• River Tompkins

Roughnecks dominate the XFL as the last undefeated team

The Houston Roughnecks came into Saturday's game against the Tampa Bay Vipers boasting the league's top offense headed by the dynamic duo of quarterback P.J. Walker and his receiver Cam Phillips. Walker, the clear front runner for the XFL MVP showcased his skills against the Vipers with three passing TDs and one score on the ground. Phillips was the main beneficiary of the air raid with three receiving touchdowns and a record-setting 194 receiving yards.

The struggling (0-2) Tampa Bay Vipers played around with their quarterback lineup throughout the game. After former starting quarterback Aaron Murray went down in week two with an injury there was a competition that took place between Taylor Cornelius and Quinton Flowers. Though Flowers seemed to be more effective, the Vipers rolled with Cornelius for the vast majority of the time. Benching Flowers may not have been the right decision as the Vipers fell just short of the Roughnecks in a 34-27 shootout.

After a 19-yard pass to Reece Horn, Viper kicker, Andrew Franks capped the drive off with a 48-yard field goal.

Roughneck quarterback P.J. Walker showed off his arm strength, stepping up in the pocket, bringing the defense in, and delivering a strike down-field to Cam Phillips who took the pass the full 84-yards for 6 points. Walker added a little extra finding Sam Mobley in the back of the endzone for a three-point conversion.

Cam Phillips and P.J. Walker make quite a duo.

Quinton Flowers then took over for the Vipers and immediately responded. Flowers found Jalen Tolliver for 24-yards down the sideline and then a 27-yard pass to running back De’Veon Smith. He finished the drive off in fashion making Roughneck defenders look clumsy; cutting his way into the endzone for a 7-yard TD.

We've all heard June Jones say that the pass sets up the run and it sure did here. Running back James Butler took off for a 30-yard gain. Walker once again put his improv skills on display, after the snap was fumbled he retreated 15-yards back, reversed the field and strutted into the endzone making the score 15-10.

After a Roughneck field goal and a 1-yard QB sneak touchdown by Taylor Cornelius, the game was back to a tie at 18-18. Houston drew a deep pass interference call gaining them 36-yards, the soon to be MVP went back to work. Walker found his favorite target, Cam Phillips, for a 24-yard touchdown in which Phillips bulldozed multiple Vipers.

Heading into halftime the game looked more like a track meet or tennis match than a football game with the constant up-beat tempo and back and forth scores. Whichever team stepped up on defense would win the game.

Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker talking to his team before halftime.

To sum up the second half, the Roughnecks missed a field goal, The Vipers converted on fourth down, receiver Dan Williams scored from 20-yards out. Houston drew another deep pass interference, and I may sound like a broken record but P.J. Walker once again found the best receiver in the XFL: Cam Phillips for a 17-yard TD. The Vipers drove downfield to the Roughnecks one yard line and in a moment of heartbreak for Vipers fans, they turned it over on 4th down. Linebacker De’Marquis Gates snatched the ball out of the air for a game-sealing interception as the Roughnecks advanced to a 3-0 game record.

When all is said and done it was a great football game and both teams showed steps in the right direction. The Vipers whose offense had been stagnant just went yard for yard with the Roughnecks. The Roughnecks showed the ability to battle adversity. Fans will be excited for next week when Texas becomes a house divided, with the Houston Roughnecks (3-0) taking on the Dallas Renegades (2-1).