Houston played host to the first training camp last month. The city hosted one of the first XFL games of the season which ended on a 25-0 run by the home team. The Roughnecks dominated the second half to beat the LA Wildcats 37-17.
Fans knew the offense would be the story of the game from the opening possessions of the game. Houston quarterback PJ Walker only needed three plays on the drive before connecting with Cam Phillips on a 50-yard score to make it 6-0. LA backup QB Charles Kanoff established a nice drive that led to him scoring on a five-yard run. He finished the drive with a two-point conversion pass to Jordan Smallwood to take an 8-6 lead. Houston kicker Sergio Castillo had a rough first half that started with a missed 40-yard field goal near the end of the first quarter.
Kanoff had a bad start to the quarter as he threw an interception to Kaelin Burnett to kill a drive that was in Houston territory. After a failed fourth-down conversion by Houston, LA took advantage of the short field and Kanoff connected with Smallwood again. This time it was a touchdown to put LA up 14-6. Walker wouldn’t go quietly into the night without making some noise as he hit James Butler on an easy screen pass that went for 16 yards for a touchdown. An unsuccessful two-point conversion left the score at 14-12 LA lead.
LA put together a solid 14 play drive, but unfortunately for them, the drive could only end in a Nick Novak 35 yard field goal. Butler continued his dominance as he returned his own muffed kickoff return for 62 yards to put Houston in LA territory. Another short drive for Houston led to Walker escaping pressure to connect with Sam Mobley for 39 yards for six points. Houston took over the lead at 18-17. Castillo made his second mistake kicking the ball out of bounds on the kickoff to put LA at Houston’s 45-yard line. LA managed to mishandle the last 1:10 to go into the half losing.
Houston would have no trouble taking over the game as PJ Walker first connected with Kahlil Lewis for his fourth touchdown of the game. His two-point conversion run increased the lead to 26-17. Not much more happened as we saw Houston’s defense start to apply pressure on Kanoff and shut down their running game.
After a nice drive, Castillo finally bounced back with a 40-yard field goal to put Houston up by 12. Jalen McClendon would come into the game at quarterback and it didn’t go well. He fumbled on the running back exchange and threw an interception to Deatrick Nichols two plays later. Butler would eventually run it in from four yards out for Houston and Lewis would catch a two-point conversion to make the score 37-17. LA and Houston would exchange turnovers with the game ending with a 20 point win for Houston.
Charles Kanoff at times played well. He was 11-14 at one point in the first half, but couldn’t sustain the success in the second half. LA will be happy to have Josh Johnson back next week. Elijah Hood broke off a couple of nice runs, but never got into a rhythm with Houston’s strong play in the front seven. Nelson Spruce was overshadowed as he had the best performance of any receiver so far as he’s currently the only receiver with double-digit catches and over 100 yards. One of LA’s biggest concerns was defense. The secondary got exposed badly. Head coach Winston Moss and the defense will need to go back to the drawing board.
PJ Walker was the star of this game and might have the best performance of the weekend. He threw four touchdowns, but it’s his playmaking ability that the stats can’t show. Walker made plays where he ran out of the pocket and showed off his arm strength to make some amazing plays. Even with the run and shoot offense, running back Andre Williams just never looked like a fit in the offense. Backup James Butler wasn’t even listed on the depth chart and proved to be the lead back for Houston. The defense made their adjustments in the second half and dominated with five sacks in the game.
- Charles Kanoff (passing): 21-40, 214 yards, one touchdown, one interception
- Elijah Hood (rushing): 12 carries, 43 yards
- Nelson Spruce (receiving): 11 catches, 103 yards
- PJ Walker (passing): 23-39, 272 yards, four touchdowns, one interception
- James Butler (rushing): nine carries, 30 yards
- Cam Phillips (receiving): four catches, 67 yards, one touchdown
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