On Sunday all the teams in the North Division entered play with a chance to claim the two playoff spots still available within the division. The Stars had history on their side when they entered play having qualified for every playoff in the history of the USFL. Their opponent was the Michigan Panthers. The Panthers have a history with the Stars as well. The Panthers defeated the Stars in the first-ever USFL Championship game back in 1983. It was win or go home for both on Sunday.
How It Will Shake Out
Based on the tiebreakers, the Panthers appear to have the edge for the second spot, with Pittsburgh locking up the No. 1 spot in the division based on its sweep of Michigan. (In the South, Birmingham has its spot locked up, while New Orleans — featuring former MSU kicker Matt Coghlin — can clinch with a win over Houston. The Stars entered the weekend with the league’s third-best passing offense (209.7 yards per game) thanks to the connection between QB Case Cookus and WR Corey Coleman, the former Baylor star who couldn’t catch on in the NFL. The Panthers mostly controlled that hookup in the first game between the teams, back on April 23. Cookus passed for 283 yards but had two interceptions and no TDs, and Coleman caught seven passes for 59 yards.
On their first offensive drive of the game, the Stars’ Case Cookus found his receiver, Terry Wright, on a 23-yard touchdown pitch and catch, putting Philly up 7-0 early in the first. Michigan’s Marcus Simms went 53 yards on the kick-off following Philly’s field goal, setting the Panthers with excellent field position. The Panthers couldn’t get into the end zone but did nail a field goal, bringing the Stars’ lead to one touchdown, 10-3.
Cookus and the Stars went up two full touchdowns after finding Diondre Overton for a 29-yard touchdown, putting the Stars up 20-6 at halftime. Michigan’s defense creates offense. After a blocked punt, AJ Richardson took it to the house for a touchdown, bringing the Panthers within one score of the Stars late in the third.
Newly acquired quarterback E.J. Perry brought the Panthers back for their first lead of the game with a 6-yard touchdown run, plus a 2-point conversion. The Panthers’ monumental comeback held to the end, clinching a spot in the playoffs!
The Stars end a very disappointing 2023 season 4-6. They will now face something the franchise has never dealt with before. How to return to playoff form for 2024.
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.