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UFL Week 1: Five takeaways from first weekend of merged spring football league between XFL and USFL

The inaugural United Football League season kicked off this past weekend, the combined product of the merged XFL and USFL leagues. All the USFL and XFL teams played each other in Week 1 of the season, part of a 10-week regular season which the top two teams in the USFL and XFL divisions will play in the postseason. 

As Week 1 of the UFL season concluded, here are five takeaways from the four games played. 

64-yard field goal wins game

The spring football leagues never seem to be devoid of kickers, which held true during the opening day of UFL games. Jake Bates kicked a 64-yard field goal with three seconds left to lead the Michigan Panthers to an 18-16 victory over the St. Louis Battlehawks.

What made the field goal even more impressive? Bates hadn’t kicked an impactful field goal since high school, making the kick even more improbable. The 64-yard field goal was the longest field goal of Bates’ career and the longest field goal in spring football games dating back to 2019. Bates’ field goal was the second longest field goal in Ford Field history, behind Justin Tucker’s 66-yard field goal in 2021 — which won a game for the Baltimore Ravens.  

The fake punt that went viral

Brad Wing only threw one pass in his entire professional football career, until he faked a pooch punt attempt in the San Antonio Brahmas opener that went for a touchdown. The touchdown pass was already impressive from Wing — who was initially the holder on a 58-yard field goal attempt — as he threw it to an offensive lineman for the score. Center Alex Mollette was lined up as the left end on the field goal attempt and was wide open downfield when Wing took a chance and threw it to him.

The play is not seen often in professional football, so for a UFL team to pull it off gave some positive vibes for the league. 

Birmingham Stallions are still good

The Stallions were 2-for-2 in the new-USFL, winning the championship in both seasons it was played. Birmingham looked in championship form in its season opener, beating the XFL-champion Arlington Renegades, 27-14, in the inaugural game of the merged leagues. 

Birmingham dominated the game, racking up over 400 yards of offense and holding the ball for 32:55. Matt Corral threw for 201 yards and ran for 25 yards with a rushing touchdown. The Stallons mixed things up at quarterback by putting in Adrian Martinez, who had three carries for 52 yards. USFL Championship Game MVP Deon Cain had three catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. The Stallions rushed for 183 yards, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. 

The Stallions appear to be the best team after Week 1. 

Wes Hills picked up where he left off

Hills was the defending rushing champion in the USFL, rushing for 679 yards and 10 touchdowns for the New Orleans Breakers last season. Thanks to the merged league with four teams from the USFL folding, Hills took his talents to the Michigan Panthers.

The Slippery Rock product had a strong debut for the Panthers, finishing with 11 carries for 85 yards (7.7 yards per carry). Hills finished with more rushing yards than the Memphis Showboats and Houston Roughnecks combined. 

The leading rusher in the UFL is already off to a strong start. 

Offense was missing around the league

Outside of the Stallions, no UFL team had over 300 total yards in Week 1. Birmingham finished with 409 total yards and the next highest was Michigan with 280, showcasing how far ahead the Stallions offense appears compared to the other teams. 

Michigan and Birmingham were the only two teams to run for over 100 yards too, which is why offensive line play in this league will be critical. The Stallions and Panthers were also the only two teams that averaged over 6.0 yards per play, while Birmingham and San Antonio were the only two teams to score over 20 points in Week 1 (and San Antonio had to use a fake punt touchdown for that). 

The league needs more scoring and exciting plays in order to keep momentum from the first week. 

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