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Maulers Fall to New Jersey Generals, 29-18

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The Maulers made a game out of it in the second half, but ultimately fell short to the New Jersey Generals, 29-18, on Friday night at Legion Field Stadium in Birmingham, Al. With the loss, the Maulers (1-7) were eliminated from playoff contention.
 
The Maulers started their fourth different quarterback this season, as they gave former Slippery Rock standout Roland Rivers III the start. Rivers wasn’t all that impressive, completing 18-of-38 passes for 218 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and a quarterback rating of 63.3. Generals quarterback Luis Perez had a much better night, as he completed 18-of-24 passes for 220 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, and had a quarterback rating of 116.7.
 
The Generals (7-1) had a balanced attack, but their league-best rushing attack hampered the Maulers’ defense greatly. New Jersey rushed for 160 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per carry. Darius Victor led the Generals with 87 yards rushing on 17 carries (5.1 average) and three touchdowns. Trey Williams also had an impressive performance, rushing for 66 yards on 12 carries (5.5 average).
 
The Generals struck first with a five-play, 46-yard scoring drive that was capped off by a 3-yard touchdown run by Victor to give New Jersey an early 7-0 lead. Cameron Echols-Luper returned the opening kickoff 39 yards and 15 yards were tacked on as Prince Charles Iworah was penalized for a late hit. Perez had completions of 25 and 13 yards on the first two plays of the drive to set up the score.
 
Rivers led the Maulers on a 9-play, 50-yard scoring drive on the following possession to tie the game at 7-7. Rivers was 3-of-4 for 35 yards and finished the drive off with a 5-yard rushing touchdown on a quarterback draw. The Maulers started the possession from the 50-yard line after Generals’ kicker Austin Jones kicked the ball out of bounds.
 
The Maulers and Generals traded three-and-outs on their next possessions.
 
The Generals pounded the ball with their potent rushing attack and easily drove down the field to take a 14-7 lead with 12:56 remaining in the second quarter. Victor finished off the drive with a 7-yard touchdown run off the left side. Prior to the touchdown run, Victor had a 16-yard run up the middle on third-and-2 that was followed with a 10-yard run by Trey Williams. It was an 8-play, 59-yard touchdown drive by the Generals that ate up 4:27 on the clock.
 
Midway through the second quarter, Maulers’ head coach Kirby Wilson decided to go for it on a fourth-and-1 from their own 45-yard line. Mikey Daniel got the first down with a 5-yard run, but the Maulers couldn’t build anything off of it, as Rivers had two consecutive incompletions and Pittsburgh punted. After a promising first drive, Rivers had six straight incompletions on the next two possessions.
 
On third-and-4 from the Generals’ 37-yard line, Perez completed to J’Mon Moore over the middle for a 21-yard gain. On the next play, Perez found an open Braedon Bowman for 15 yards and then connected to KaVontae Turpin for a 24-yard catch-and-run touchdown to put the Generals up 20-7 with 5:46 remaining in the second half. Jones’ extra point was no good.
 
Rivers missed an open Isiah Hennie on third-and-10 and the Maulers were forced to punt after just six plays on their fourth possession of the game. After scoring on their opening drive, Rivers and the Maulers’ offense struggled to muster anything.
 
The Generals offense continued to roll and Perez set up Rivers for a 50-yard field to put New Jersey up 23-7 at halftime. The Generals out-gained the Maulers 284-99 in the first half. New Jersey averaged 8.1 yards per play, while the Maulers averaged 3.7. The Generals rushed for 102 yards and averaged 5.7 yards per carry.
 
Rivers was 6-of-15 for 61 yards and had a quarterback rating of 24.6 in the first half. In contrast, Perez was 12-of-17 for 182 yards and had a quarterback rating of 125.1.
 
Midway through the third quarter, Rivers led the Maulers into Generals territory, but the drive was derailed after Rivers was sacked for a 5-yard loss on second-and-10. Ramiz Ahmed nailed a 61-yard field goal to cut the Generals’ lead to 23-10 with 4:06 remaining in the third quarter. Ahmed’s 61-yard field goal is a USFL record.
 
Victor capped off a 10-play, 67-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown to enhance the Generals’ lead to 29-10 with 12:56 left in the fourth quarter. The Generals went for two but failed on the conversion. Victor’s touchdown was his third on the night.
 
The Maulers got down to the Generals’ 6-yard line on the following possession, but Rivers’ pass intended for DelVon Hardaway on fourth-and-goal fell incomplete. The Maulers forced a three-and-out after turning the ball over on downs and got great field position after Isiah Hennie got the ball to the Generals’ 32-yard line on the punt return. Three plays later, Rivers connected to Hennie for a 25-yard catch-and-run touchdown to cut the Generals’ lead to 29-18 with 6:03 left in the game. The Maulers failed on the two-point conversion.
 
After Hennie’s touchdown, the Maulers elected to try the alternative kickoff and Rivers converted to Jalen McCleskey for 18 yards on the fourth-and-12 play. The USFL has a fourth-and-12 play as an onside kick alternative. The Maulers tried to make it a one-possession game, but Ahmed missed a 49-yard field goal. The Generals took over from their own 39-yard line and ran out the clock to secure the win.
 
The Maulers’ next game is on Sunday, June 12 against the Philadelphia Stars. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. and the game will be on FS1.

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