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Vipers run to must-have win

Jacques Patrick and De'Veon Smith each run for more than 100 yards rushing in first XFL win

TAMPA, Fla. -- After starting the season 0-3, a sense of urgency hit the Tampa Bay Vipers like a ton of bricks. In what is a short season in the XFL, something needed to change -- and quickly -- if the Vipers had any hopes to salvage the season.

After Week 2, there was a change in offensive play-calling. That helped.

After Week 3, QB/RB Quinton Flowers left the team for personal reasons (he is still on the active roster and the Vipers are hopeful he will return). That didn’t help.

Or did it?

Instead of needing to be concerned with getting Flowers into the game, head coach Marc Trestman and offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo only had to game plan around a single QB.

And it worked.

QB Taylor Cornelius played with confidence, and it was thanks in-part to a stellar ground performance from RBs De’Veon Smith and Jacques Patrick.

“We go in, and we work really hard with our run game because we think we have two running backs who deserve to handle the ball,” Trestman said. “We don’t plan on how we’re going to get it done, but we work hard both and equally with our run and pass game throughout the week, and I think that takes the pressure off a (quarterback).”

The two-headed backfield for Tampa Bay rushed 49 times (including four from Cornelius), where the two backs averaged 5.1 yards per carry. Smith rushed for 122 yards while Patrick tallied 108 on the ground, giving the XFL their first two rushers over 100 yards in the 2020 season.

“What a great one-two punch we have with those two guys playing off each other throughout the game,” said Trestman.

Smith leads the league in total rushing at 296 yards, and Patrick ranks third with 231.

The first drive resulted in a TD from Patrick, who scored from eight yards out. The former Florida State Seminole took a knee in the end zone to honor his father, Peter Hayes, Sr., who passed away on February 11 from throat cancer at the age of 47.

Patrick knew that, while the run game had been successful all season, they had to get better, and that started with preparation in practice.

“We knew it was a must-win game for us,” said Patrick. “Me personally, I just changed the way I prepared this week because we weren’t getting the wins that we want on the scoreboard. So, personally, I changed the way I prepared this week. It paid off a bit.”

“The energy was great all week,” he added. “Coach even told us on Friday that this was the best week of practice we’ve had since we’ve been together. So, it paid off. We got a big win, and it was a divisional opponent, so that was pretty cool.”