The Birmingham Stallions came within one offensive misstep of a rare occurrence in the short of history of this version of the USFL.
Beginning with last season, there have been 51 games played in the league. Only once has the winning team shut out the opponent. That came in the third week of last season when the Michigan Panthers beat the Pittsburgh Maulers, 24-0.
The Stallions' defense played its part in securing a second shutout, but the offense allowed a safety in the 42-2 victory over the Memphis Showboats this past Saturday at Protective Stadium.
After two weeks, Birmingham is the USFL leader in points allowed with 10 and passing yards allowed per game at 142. In the opener against the New Jersey Generals, the Stallions allowed 361 yards but gave up just one touchdown in four red zone appearances for the Generals. Last week, the Stallions kept Memphis from passing midfield until there was 4:53 left in the first half, limited the Showboats to one red zone trip and gave up 183 yards on 50 plays.
"I thought the defense was awesome," Stallions head coach Skip Holtz said after last week's win. "When you have a defense like that behind you, and you know you have a chance to win 7-3, boy you sleep a whole lot better at night."
The key has been spreading out the production. Safety Christian McFarland had 12 tackles in the season opener and 16 overall. The only other Stallion defenders in the top 25 of the league in total tackles are cornerback Lorenzo Burns and linebacker Nate Holley, who are tied at 18th with 11 tackles each. Linebacker Rashad Smith leads the team with two sacks, and Dondrae Tillman has 1.5 sacks.
Holtz also credited the defensive staff of coordinator John Chavis, Bob Shoop, Marty Long and Daric Riley.
"If you ever have a chance to visit with John Chavis, he's a man of very few words," Holtz said. "But, they're normally very strong and very direct. That's the way this defense plays right now. They play stubborn, they play stern, and they play direct. I love the way they fly around and put the pressure on offenses to produce. I'm just really proud of the way they're playing."
The Stallions have their biggest defensive test thus far on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. against the New Orleans Breakers. New Orleans, which shares Protective Stadium with the Stallions, has the league's top passer in McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who has thrown for 554 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Wes Hills rushed for 110 yards and three touchdowns last week. The Breakers average 30 points per game, which is second only to the 35 points that the Stallions average.
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email steve.irvine@1819News.com.
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