four games at Toronto against the Blue Jays’ very potent lineup, then it’s three at Cleveland vs. the Guardians whose offense has been pathetic so far this season.

Walk this way

Geek Astro factoid of the week: Jeremy Pena drew two walks in Tuesday’s win over the Twins. In his rookie season, Pena had only one two walk game, also in May, also against the Twins. Tuesday’s bases on balls finally got Pena into double digits for the season. He has just 11 walks drawn (largely explaining his weak .307 on-base percentage) vs. 50 strikeouts.

Catch our Astros podcast every Monday!

Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it goes up at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

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