Gritty Gamblers ride running game, defense to fourth straight win

Rate this post

MEMPHIS — The Houston players proved they are right at home in their home city of Memphis on Sunday, pulling out a 16-10 win in the Grind City against the New Jersey Generals to extend their winning streak to a league-best four straight.

Running back Mark Thompson continued to perform as the best TD machine in the USFL. Before the first quarter ended against New Jersey, Thompson hit the end zone from 6 yards out for his league-best ninth TD of the season.

Thompson, who finished the day with 82 yards on 22 carries, has been a force when offensive coordinator Eric Price has been able to define the run-blocking aspect for him with man-to-man blocking from the offensive line. His vision has been clear and clean because of this.

“It’s definitely very clean this year,” Thompson said. “Last year we went through a lot and I was grateful to play football. It was fun to be out there, but the result last year was not always in our favor. So this year, I’m very excited that I get a chance to use my big offensive line.”

After missing the first two weeks of the season with an injury, Thompson has scored nine goals in the last four games. The Gamblers are undefeated when the former Florida product lines up in the backfield.

Highlights: Players close out generals

Highlights: Players close out generals

The Gamblers’ offense also got a boost with the return of Monmouth’s all-time leading rusher, Kenji Bahar. Houston averaged more than 34 points in Bahar’s last three starts.

Bahar has stepped up his game over the past year, not only earning the starting job, but becoming the type of player he proved himself to be in college. He finished the game completing 19 of 29 passes for 130 yards and credited Houston coach Curtis Johnson for his jump in development as a pro from 2022 to 2023.

“I think it’s fairer for (Coach Johnson) to be more of a player’s coach,” Bahar said. “It’s not just him telling us what to do. He’s asking us what we want to do, what we’re doing well. That shows how we play.”

With Bahar behind center, Houston picked up 12 first downs and put itself in position for Nick Vogel to kick two field goals (37 and 38 yards), giving the Gamblers a two-goal lead in the first half. They were 6-of-9 on third-down conversions in the first quarter, while New Jersey was just 2-of-6.

The Generals offense was erratic at best with quarterback Kyle Lauletta getting his first start of the season. Lauletta completed just four of his 12 first-half pass attempts for 33 yards and an interception, though he did manage an 18-yard scramble to generate some momentum for the offense in the second quarter.

All but two of the Generals’ offensive possessions in the first half ended in points. The two that didn’t finish with one touchdown and one interception.

Houston defensive end Jeremiah Johnson ate a Lauletta pass alive that he intercepted, his second in as many weeks, to set up a field goal that extended the Gamblers’ lead to 13-0.

On their first possession of the second half, the Gamblers’ offense got into position to let Vogel have another go at the 25-yard logo, and he splashed in from 34 yards out to put the Gamblers ahead 16- 0, an advantage they would just get. to hold.

The Generals managed to get on the scoreboard to avoid foreclosure at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, after the Gamblers emptied their pocket at the plate.

With about 10 minutes to play, though, and only their second possession of the second half, the Generals put together a 12-play, 90-yard drive.

Lauletta found wideout Alonzo Moore on a drag route through the formation for his first passing score of the year, closing the gap to 16-10 with 3:04 to play. Lauletta finished 17-for-39 with a TD and an INT.

“I just feel like we got into a rhythm there,” Lauletta said of the late surge. “I was throwing the ball more accurately down the stretch, getting rid of the ball before the rush could get to it and just trying to find open guys.”

After the TD, Riley made the decision to take advantage of the USFL rule that allows a team to attempt a fourth-and-12 play from its own 33-yard line instead of an onside kick.

The attempt failed, however, and Houston took possession with just over three minutes left in the game.

The Gamblers knew when to take them, when to fold them, and left the Bank on a four-game winning streak, ready to hit the tables again next weekend and let it go.

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The number one college football show.“Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young i subscribe to “The Number One College Football Show” on YouTube.

Get more from the United States Soccer League Follow your favorites for information on games, news and more

Source link

Leave a Comment