On Saturday afternoon the Philadelphia Stars (6-4) and the New Jersey Generals (9-1) met for the third time this season and the second time in a week. At stake, this time is a trip to the 2022 USFL Championship. The Stars winless against the Generals during the regular season were looking to keep a very unique USFL streak alive. Can the Stars punch a ticket to the Championship game?
Since the inception of the USFL back in 1983 the Stars franchise both in Philadelphia and Baltimore has been represented in every USFL Championship game played. In 1983 the Stars lost to the Bobby Herbert-led Michigan Panthers, in 1984 the Stars defeated the Arizona Wranglers, and in 1985 the Baltimore Stars defeated the Oakland Invaders.
On to the Action
On Saturday the Stars were looking to keep the streak alive into the 21st century. The Stars punched their ticket to the championship game by stunning the Generals. The Stars came out on Saturday afternoon and locked down the Generals. Building a 10-0 halftime lead. All was not good for the Stars though they lost RB Matt Colburn to a knee injury early in the first half.
The Second Half
The Generals struck back early in the 3rd Quarter New Jersey stars Darius Victor and KaVontae Turpin gave the Generals the lead with just under 11 minutes left. Philadelphia responded with a field goal, two defensive stands, and the game-winning score, an 88-yard punt return by Maurice Alexander.
4th Quarter Special for both teams
The only punt return for a score during the regular season was turned in by Turpin, the USFL’s MVP. Two punts were returned for scores in the final 11 minutes of Saturday’s Stars-Generals tilt. Turpin gave the Generals a 14-10 lead with his 78-yard return with 10:30 left. Turpin’s thunder was stolen minutes later by Alexander, whose return gave the Stars the lead for good with 1:41 left.
Defense Wins Championships
The Stars and Generals’ defenses were both on display this afternoon. The Generals forced a pair of turnovers while holding Philadelphia to 1-of-5 efficiency in the red zone. Down 3-0, the Generals were threatening to get on the scoreboard before Mazzi Wilkins picked off Luis Perez and returned it 83 yards. Wilkins’ pick stood despite the play initially being flagged for roughing the passer. Philadelphia capitalized on the pick and the overturn, as Cookus scored the game’s first TD moments later. The pick was the first in 153 attempts for Perez, who went 19 of 25 for 191 yards
Moose the Prophet
Prior to Saturday’s game, USFL executive VP Daryl Johnston predicted that a key matchup would be Victor and the Generals’ running game against the Stars’ stout defensive line. Johnson’s words proved to be prophetic, as Philadelphia’s defense stuffed Victor on fourth-and-goal from the 7-yard-line at the end of the first half. Victor, the league’s Offensive Player of the Year, finished with 64 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
Back-Up QB No More
When Case Cookus was forced into the starting role when Bryan Scott was lost to knee and ankle injuries Cookus took full advantage of that opportunity. Saturday was no different as he continued to be the General of the Star’s offensive attack.
Cookus led the Stars in rushing (averaging 9.8 yards-per-carry) while scoring the game’s first TD on an eight-yard run. An injury forced his exit, but he returned and finished the game playing with a hip injury.
Saved the Best for Last
New Jersey has been dominating all season long. Saturday’s 19-14 loss was the first loss for the Generals since April 16. With the win, the Stars (7-4) clinched the North Division Championship and sent the Generals (9-2) home to ponder what could have been.
USFL Championship Game
The Stars (7-4) will now face the Birmingham Stallions (10-1) who punched their ticket on Saturday night with a 31-17 win over the New Orleans Breakers thus capturing the Southern Division crown. This will mark the first trip to the Championship Game for the Stallions (they were also an original USFL team). The Stars on the other hand continue to be the only Northern representative ever to play in the USFL Championship Game. A streak they hope yields to the 3rd title in franchise history. The Stars punch a ticket to the Championship game.
Sunday, July 3rd at Tom Benson Stadium in Canton Oh. The Philadelphia Stars and the Birmingham Stallions will play for all the USFL marbles. The game can be seen at 7:30 on FOX.
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.