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New York Guardians Inaugural Game Recap: Gilbride returns home with a victory, New York’s defense stands on guard

The New York Guardians finally went on duty and delivered a 23-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Vipers in the Guardians’ inaugural game at MetLife Stadium.

East Rutherford N.J – In front of 17, 634 fans, the New York Guardians finally went on duty and delivered a 23-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Vipers in the Guardians’ inaugural game at MetLife Stadium.

On a day, where Kevin Gilbride returned to coaching at MetLife, the long-time offensive coordinator called for an audible and relinquished his play-call duties to quarterbacks coach G. A. Mangus. The Guardians did just enough on offense and capitalized on excellent field position provided by their special teams and defense.

Wide Receiver Austin Duke welcomed New York into the league with a 59-yard kick-off return on the game’s very first play. Matt McGloin (15-29 182 yards, one TD), led the Guardians on a 42-yard drive, spreading the ball around down to the one-yard line, before calling his own number on a 1-yard touchdown run. New York converted their one-point conversion on a Tim Cook run that extended the lead to 7-0. The Guardians took the lead immediately and never looked back.

The story of the game was the Guardians defense. New York’s defense did some bending throughout, but they never broke against the Viper’s offense, despite several Tampa drives deep into Guardians’ territory. Tampa controlled the time of possession and outgained New York 394-226.  Despite these numbers, Tampa struggled to finish drives. Aaron Murray had difficulty all day finding open receivers against New York’s stellar secondary. (16-34 222 yards, 0 TDS 2 ints). New York accumulated five sacks on the day, and kept Tampa out of the end zone.

New York (1-0), will now begin a two-game road trip before returning to MetLife Stadium in week four against the LA Wildcats. In week two,  New York will take on the 1-0 DC Defenders, at Audi Field, Saturday, 2 PM ET on ABC.

Tampa (0-1) will head to Seattle to face The Dragons (0-1) at CenturyLink field, next Saturday on Fox (5 pm ET 2 pm Pac)


New York Guardians vs. Tampa Bay Vipers
February 9, 2020

Kevin Gilbride — Head Coach, New York Guardians

On the New York Guardians’ first win in franchise history:

“We’re very proud of our football team. It was a game that I think more than anything else showed the character and resilience that we had. We certainly struggled stopping them offensively, but to the tremendous credit of our defense, I thought they showed incredible courage and character to just keep battling all the way down and get all those turnovers and stop them. They controlled the ball, controlled the time, and got down close to the goal line. A lot of teams crumble under those circumstances. I thought our guys rose up and played their best football down there.”

On the Guardians offense:

“Offensively, I thought we started the game very well. We had a lot of big plays, and had some chances that we didn’t quite complete. Second half, we just slowed down. We had a few other opportunities that were not nearly as well played as we thought we could have played them. They were there to be had. Defensively, I thought they did a nice job – Tampa Bay – of changing up some things, and it made the recognition and reaction of some of our receivers a little bit slower than we would have liked, and I thought the timing as a result was affected in a negative type of way. But again, all things that are very correctable. In terms of effort, in terms of heart, in terms of character, I thought they were terrific. It’s always nice to coach from a W and get better from there, so that’s what we’re looking forward to doing this week.”

On the quality of play in the XFL:

“I think the quality of play has been surprising how good it is. We were hopeful that it was going to be good. I think everybody in the league was, but it has been outstanding. Now again, we would have liked to put a few more points up offensively, but in terms of the full gamut of the game – Jerry Glanville’s been around a long time defensively and did everything under the sun, and yet, we still responded well and still had even numerous other chances that we didn’t quite finish off the way we would have liked. But I think the quality of play – I think people, I’ll bet people are surprised at about how good the play is and how good the quality of coaching is, which has helped serve as a very important catalyst of bringing the ability level of these guys to where they are able to perform the way they did.”

Guardians QB Matt McGloin

Overall impressions on the game:

“Real quick, I just thought offensively there was a lot of flashes of how good we can be and some of the potential that some of the guys on that offense have but our offense as a whole, and obviously, there’s a lot that we need to work on still, but we’re close. We really are and briefly talking with some of the guys in the locker room that’s kind of what everybody’s feeling was is that we’re really close and taking that next step, but we’ve got the right guys to do so. We’ve got guys that are fully committed that are buying into what Coach [Kevin] Gilbride, G.A. [George Mangus], and the rest of that staff is trying to accomplish. But it’s always good to win, especially the first one of the year and especially when it’s at home.”

On the pace of the game:

“Yeah, it was definitely a faster pace of the game. We need to improve a little bit on getting in and out of the huddle. I thought we broke the huddle a lot today with not enough time to do what we wanted at the line of scrimmage. So that’s something we’re definitely going to look to improve on this week as we prep for DC now, but in terms of the atmosphere it was fantastic for week one, and I thought fans were loud, I thought they were excited, and you know we’re going to need that type of energy from them every week.”

On his rapport he has developed with his receivers:

“Anytime you get one-on-one, things like that and like I said some of the talent you have at the wide receiver position, you should be comfortable with giving those guys chances to go up and make plays, giving those guys opportunities and they’ve shown that throughout mini camp in December and throughout training camp in January. It’s a trust factor, and trust is earned. Every single one of those guys out there has earned my trust. I know their going to go out there and make plays, do what’s right and like I started off saying, there’s just a few things, a few miscommunication-wise we have to clean up.”

On the fourth-down play in the first drive:

“What better way to start off the New York Guardians 2020 season than go right down the field and score? But, it was exciting. It really was. I think a lot of guys were emotional, the energy was high and it was good to kind of get a drive like that to kind of let everyone settle and relax a little bit, but it was fun. It was as I’ve had playing the game of football in a long time.”

On Guardians Running Back Darius Victor:

“Always when you’re able to get your running backs involved in the pass game it’s something special, and I think we have that in all of our running backs, Matt [Colburn], Justin [Stockton], Darius, Time [Cook III]—all guys that can do all that. We’re very fortunate to have depth. Those guys are very skilled in the pass game, in the run game, and pass protection. A lot of talent on the offensive side and those guys really showed up and played well for us.”

On the broadcast’s access to player conversations:

“Conversations that I have on the sideline, communicating with players [or] coaches, anything like that. It doesn’t change the way I prepare for a game or the way I act on game day. Emotions are high; guys get hot on the sidelines. There [are] going to be tempers flaring. If anything, I think it’s awesome because fans have an inside look at what in-game situations are really like. I think that’s what the XFL is trying to accomplish: taking these fans, that haven’t had this opportunity to be part of a professional league, to take them to where they can’t go. I think it’s fantastic.”

Marc Trestman – Head Coach – Tampa Bay Vipers

On the Vipers’ loss:

“Our play today was unacceptable. We turned the ball over three or four times. We didn’t tackle as well as we needed to tackle in the first half. When you have over 400 yard of offense and come up with three points… your play is just not acceptable.”

“The score was as it was, and the Guardians deserved to win. I’ll leave it at that.”

Aaron Murray – Vipers QB

On getting back into the ‘game groove’:

“It takes some time. We’ve had enough practice through December and through January, all the camps and scrimmages so: I thought we executed pretty good today. We ran the ball effectively- we saw that at times. I thought the pass game was pretty good. It was just those mistakes. If you’re going to turn the ball over three times, and the other team doesn’t turn it over, they’re going to win. Plain and simple. We drive down there, get to about the 5-yard line, and a bad play by me in throwing that up. I should have just thrown it away. We had 4 or 5 tries in the red zone and came away with no points. I think, moving the ball, it was pretty good, it’s just a matter of finishing those drives, being a little more efficient and understanding that windows get tighter in the red zone, players move faster, and there’s less room for the defense to have to cover. We just have to be better going forward. I think we can. Like I said, I thought we saw some good stuff today from this team: from players that really stepped up. I thought the offensive line was tremendous: the way they dominated during the game, especially when running the football. Like I said: we just can’t turn it over. Myself: two picks, the fumble that turned into a touchdown- those are the things that really shoot you in the foot. That really cost us today.”

On finally ‘getting out there’ after months of anticipation of the XFL:

“It was fun. Obviously, not the outcome we wanted, but I think everyone fought. That’s the one good thing about this football team: We’re a close team. There wasn’t any arguing. The defense wasn’t saying: “hey offense, you stink”. The offense wasn’t yelling at the defense. It was all: “hey boys, we got you, we got you, we got you”. That camaraderie, even in the locker room afterwards, guys were going up to each other and saying ‘heads-up, we’re good. Move on, short week: we’ve got Seattle next week, and that’s somewhat of a blessing to be on a short week. We’ve got to play on Saturday. We’ve got to forget this, we’ve got to make the corrections, and we’ve got to get going. We can sulk on this at all. It’s a long season. It’s only week one for goodness sakes. Like I said: I saw some promising stuff out there, and we just have to work on making those corrections and understand that we have 9 more games. We just have to keep fighting to get better.

On the offensive strategy in the second half:

“We knew, heading into the season, that a big part of our offense was going to be the offensive line. I think we have probably one of the best, if not the best offensive line, in this league. Those guys are big, they’re physical, and they’re smart. Like I said, we did a great job of running the football in this game. We have some big, powerful running backs, and I thought the big guys did a great job in pass protection, as well. I think the core of our offense right there; the offensive line is going to be where we make our bread throughout the season. I think they had a great start today. Like I said: it was just some mistakes on my part and some other mistakes that we clean up, and I think it’s a different ballgame, but: ‘what if, what if, what if?’ we’ve just got to get to work, come tomorrow, and get ready to go.”

Impressions of the talent level of Guardians and atmosphere in MetLife:

“I thought it was great. It’s been good to see: yesterday’s games and today’s: it seems like there’s a lot of energy in all the stadiums. I think that’s a good sign for this league. It’s a good football team. They’re fast. They’re big up-front (very, very big up-front), and they’re going to make you pay if you make a mistake. You have to understand that when you play a good defense, you have to play perfect football. You have to take care of it, you have to tuck it, you can’t force balls into tight windows because good defenses are going to make plays and you can get away with some of that stuff vs. lesser defenses. As we saw today, it’s a good defense. They can make plays if you give them opportunity, and they definitely did that.”

On red zone struggles:

“Not taking care of the football: plan and simple. Like I said, I go back to that first one. If I don’t force a ball in the back of the end zone and throw it away [instead], it’s second down and five. You just have to understand: points are a premium, and every possession needs to end with a kick. So, even if we go three downs and don’t get anything, we at least, put a field goal on the board. We just have to be a little bit smarter; I have to be a little bit smarter in the red zone. I think our plan was fine, we have a ton of great plays that we didn’t get to today because of some of those turnovers. So, if we just clean that up, we’ll really get to see this offense flourish.”

On immediate media attention on the sidelines after a play:

“It’s different. But, it’s been fun to see, if you step back as a fan. I could see the intrigue- to be ‘part of it’. I thought it was fine, as long as they’re pretty quick and easy: 1 question, 2 questions, and then you get your mind focused back on the game. I don’t think anyone was too distracted. I think it was good that we saw it happen yesterday, so we understood what could happen

during the game, so everyone was well prepared and understood that you may be called upon to do a quick interview.”

Mike Mitchell is a freelance sports writer, analyst, and a general lover of all football. Mike was one of the original Team Reporters in 2001, reporting on the New York/New Jersey Hitmen. We have welcomed him back to the XFLBoard and love his ongoing insightful contributions.

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