Grade A: No arguing with Roughnecks results
HOUSTON -- The Roughnecks faced their largest deficit of the XFL season on Saturday. But they didn't flinch.
Neither trailing 14-0 in the second quarter nor turning the ball over three times was enough to prevent Houston from improving to 5-0 after a 32-23 win over Seattle at TDECU Stadium.
“We’ve done it every which way possible,” head coach June Jones said of his squad’s ability to win. “We gave the ball away today and still overcame it.”
Star quarterback P.J. Walker, who lost a fumble in the first quarter and threw two interceptions against the Dragons, was proud of his teammates for making up for his failings and for their resilience.
“It just shows how tough we are as a team,” said Walker, the first XFL quarterback to throw for 1,000 yards on the season after going 27-for-38 for a season-high 351 passing yards. “I told the guys we were a little flat in the beginning, but we turned it around.”
With wideout Sammie Coates out with a hamstring injury, Walker and the rest of the Roughnecks receiving corps had to make up for the gap left in the lineup.
The result was a big game for Nick Holley (4 receptions, 72 yards) his second with a touchdown reception after Houston’s man under center found him for a 50-yard TD in the second quarter, and Cam Phillips a familiar target for Walker.
“We really just calmed down and tried to not let the moment get too big,” Phillips said after the game. “We just have to do our job and bring a little bit of energy.”
For Phillips, the XFL’s receiving (455 yards) and touchdowns (9) leader, that energy propelled him to a 122-yard, two-score game, most of which came in the second half.
One of Phillips' highlights of the game came midway through the third quarter when the 6-foot, 201-pound Virginia Tech alum caught Walker’s deep ball for a clutch 48-yard gain to set up first and goal at Seattle’s 8.
Two plays later, running back James Butler rushed right up the middle for eight yards and found the end zone for the second time in the game to pull the Roughnecks within three (23-20).
“We knew we had to pick it up (in the second half),” he said. “The game started to come to us.”
With his 5-yard touchdown reception with 9:08 left to go in the game, Phillips gave Houston the 26-23 lead, its first lead of the game.
Walker found Phillips again with a little over three minutes to go for an 11-yard touchdown to seal the victory,
Jones commended the Roughnecks for their efforts and running the table through the team’s first five games.
“You try to win them all,” he said. “Whether you win them all or not, you’re going out each week to get that win.”
However, Jones said, the Roughnecks still have room to improve.
Jones graded the Roughnecks with Bs, “maybe B-minuses in some areas” with over half of their season in the books.
“But 5-0?” he said. “That’s an A.”