Arlington Renegades defeat the D.C. Defenders in the 2023 XFL Championship Game

XFL Arlington Renegades #27 Brandon Rusnak leaps over an opponent after intercepting a pass made by D.C. Defenders quarterback Jordan Ta'amu in the XFL Championship at the Alamodome on May 13th, 2023 in San Antonio, TX. (© Katie Stratman/XFL)
XFL Arlington Renegades #27 Brandon Rusnak leaps over an opponent after intercepting a pass made by D.C. Defenders quarterback Jordan Ta’amu in the XFL Championship at the Alamodome on May 13th, 2023 in San Antonio, TX. (© Katie Stratman/XFL)

SAN ANTONIO (May 13, 2023) – The Arlington Renegades scored on six of their first seven possessions and held on for a 35-26 victory over the D.C. Defenders to win the 2023 XFL Championship Saturday night at the Alamodome.

It was the highest-scoring game of the season for Arlington, led by quarterback Luis Perez who passed for 288 yards and three touchdowns, completing 26 of his 36 pass attempts. Perez was named the 2023 XFL Championship Most Valuable Player following the game.

Arlington raced out to a 17-0 edge and led 20-6 at halftime. but D.C., coming in with an XFL-best 10-1 record, wouldn’t go down without a fight.

The Defenders pulled within one score three times in the second half, but could get no closer. Arlington led 26-12 late in the third quarter, but Defenders quarterback Jordan Ta’amu hit wide receiver Josh Hammond with a 72-yard scoring strike. A two-point conversion run by Abram Smith made it 26-20 with 9 seconds remaining in the third.

But a D.C. unsportsmanlike penalty on the conversion led to an illegal kick penalty on the ensuing kickoff, giving Arlington possession at the Defenders 30-yard line. One play later, Perez hit running back Leddie Brown with a 30-yard touchdown pass to put the Renegades on top 35-20. Taylor Russolino added a 33-yard field goal with 10 minutes remaining to extend Arlington’s lead
to 35-20.

D.C. took advantage of a turnover with just over two minutes remaining and got another Ta’amu to Hammond touchdown pass to pull within 9 points, 35-26. But the Defenders’ 4th-and-15 attempt to retain possession ended in an interception by the Renegades’ Cre’Von LeBlanc, icing the championship victory for Arlington.

Perez hooked up with tight end Sal Cannella for a 41-yard touchdown pass to cap off a seven-play, 76-yard drive on the first possession of the game. Following a D.C. punt, Arlington strung together a 16-play, 88-yard scoring drive that took 8:45 off the clock. Perez completed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Vaughns, followed by a 2-point conversion pass from Perez to De’Veon Smith to make it 14-0 after one quarter of play.

Arlington added a 29-yard Russolino field goal to make it 17-0 early in the second quarter. D.C. finally got on the board on the next possession with a 2-yard Smith scoring run to make it 17-6. Russolino added a 51-yard field goal just before halftime to put the Renegades on top 20-6 at the intermission.

D.C. pulled back within one score on the opening possession of the second half, as Smith raced 52 yards for a touchdown to make it 20-12. But Arlington answered with another long scoring drive. Leddie Brown scored from 7 yards out to cap a 12-play drive that covered 71 yards and took 6:49 off the clock, putting the Renegades on top 26-12.

Arlington racked up 396 yards of total offense, including 285 yards through the air and 111 on the ground. Four different ball-carriers combined for the 111 rushing yards for the Renegades, led by Smith’s 54 yards on 15 carries. Vaughns finished with 83 yards receiving on eight receptions with one touchdown, while Cannella recorded 71 yards on four catches and a touchdown.

D.C. totaled 356 yards, with 241 yards passing and 115 rushing. Ta’amu finished 16-of-30 for 245 yards passing with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Abram Smith rushed for a game-high 90 yards rushing, including two scores. Hammond tallied a game-best 127 yards receiving and two touchdowns for D.C.

Post Game Notes

  • Arlington defeated DC, 35-26, in the 2023 XFL Championship game. It was the most points scored by the Renegades in a game this season. Including the regular season, Arlington finishes the season 6-6 and DC finishes 10-2.
  • The 35 points scored by the Arlington Renegades were the most points scored by the team this season and was also the second most points allowed by the DC Defenders in 2023.
  • The win by Arlington marks the 13 upset victory in the XFL this season. In the XFL this year, favorites finished 21-20-9. The combined score was 61 points, giving the over the win. This season overs were 22-20-1. Arlington finished the season 5-7-0 against the spread and 4-8-0 against the over. DC finished the season 8-4-0 against the spread and was 11-1-0 against the over.
  • Arlington improved to 3-1 when leading at halftime this season and 5-0 when leading entering the fourth quarter.
  • Before the two quarterback kneels to end the game by Arlington, the final play of the DC Defenders season came on a fourth-and-15 play. On that play, Arlington recorded its third interception of the day. Including the regular season, Arlington led the league with 17 total interceptions.
  • The victory gives head coach Bob Stoops his second championship. He previously led Oklahoma to the 2000 national championship.
  • Arlington quarterback and championship MVP Luis Perez was 26-of-36 for 288 yards and three touchdowns. Against DC this season, Perez threw for 906 yards and six touchdowns against two interceptions. Since joining the Renegades, Perez finished with 1,307 yards to go with seven touchdowns against two interceptions in five games.
  • Arlington wide receiver Tyler Vaughns led the Renegades making a career-high eight catches for 83 yards and a score.
  • DC quarterback Jordan Ta’amu threw a career-high three interceptions against Arlington.
  • League rushing leader Abram Smith (DC Defenders) finished with 90 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns. His 90 yards were the fourth highest of the season.
  • Arlington defensive back Joe Powell recorded his first interception of the postseason, giving him five total interceptions on the season, which is tied for the most in the league.
  • The 20 points that Arlington has scored in the first half are the second most first half points they have scored this season, only trailing the 23 points they scored in the South Division Championship.
  • The 6 points that the DC Defenders scored in the first half are the second lowest they have scored this season in the first half. The only time the Defenders scored fewer was at Vegas in Week 2 when they were shut out.
  • The 20 points allowed against DC in the first half are the most that the Defenders have allowed in the opening half of a game this season. It was also the third time this season where DC trailed at halftime.
  • Arlington’s Taylor Russolino kicked a 51-yard field goal to close out the first half. It was his third longest field goal of the season, behind a 56-yard field goal in Week 10 against Houston and a 53-yard field goal in Week 6 against San Antonio. This season he is 3-for-4 on kicks of 50 yards or longer.
  • Arlington quarterback Luis Perez was 18-of-23 for 189 yards with two touchdown passes in the first half. It was the second highest first half in terms of yards for Perez this season, only behind his 194 passing yards in the South Championship game. His 18 completions are tied for the most he had this season in the first half. He also completed 18 passes in the first half against DC in Week 9.
  • Arlington wide receiver Tyler Vaughs had six receptions for 72 yards in the first half against DC. It was the second most yards by an Arlington wide receiver in the opening half only behind JaVonta Payton’s 102 yards against Houston in the South Division Championship game.
  • The Arlington Renegades scored on its first drive of the game, marking the eighth time this season, and the second time during the postseason, where they scored on their first drive. With that, Arlington passed Orlando with the most first possession scores in the XFL this season with their scoring drive.
  • It was the second time this season where the Renegades scored a touchdown on their opening drive. In the South Division Championship they also scored a touchdown on their first drive.

— Including files from the XFL.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.