With Alex McGough playing ‘at a really high level,’ Stallions get back on winning track

Week 6 was all about Birmingham Stallions quarterback Alex McGough, who single-handedly moved his team down the field several times in a 27-13 win over the Michigan Panthers in Detroit on Saturday.

Taking advantage of the space afforded him by a Panthers defense that has been unable to contain the run all season, McGough rushed for 82 yards, sparking an offense that desperately needed one after Birmingham went down two . of their last three games.

It started on Birmingham’s first offensive play of the game, when McGough took off for 28 yards. In the second quarter, he got the Stallions into Panthers territory with another 24-yard scamper. At the half, he had 53 yards rushing. He capped the game by running for a 10-yard touchdown with 3:27 remaining to seal the game for Birmingham.

“We’ve had a lot of success running the ball,” McGough said. “And that just takes so much pressure off me as a quarterback. Instead of having those third-and-longs to convert, when you know you can get five on first and five on second, you never get to a third. down, but the [offensive] the line was just destroying them. And I just think we made it to the end.”

McGough was definitely the difference in the game for the Stallions. They were also 3-for-4 inside the red zone, turning opportunities into points, again fueled by McGough.

Highlights: Stallions hold off Panthers

Highlights: Stallions hold off Panthers

“It’s been humbling because he’s playing at a very high level,” Birmingham head coach Skip Holtz said after the game. “It’s really the way he’s extending plays right now. The success we’ve had in the red zone, I make a stupid call, and he loses four people and then he finds a guy in the corner of the backfield and the throws. for him. His ability to extend plays, throw the ball accurately and what he can do with his feet right now. I think he’s doing a great job as a quarterback right now.”

McGough also completed 19 of 24 pass attempts for 133 yards and two touchdowns. Birmingham rushed for 190 yards on the afternoon, 100 of which came from CJ Marable in his first 100-yard game of the season.

Michigan started the game with the ball and it was quarterback Josh Love who started as the Panthers are still looking for an answer under center between Love and Carson Strong. The latter got the bulk of the work in Michigan’s loss to the Pittsburgh Maulers last week.

Penalties hurt the Panthers starting on the first play of the game. A holding call by left guard Sean Pollard stopped his drive just outside the red zone, and early in the second quarter Michigan’s defense was called for too many men on the field, giving the Stallions an extra 5 yards on second down . A touchdown came back in the third quarter thanks to a facing penalty on backup left tackle Josh Dunlap, who also committed a false start in the fourth quarter that forced Michigan to settle for a field goal after what could have been. it has been a fundamental rotation.

After getting a 6-yard sack on the first drive, Love redeemed himself with a 28-yard bomb to wide receiver Trey Quinn that moved the Panthers into Stallions territory. A holding call put Michigan behind the chains and eventually stopped the drive at the Birmingham 27, but the Panthers were able to score three points when they struck first with a field goal.

It was time for the defense to step up the rear gear. Inside linebacker Noah Dawkins returned to the lineup Saturday after missing last week with an injury, and immediately made his presence known by forcing a fumble on third-and-7 at the Michigan 28. Then the Stallions they were forced to settle for a field goal. themselves, tying the game 3-3 in the first quarter.

The first touchdown of the game didn’t come until 57 seconds were left in the first half, when McGough hit running back Zaquandre White while escaping pressure. It was barely a shovel pass to White in open space, but White made it the rest of the way, dodging multiple tackles on an 18-yard run to the end zone. It put the Stallions up 13-3 just before halftime.

Quinn was the highlight of the day for the Panthers, finishing with 108 receiving yards on seven catches, thanks in large part to two big plays in the first half. He caught a 28-yarder from Love on the aforementioned first drive of the game, then just before the end of the first half, threw a 35-yard pass to bring the Panthers to the Stallions’ 22-yard line with 21 seconds left . left on the clock.

In the rush to snap the ball, there was confusion at the line, and Love instead tried to run a play with the clock ticking and no timeouts, squandering Michigan’s chances to cut the lead to 13-3 before the break

Michigan’s defense was able to shut down the Stallions on their first possession of the second half. Facing third-and-13, Birmingham came up empty with trips stacked to McGough’s right. All the receivers branched out on their different routes, but McGough was swallowed up before he could get to his first read. The Stallions then punted from deep in their own territory, but a great punt and good coverage by Birmingham still saw the Panthers start their first drive of the second half at their own 22.

The Panthers hadn’t seen the end zone since their first play of last week’s game against the Maulers. On this play, Love faked the handoff and opted to throw the ball himself, delivering a pass to tight end Cole Hikutini over the middle. More than five quarters later and Michigan’s next touchdown came Saturday … on a play-action pass to Hikutini over the middle. This time, it was from 11 meters. He cut the Stallions’ lead to just three midway through the third quarter.

But the Stallions responded with another touchdown of their own, extending their lead to 20-10 in the fourth quarter. Not done yet, the Panthers forced a fumble when linebacker Frank Ginda fumbled the ball and safety Kai Nacua recovered the ball.

Michigan took over at the Birmingham 27 with just over 11 minutes left in the game by 10 points. Love wasted no time hitting Quinn again for a 16-yard gain, putting the Panthers inside the red zone. But it was another red-zone opportunity that Michigan couldn’t convert, and it was one-for-three on the day.

Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, adding the title of Super Bowl champion (and boat parade participant) to her resume. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.

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