The Philadelphia Stars kick off their 2023 season, the second season of the USFL relaunch. For the Stars, it’s the beginning of their 5th season in the USFL. Their opponents were the Memphis Showboats. The Boats are making their return to the USFL this season. They were an original USFL team that played in the 1980s. Memphis was not in the league last year when the USFL returned. They take the place of the Tampa Bay Bandits who folded after the 2022 season.
The Stars are coming off a very successful 2022 campaign. In 2022 the Stars come up short of their bid for a championship as they were defeated by the Birmingham Stallions in the USFL Championship game last summer. Still, the Stars are the only team in USFL league history to be represented in every USFL Championship game ever played. As they have appeared in the 83,84,85, and 2022 Championship games.
The first game of the 2023 USFL season was delivered on the drama. The Philadelphia Stars edged the Memphis Showboats 27-23 despite key stops by the Showboats’ defense down the stretch. In fact, each team made two defensive stops at the end of the game, capped by a fourth-and-6 stand by the Stars’ defense. It made the fourth quarter the most thrilling period of the game despite it being the lowest scoring.
Stars quarterback Case Cookus picked up where he left off last season, completing 20 of 29 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns and securing Player of the Game honors. Chris Rowland looked like a breakout star on both special teams and offense, returning three kicks for 99 yards and catching a touchdown pass.
For Memphis, Alex Collins had a standout rushing performance with 63 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. The offense looked best when it ran through him, but the Showboats had to move away from Collins as they played catch-up in the second half.
As for the Showboats’ defense, the pass rush was fierce, sacking Cookus five times. Red-zone effectiveness ended up being one of the keys to the game. The Stars had four red-zone touchdowns to just one by the Showboats.
Special teams also loomed large. The Showboats blocked two Stars kicks, but a missed extra-point kick and a punt through the end zone by Memphis toward the end of the game made a big difference in their comeback attempt.
The Stars looked like last year’s championship runners-up for long stretches. They’ll look to carry momentum out of their 1-0 start. But the Showboats kept them honest for 60 minutes in the USFL’s first game back in Memphis. Up next for the Stars next Sunday against the Michigan Panthers.
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.