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St. Louis Battlehawks Secure Fifth Straight Win Over Houston Roughnecks

When the ball popped out of the hands of running back Mark Thompson, he was also dropping the Houston Roughnecks’ chances of winning over the St. Louis Battlehawks. It was only in the second quarter, but the 1-4 visiting Roughnecks needed to play a near-perfect game to pull off the upset in front of 32,000 Battlehawks fans in St. Louis. 

But the Battlehawks took advantage of multiple mistakes from the Roughnecks, securing a 22-6 win. The Battlehawks have now won five in a row for a 5-1 record.

Linebacker Mike Rose’s head knocked the ball out of Thompson’s hands with 50 seconds remaining in the first half. Starting with the ball at their own 38-yard line, the Battlehawks had the perfect chance to extend their 6-0 lead ahead of halftime.

With A.J. McCarron at the helm, that was no challenge for St. Louis. On an eight-play drive that included a 32-yard completion to Hakeem Butler, receiver Steven Mitchell caught a touchdown pass in the right corner of the endzone as time expired.

McCarron snapped the ball on the touchdown play with just four seconds on the clock. If the Battlehawks didn’t score on this play, they’d likely lose the chance to come away with any points on the drive. But head coach Anthony Becht trusted his players to make a play.

“These guys always tell me coach, we’ll make a play, we’ll make the play. (I) put it in their hands,” Becht said to Fox at halftime.

Becht’s players have provided plenty of reasons to trust them recently. St. Louis has outscored opponents 50-6 in the last six quarters.

In the fourth quarter, the rare occurrence of Becht’s players not rewarding their coach’s trust happened. Becht called for the offense to stay on the field to try to convert on a 4th-and-1 with 10:50 remaining. Jacob Saylors was stuffed behind the line of scrimmage by a hoard of Houston defenders, allowing the Roughnecks a chance to close the 14-6 gap. 

But the St. Louis defense regained Becht’s trust for the team by causing a three-and-out, thanks to pressure from linebacker Pita Taumoepenu on 3rd-and-12. The Roughnecks had another chance to tie the game on the following drive, but St. Louis defensive back Kamren Kelly stopped receiver Justin Hall just short of the line-to-gain on a fourth down.

Four plays after the turnover on downs, McCarron launched a 36-yard pass to Butler in the endzone to make it a 22-6 game, securing the St. Louis win.

Becht also mentioned trusting his backups, who had to start Saturday due to injury. As a former player, Becht understands the factor a coach’s trust can play for a player’s confidence. Against Houston, backups Abdul Beachum and Eric Magwood struggled at first but improved as the game went on. St. Louis only allowed one sack on the day.

The win was the second-lowest scoring performance from the St. Louis offense, with the 18 points against Michigan in week 1 being its lowest. McCarron still put together an excellent performance, throwing for 255 yards and three touchdowns on 24 completions. In the first quarter, he threw an interception on a misguided home-run attempt to a double-covered Jahcour Pearson. 

Despite the offense’s struggles, Butler had a phenomenal performance for the second week in a row. The former NFL player caught six passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns, making him responsible for 54% of St. Louis’ points and 47% of its total offensive yards. Last week against the D.C. Defenders, Butler caught six passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns.

He was having just as stellar of back-to-back performances as Butler is the St. Louis defense. Out of Houston’s 10 drives, nine contained less than eight plays. The group had three sacks and a fumble recovery on the day. St. Louis has allowed an average of 12 points in the last three games.

St. Louis will need another excellent defense performance next week against the seemingly unstoppable, undefeated Birmingham Stallions. The cross-conference game will feature the two current leading favorites to win their respective conferences. Regardless of the result, next Saturday afternoon’s matchup promises to be entertaining.

Cover Image via: Scott Rovak/Getty Images/UFL

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