The Stars have had a hard time finding their groove in the 2023 USFL season. After last week’s win, they were looking for a chance to see that groove. All Corey Coleman wanted was a chance. Late in the third quarter with his team trailing, quarterback Case Cookus called Coleman’s number. He made a big play that turned the game. After a 54-yard missed field goal by Pittsburgh Mauler’s kicker Chris Blewitt. Cookus found Coleman wide open for a 56-yard pitch and catch for a score Philadelphia’s longest play of the year.
That gave the Stars the lead in a 37-31 victory on Saturday evening at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. With the win, the Stars earned their third straight victory. Moving them to 4-3 on the year at the top of the North Division. The Maulers dropped to 2-5. The play was Coleman’s second TD of the year. He shook loose from Pittsburgh cornerback Keith Gibson Jr. in press coverage at the line of scrimmage. After Gibson fell, Coleman outran Mauler’s safety Eli Walker to the pylon.
Entering Saturday’s contest, both teams had struggled to put points on the board. On this day they combined for 44 points in just the first half. The Maulers scored on four of their first five possessions in the first half. They were held to just a touchdown in the second. The Stars entered Saturday’s contest last in the USFL in rushing. But relied on the running game to create balance and move the football. Philadelphia also played fast early on, using tempo to keep one of the Maulers. One of the best defenses in the USFL, off balance.
They also entered Saturday’s contest having not scored a touchdown in two games. Settling on 11 field goals on 19 drives. But running back Matthew Colburn II grounded out 83 yards on 20 carries and two rushing touchdowns. Philadelphia’s leading rusher last season, Colburn entered Saturday’s contest with just 169 rushing yards through six games.
Pittsburgh quarterback Troy Williams led the Maulers offensively, finishing 18-of-28 for 145 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. Williams also topped the Maulers in rushing with 48 yards. Receiver Isiah Hennie had a 17-yard touchdown reception and a 69-yard punt return late. This set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Garrett Groshek with 2:01 left in the game, cutting Philadelphia’s lead to 34-31.
The Maulers went for the fourth-and-12 conversion play, but Williams was sacked by Stars edge rusher Adam Rodriguez. Williams was sacked five times. Aguilar added a 38-yard field goal for the final score. Horton lamented the Maulers missed out on a 58-yard field goal by Blewitt because Pittsburgh was called for a delay of game, which would have meant the Maulers needed just a field goal at the end to tie the game. Pittsburgh finished with seven accepted penalties for 50 yards and has totaled 17 penalties for 140 yards over the last two games.
Are special Teams not so special?
Kick returner Joshua Simmons had an impactful evening for Pittsburgh on special teams. Simmons had an impressive, 88-yard kick return for a score in the first quarter that put the Maulers up 14-10. And at the end of the first half, Simmons smartly stepped out of bounds before touching the kickoff down on the 8-yard line that may have stayed in bounds. Instead, Lirim Hairullahu’s kick was ruled out of bounds, and the Maulers got the ball at midfield. The Maulers moved the ball to Philadelphia’s 31-yard line and Blewitt made a 49-yard field goal to put Pittsburgh up 24-20 at halftime.
In the second half, Simmons made another big return but was stripped of the ball by Samuel Akem, with Amani Dennis recovering the fumble and returning the ball to the Pittsburgh 48-yard line. But Simmons was bailed out when Cookus threw an interception to Pittsburgh defensive back Arnold Tarpley II in the end zone.
With the win the Stars now move to 4-3 and take over sole possession of first place in the North Division. This season has not gone as scripted for the Stars but with 3 games to play, they find themselves poised to return to the postseason. Next up is the Birmingham Stallions (5-2). The 2002 USFL Championship rematch game will be Saturday, June 3rd, at 3 PM on NBC.
Matt Bednarczyk is your host of Talking Philly Sports With Matty B. He is a proud retired US Army Sergeant First Class, he is also a combat veteran with over 80 months served in Afganistan, and Iraq . Huge Hockey Fan. Matt is a lifelong 4 for 4 Philly sports fan. Born and raised on the Mayfair and Tacony neighborhood lines of Northeast Philly. He brings over 40 years of Philadelphia Sports passion and provides a realistic look at our Major Sports Teams and the most passionate sports fans on the planet. Look for his show live on Edge of Philly Sports.