The UFL | Phillips Debuts a New-look San Antonio Brahmas Team in 27-12 Season Opening Win Over the D.C. Defenders

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Brahmas Head Coach Wade Phillips confidently on a few occasions told football fans in the Alamo City that a new-style of football was coming to town. In his words, the Phillips defense and the Mike Leach air-raid or at least a version of it was coming. Phillips and his coaching staff ushered in a new-look version of the San Antonio Brahmas Sunday. The Brahmas (1-0, 1-0 XFL) led from start to finish in holding off the D.C. Defenders, 27-12,  in front of 13,164 fans on Easter Sunday at the Alamodome in the inaugural United Football League (UFL) opener for both teams.

Chase Garbers made his debut as the new signal caller for the Brahmas completing 76 percent of his passes while going 19-of-25 for 158 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for one score. Linebacker Jordan Williams, who led the XFL in tackles in 2023, picked up where he left off with a game-high 10 tackles.

But it was an unpredictable special teams play involving punter Brad Wing and starting center Alex Mollette that sent shockwaves through the Alamodome right before halftime and immediately went viral on social media platforms. The play resulted in a 40-yard touchdown catch by Mollette from Wing for one of the best plays of the opening weekend in the UFL and quite possibly in professional spring football history.

The Brahmas lined up for  a 57-yard field goal attempt by Donald De La Haye, but Wing popped up from his holder position while De La Haye, who played a little receiver at UCF, motioned out to receiver. Wing took the snap, rolled to his right and lofted a pass to Mollette who caught it at the 15-yard line and rumbled the rest of the way for the score giving San Antonio a 20-9 lead heading into the locker room. 

San Antonio opened up the scoring with their first touchdown of the season when Garbers found Anthony McFarland Jr., for a 28-yard touchdown pass with 9:08 left in the first quarter putting the home team ahead, 7-0. Jontre Kirklins’ 4-yd TD reception from Garbers made it, 14-3, in favor of the home team. D.C. Defenders kicker Matt McCrane connected on three field goals in the half – 50 yards, 34 yards and 48 yards to keep his team in the game.

The defenses settled in the second half. McCrane connected on his fourth field goal, a 28-yarder, with 2:54 to go in the third quarter, drawing the Defenders within 20-12.

D.C. (0-1, 0-1 XFL) looked to be on the move again in the fourth quarter. Defenders quarterback Jordan Ta’amu tossed an 8-yard touchdown pass to Keke Coutee with 10:47 left in the game. 

The Defenders were flagged for a dead-ball personal foul on the play, which would have been accessed. Phillips, after getting some strong encouragement from five-time Pro Bowler for the Dallas Cowboys and offensive line coach Andre Gurode, challenged a false start on right tackle Jean Delance. The challenge was successful for the Brahmas negating the touchdown. 

Four plays later Brahmas cornerback Darius Phillips intercepted Ta’amu at the 6-yard line and returned it 88 yards to the D.C. 6-yard line. Three plays later, Garbers ran it in for a 5-yard touchdown putting the Brahmas ahead 27-12.

D.C. outgained the Brahmas in the second half,183-34. San Antonio came up with three sacks and the interception in the second half. Tim Ward, Prince Emili and Wyatt Ray each had a sack for San Antonio. Ray finished with two sacks in the game.

Ta’amu finished the game completing 25-of-45 passes for 235 yards and an interception. Ty Scott led the Defenders with four catches for 87 yards. San Antonio’s Jontre’ Kirklin had a game-high eight receptions for 61 yards. McFarland led all rushers with 47 yards on nine carries. 

De La Haye’s much anticipated debut on the field resulted in five kickoffs for 371 yards, which was a 74.2 yard average. 

San Antonio takes to the road for its next game as they travel to the Memphis Showboats for an 11 a.m. (CT) start next Saturday on ESPN. D.C. will host the Houston Roughnecks at 4 p.m. ET on FOX next Sunday.

POSTGAME NOTES

Final Score: San Antonio Brahmas 27, D.C. Defenders 12

Sharp Start

The first drive of the season for San Antonio resulted in a touchdown as quarterback Chase Garbers lofted a ball into the arms of running back Anthony McFarland Jr. The drive lasted 5 minutes and 52 seconds, and gave the Brahmas a 7-0 lead with 9:08 remaining in the first quarter. 

Texas Trickery

Brahmas center Alex Mollette caught a 40-yard touchdown from punter Brad Wing on a long distance fake field goal. Wing, who had played five seasons in the NFL with the Steelers and Giants, had only attempted one pass in his professional  career, which was intercepted. The score gave San Antonio a 20-9 lead with three seconds remaining in the half. 

Defending the Defenders

While D.C. was able to muster 253 total yards of offense and 16 first downs, they were held to four field goals in the game. San Antonio was perfect in defending the red zone, going 3-for-3 in keeping the Defenders out of the end zone. D.C. had a chance to tie the game on their third red zone trip, but San Antonio was aided by an interception by cornerback Darius Phillips that he returned for 88-yards.

Go For It

While the Brahmas were only 1-of-7 on 3rd down, they made up for it by converting on 3-of-4 on 4th down attempts. This includes a 40-yard touchdown scored off a fake field goal attempt. 

Home Field Advantage

The official attendance for the season opener was 13,164 and gave San Antonio its first home win in 2024. In 2023, the Brahmas lone home win came against the XFL Orlando Guardians, 25-23, on April 15, 2023. 

De La Haye Debut

De La Haye’s much anticipated debut on the field resulted in five kickoffs for 371 yards, which was a 74.2 yard average. Kicking off from the 20-yard line, his kickoffs landed at the D.C. 2-yard line, 15-yard line, end zone,7-yard line and 5-yard line.

First appeared on www.theufl.com

Leave a Comment