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St. Louis Battlehawks Looking to Bounce Back in Home Opener Against the Arlington Renegades

The St. Louis Battlehawks will return to ‘The Dome’ for their 2024 home opener Saturday to take on the Arlington Renegades. After losing to the Michigan Panthers 18-16 off of a 64-yard, game-winning kick in week 1, the Battlehawks will hope to bounce back and find their first win.

The Renegades also lost in week 1, falling 27-14 to the Birmingham Stallions. The Arlington defense struggled to contain the rushing duo of C.J. Marable and Ricky Person Jr., along with mobile quarterbacks Adrian Martinez and Matt Corral, allowing 183 yards on 36 carries. Due to injury, the Renegade defense will be weakened this Saturday. Safety Jamal Carter (knee), cornerback Brandon Rusnack (hamstring), and defensive tackle DaVonte Lambert (calf) have all been ruled out for the Week 2 game. 

The run game was also a struggle for the Arlington offense. De’Veon Smith and Leddie Brown rushed for 47 yards on 15 carries, an average of 3.1 yards per carry. Both were with the Renegades in 2023, with Smith as the main rusher, gaining 365 yards on 115 carries.

Brown might have more success against the Battlehawks’ defense, which struggled to contain powerful runner Wes Hills last week. The Panthers relied on Hills in the fourth quarter to keep the ball out of quarterback A.J. McCarron's hands. Hills finished with 85 yards on 11 carries against St. Louis. Brown has a similar running style to Hills: quick on his feet and difficult to bring down.

Adding to the challenge, the St. Louis defense will be without inside linebacker Mike Rose due to an ankle injury. A returning starter, Rose recorded four tackles and an interception in the season opener.

Coach Bob Stoops will likely feel more confident in his quarterback, Luis Perez. The 29-year-old is one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the league. Nicknamed the “King of Spring,” Perez has spent seasons in the AAF, USFL, XFL, and now UFL. He was traded from the Vegas Vipers to the Renegades late last season. He was named the XFL Championship MVP, throwing for 288 yards and three touchdowns in the Renegades win over the D.C. Defenders. Perez has impressive accuracy and is surprisingly crafty out of structure. His experience is evident in his ability to read defenses and pressure quickly.

The only quarterback in the UFL with more professional experience will be on the opposite sideline of Perez on Saturday. A.J. McCarron, the reigning XFL MVP, showed in Week 1 that he has not lost a step. The NFL veteran went 24-for-37 for 216 yards and two touchdowns against Michigan and made many impressive throws. 

Marcell Ateman was McCarron’s favorite weapon, snagging six receptions for 60 yards. Receivers Hakeem Butler and Darrius Shepherd didn’t produce the same productivity in Week 1 but were valuable lessons for the Battlehawks last season. 

Home Cookin'

The Battlehawks are five-point favorites on DraftKings, and a primary factor for that is the home-field advantage they’ll benefit from. The fan support in St. Louis is arguably the greatest in the league. For Week 1, the combined attendance for all four games was 44,918, which St. Louis might surpass on their own in their return to The Dome. The Battlehawks pulled in 38,310 in the Rams’ old home for their home opener last year. The Battlehawks went 3-2 at home last year and will hope their return will not lead to a 0-2 start.

Cover Image via: Nic Antaya/Getty Images/UFL

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