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McCarron's Battlehawks Not Able to Complete Comeback Against Undefeated Stallions

In football, if a storybook ending is too good to be true, it probably is. That was the case for the St. Louis Battlehawks Saturday in a 30-26 loss to the Birmingham Stallions, falling to 5-2 on the season.


A game-winning drive scenario made for Hollywood seemed to be playing out with 50 seconds remaining. After Chris Garrett blocked a Birmingham punt, A.J. McCarron, an Alabama native and former quarterback for the Crimson Tide, would have the chance to lead St. Louis down on a touchdown drive to hand Birmingham its first loss of the season.


But reality will hit quickly in football. A sack on the drive's second play caused McCarron to spike the ball on third down, followed by an incompletion on 4th-and-2 to end the game, allowing Birmingham to remain undefeated on the season.


McCarron was battling a weak ankle. Just minutes earlier, he was overheard saying that he thought his ankle was broken on the sideline. His return to the game was remarkable, as was St. Louis' ability to make it as tight as it was in the final minutes.


The Stallions had a path to close the game earlier without some drama directed by the St. Louis defense.


Birmingham had taken the lead with five minutes remaining thanks to receiver Kevin Austin scoring a 40-yard touchdown on the drive's first play. The Battlehawks offense responded with a three-and-out, allowing the Stallions a chance to close the game with just over two minutes remaining.


The St. Louis defense provided its offense with another chance via two tackles for loss and causing two incompletions when the Stallions made the questionable decision to pass with the short time remaining. The No. 1 ranked Birmingham defense stepped up to secure the win.


Saturday's game could very well be a preview of the league championship game in St. Louis on June 16. Whether for the state's former quarterback or the highly anticipated matchup, Stallions fans showed out with a season-high of 14,056 in attendance. A home crowd of possibly over 40,000 would likely make a significant difference for the Battlehawks in June.


With the new audience, the Stallions delivered their usual show. The two-time USFL champions seem to always find a way to prevail, having only lost three games in their three years of existence.


The Stallion leading the charge this year has been quarterback Adrian Martinez, an electric dual-threat quarterback who probably gained distance ahead of McCarron Saturday in the race for league MVP.


The former Kansas State Wildcat threw for 230 yards and three touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 152.2. He also led the Stallions with 60 rushing yards on seven attempts and used his legs to convert three third downs, including a 3rd-and-16 and a 3rd-and-12.


Martinez spread the ball around to 10 different receivers, none having more than four receptions. Birmingham's offense's unpredictability and diverse attack make it challenging to defend. St. Louis' elite defense allowed the most points this season, 30.


The Stallions' electric offense is complimented by their shutdown defense. But St. Louis gave the Stallions their best challenge yet, with 26 points allowed, Birmingham's season-high.


Running back Jacob Saylors was responsible for all three of St. Louis' touchdowns, rushing for two and receiving one in the fourth quarter. Outside of the scoring, his stat line of 38 yards on 10 attempts was unimpressive. The Stallions rush defense was stout all game, holding St. Louis to just 64 rushing yards.


But St. Louis made one too many mistakes and let too many opportunities slip them by to pull off the upset against the favorites to win the league championship.


McCarron threw only his third interception of the year on St. Louis' second drive of the game when receiver Darrius Shepherd tripped over himself on a crossing route, sending the pass directly into the hands of defensive back A.J. Thomas. Three plays later, C.J. Marable was running into the end zone to give the Stallions the first points of the game.


Though the interception that led to a touchdown didn't deflate St. Louis' morale, it obviously ended up being six points they wish they could've had back. The best teams will make the most of other's mistakes.


St. Louis will try to learn this lesson for the final three games of the regular season in hopes of earning a spot in the playoffs. The two top teams in each conference will earn a spot. No matter what happens for the remainder of the weekend, St. Louis will remain in first place in the XFL conference.


Every game from here on out, though, is crucial for St. Louis, with all three being against XFL rivals. The Battlehawks will look to rebound next week at The Dome in St. Louis, hosting the D.C. Defenders. In Week 5, the Battlehawks decimated the Defenders 45-12 in the nation’s capital. 


Cover Image via: Butch Dill/UFL/ Getty Images

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