Arlington, Texas – As Bob Stoops left the post game press conference, QB Philip Nelson and RB Lance Dunbar entered the room. In passing Stoops said to Nelson ,”Good job out there today bud”.
Despite Nelson’s play Stoops still had the upmost confidence in his week 1 starter.
“Philip does a good job and a lot of the inconsistencies aren’t on him. We need to play better.”
In Nelson’s debut he threw for 209 yards, but did so with 42 pass attempts and completing 33 of those passes. The Renegades offense averaged just a bit over 5 yards per attempt, which both Stoops and Nelson credit the BattleHawks defense for their approach to the game.
“In the preseason game that we had against them [St. Louis], we were going over the top of them,” said Nelson. “You could tell today that they were backing up. Coach [Hal] Mumme says all the time that ‘you have to have a great capacity for boredom,’ which meant to check it down tonight.”
The game started off rough for both teams as the first quarter was full of three and out drives. Late in the first quarter the Renegades were able to capitalize on a fumble by St. Louis running back Christine Michel, placing the Renegades at their own 38 yard line.
This resulted in a 32 yard field goal by Austin MacGinnis with a little over 9 minutes remaining in the first half.
The Renegades received another gift when the BattleHawks punted the ball and were called for an illegal block, and placed the Renegades in plus territory.
Again, the Renegades began their drive in ideal field position and failed to convert on a Lance Dunbar run to the left where he was stopped 4 yards short of the first down marker. The BattleHawks took full advantage and outside of a false start penalty early in the drive, they capped off a 10 play 62 yard drive with a 16 yard touchdown run by Keith Ford (2pt conversion no good) which gave the BattleHawks the lead for the first time in the game with a 1:26 remaining on the clock in the first half.
Nelson and the offense finally got into rhythm once they got the ball back, connecting with tight end Donald Parham three times, as he led his offense down the field in the final moments of the second half to setup another Austin MacGinnis field goal which tied the game with eight seconds remaining in the first half.
With a little under six minutes in the third quarter the Renegades took the lead again by way of another Austin MacGinnis field goal making the score 9-6, and from that point forward the Renegades struggled to find their footing. Nelson and his offense really hit a snag and caused the Renegades offense to move away from what was reported to be a “up-tempo” offense.
BattleHawks inside linebacker Dexter McCoil knew that if they were able to stop big plays from being the story of the day his team could possibly pull momentum in their favor.
“Every team wants to keep everything in front of them. You can’t allow big plays, no matter what defense or game it is. Usually big plays dictate the momentum of the game, and teams usually get points out of them. We knew if we eliminated the big plays and stopped the run that we would be successful.”
McCoil also expressed how important it is to get the defense off the field on third down but didn’t know that the BattleHawk defense held the Renegades to only one third down conversion.
“I didn’t know that, but that pretty good. Every time you come into a game third down is crucial. You want to stop the momentum of the game because you don’t want to stay on the field, so being able to get off the field on third downs is big so we can give our offense the ball back.”
Well the BattleHawks defense did their job, and got their offense in prime position to drive down the field. The BattleHawk defense sacked Nelson at the right time and forced the Renegades to punt the football late in third quarter.
The Drew Galitz punt placed the BattleHawks offense at their own 17 yard line with 2:42 left in the third quarter.
This would turn out to be one of the biggest drives of the game. The BattleHawks offense led by quarterback Jordan Ta’amu marched down the field on a 11 play 83 yard scoring drive by way of Ta’amu arm and legs. The biggest play in the game at that moment was a gashing run up the middle by Ta’amu for 37 yards which placed the BattleHawks on the 9 yard line. The next play Ta’amu threw a 9 yard touchdown strike to receiver Alonzo Russell in the back of the endzone to put the BattleHawks ahead of the Renegades 12-9.
The Renegades would eventually regain possession but quickly went three and out after Nelson was sacked 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage making it 3 & 11 from the 50 yard line, and missing a golden opportunity to hit a wide open Jazz Ferguson to get his team back into the game.
The BattleHawks sealed the deal by marching down the field on 10 play 68 yard drive which resulted in a successful 48 yard Taylor Russolino field goal with less than 6 minutes left in the game.
The BattleHawks forced the Renegades to go three and out again was able to milk the clock leaving the Renegades with 44 seconds left on the game clock to make something happen.
In a last ditch effort to bring his team back from a 6 point deficit with 44 seconds left on the clock Nelson hit receiver Jeff Badet for a 4 yard gain and then connected with receiver Jerrod Heard for a 10 yard gain.
Nelson helped get the Renegades to their own 30 yard line after starting that drive on their own 16 yard line with 23 seconds left on the clock.
Nelson who played mistake free football for majority of the game would go on to throw his lone interception getting picked off by safety Will Hill and end the Renegades hopes of week 1 comeback at Globe Life Park.
Now I am not one to cry over spilled milk because this team has all the potential in the world. The Renegades were a few plays away from beating a team that was healthy and had most of their weapons on offense and defense, and the BattleHawks were a few plays from losing a game against a team who is missing their starting quarterback, a short yardage running back in Dimitri Flowers, and a couple of banged up receivers.
The old adage goes it is tough to beat a team twice, and all credit to Jonathan Hayes and his coaching staff. His team lost to the Renegades in similar fashion in the preseason, and Philip Nelson was able to take the top off the BattleHawk defense. No, it wasn’t the best performance by Nelson, but again if you see a team within three weeks of playing in a preseason game and playing in a regular season game the opposing team is usually prepared more so than not.
If starting quarterback Landry Jones is not a go next week, I fully expect Nelson to get another chance to showcase his playmaking ability and rise above the criticism that followed after his performance in Sunday’s loss.
The Renegades will face off against the LA Wildcats in week 2 and I am sure Stoops and Co. will be prepared to showcase that air-raid offense with Nelson potentially getting his second career XFL start.
On to LA.
Jai Nokes is the host of NOTES x NOKES Radio show on the BGC Sports Network and columnist for the XFL Board. He covers the Dallas Renegades of the XFL and has worked as a journalist covering the SMU Mens Basketball program in their 2013-2014 season. Jai has been a journalist/sports broadcaster for 6 years. You can follow Jai on all social media sites @notesxnokes, and listen to his radio/vlog Mon & Fri LIVE at 7PM also available on Anchor FM, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, and several other platforms.