The St. Louis BattleHawks marched into Dallas as the biggest underdog in the league week 1. Undeterred, St. Louis played team football taking down the Renegades 15-6. St. Louis secured two big firsts this game: the first win in franchise history and the first XFL team to win on the road. They move to 1-0 on the year.
While not a high scoring affair, the BattleHawks and Renegades provided an action packed event the XFL has been promising.
Offense Begins to Mesh
St. Louis established the run game early and leaned on it throughout the game. Running back Matt Jones shouldered the largest load, carrying the ball 21 times for 85 yards. Jones was able to chip away medium gains most runs then setting up good yardage for second and third downs. Keith Ford added a 16 yard run for the BattleHawks first touchdown late in the first half. The surprise of the day was Jones getting the start over Christine Michael who was slotted first on the depth chart. Jones took advantage of this opportunity while Michael struggled all game; 0 yards on 7 attempts and losing a yard on his lone reception.
BattleHawks QB Jordan Ta’amu impressed with almost every aspect of his game. Through the air, Ta’amu was 20/27 with 183 yards and a TD, on the ground he added 77 yards on nine carries. Ta’amu said he had nerves starting out but throughout the game, you could see him settle in. Coach Hayes said he was impressed by the young quarterback’s poise. Access to in-game audio let us in on a conversation between the two after Ta’amu took a 12-yard sack on third down, leaving a long 48-yard field goal attempt Taylor Russolino nailed, Hayes stressed the importance of throwing the ball away.
Ta’amu started a drive halfway through the third quarter by hitting receivers on three straight attempts for 10, 11, and 13 yards. A couple plays later Ta’amu tore down the field for a 37-yard run. He capped off the drive by connecting with Alonzo Russell in the back of the endzone, both party’s first touchdowns of the season.
Eight receivers got in on the action today. Wideout turned tight end Marcus Lucas hauled in 4 catches. L’Damian Washington pulled in a team-high 5 receptions. Alonzo Russel showed off his hands in the endzone for 1 of his 3. And De’Mornay Pierson-El had the longest play for the offense after a speedy catch-and-run for 41 yards.
Offensive game ball: QB Jordan Ta’amu
The BattleHawks don’t win this game without the defense showing up the way it did. Drive after drive the front seven kept the pressure on Renegades QB Philip Nelson. Four BattleHawks picked up a sack on the day, linebackers Terence Garvin and Dexter McCoil, then Dewayne Hendrix and Jake Payne from the line.
Dallas could not get their run game going all night, as a team they only had 12 attempts for 58 yards. With nothing working on the ground, the Renegades went pass-heavy with Nelson going 33/42 for 199 yards. The backfield was put to the test and they passed. Most completions were for short yardage only. Former NFL safety Will Hill sealed the game for St. Louis picking off Nelson with less than 30 seconds left in the game. All around, the BattleHawk defense played as one cohesive unit avoiding the big play and shutting the Renegades out of the endzone.
Defensive game ball: S Will Hill
The major blemish on the day was all the penalities, 9 for 78 yards (though the final penalty was intentional to give punter Marquette King more room to kick). Several drives stalled out as a result keeping Dallas in the game all night. St. Louis was the most penalized team through week 1, something that will need to be addressed moving forward.
If you tuned in to the game this week, you saw the great new fan features the XFL rolled out this season. In-game interviews, listening in on play calls, and hearing the refs deliberate and most importantly get calls right highlighted the changes in the broadcast.
St. Louis keeps their Texas road trip going as they head down to Houston next Sunday to take on the 1-0 Roughnecks.
Fly and Fight on, St. Louis.
Mike is a freelance writer and loyal sports fan. He is a current contributor to all things St. Louis BattleHawks. Originally from Ohio, he grew up a Cleveland fan and connects with the Midwest. He understands the connection sports team have to their communities and is excited to watch the connection between the XFL and St. Louis.