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St. Louis Battlehawks Move to 3-1 in All-Around Performance vs. the Showboats

The Memphis Showboats ran into an iceberg near the Mississippi River. In the opening game of the UFL’s fourth week, the Battlehawks defeated the Showboats 32-17 to move on to 3-1. Memphis was surrounded by a sea of 31,757 Battlehawks fans at The Dome, which undeniably affected Memphis’ operation.

The Showboats had been sailing well for most of the first three quarters, only trailing by three at the start of the fourth quarter. But coach John DeFilippo might as well have called a mayday when quarterback Case Cookus went down with an injury late in the third quarter after being leveled by defensive tackle Antwuan Jackson.

On the other side, St. Louis quarterback A.J. McCarron was cooking a healthy performance. As Cookus was being evaluated in the blue medical tent on the sideline, McCarron led the Battlehawks down on a 10-play drive that ended with McCarron finding tight end Jake Sutherland in the right corner of the end zone. McCarron failed to reach the end zone on a rush on the one-point conversion, but the touchdown put St. Louis up 26-17 in the opening minute of the final quarter.

But nine points is just one possession in the UFL. However, due to Cookus’ injury, the Battlehawks defense quickly pressured backup quarterback Troy Williams, and the Showboats’ comeback efforts sunk. The St. Louis defense created fourth—and third-down stops on consecutive drives. The Battlehawks defense was stellar on key downs all day, causing Memphis to go 1-for-10 on final down attempts.

The defense set the tone early on for St. Louis. After allowing a Memphis touchdown on the first drive, defensive back Lavert Hill intercepted a Cookus pass on the next and returned it to the Memphis 41-yard line. St. Louis’ secondary provided sticky coverage all game, holding Memphis to just 60 total passing yards.

The St. Louis offense did its part as well, outgaining Memphis xxx to 127. They had dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 39 minutes compared to Memphis’ 21. McCarron had one of his most impressive performances yet, going 35-45 for 222 yards and three touchdowns, extending his lead as the UFL’s leader in passing touchdowns. 

McCarron had a deep bag of weapons to utilize, with receivers Marcell Ateman, Darrius Shepherd, Hakeem Butler, and Jahcour Pearson each going over 20 receiving yards. In the first three weeks, just one receiver mainly took up St. Louis' stat sheet. But Saturday’s attack was much more diverse.

“I think (offensive coordinator) Bruce (Gradkowski)  does a great job of getting our playmakers the ball,” McCarron said to ESPN after the win, “getting them in open space and then letting them do what they do best.”

Pearson was making his 2024 debut after missing the first three weeks with a knee injury he suffered in training camp. He made an impressive touchdown catch to seal the game for St. Louis, dragging his toes to stay inbounds. He utilizes impressive speed over the middle of the field, creating 33 yards after the catch Saturday. 

“His explosiveness as a route runner and when he gets the ball in the hand to be able to make plays,” McCarron said when asked what makes Pearson a dynamic playmaker.

Pearson’s return leading to the most dynamic version of the St. Louis offense is a promising sign for the remainder of the Battlehawks season. An offense with arguably the best quarterback in the league and a deep receiving core is one that any team should be scared to face. 

Next week will mark the midway point of the 2024 UFL season. The Battlehawks will head to the country’s capital to take on an XFL Division rival in the D.C. Defenders.

Cover Image via: Scott Rovak/Getty Images/UFL

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