Perez passes second test in Guardians' first road win
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The New York Guardians may have found their quarterback.
Luis Perez led a second-half charge, as the Guardians won their first road game by running away from the Dallas Renegades 30-12 Saturday at Globe Life Park.
New York improved to 3-2, keeping the pressure on East-leading St. Louis. The BattleHawks (3-1) are at the DC Defenders (2-2) Sunday in a key East showdown (3 p.m. ET, FS1).
Making his second straight start in place of the injured Matt McGloin, Perez improved to 2-0. He was traded to New York from Los Angeles during training camp and battled Marquise Williams for the backup spot.
The question now may be whether McGloin can get his job back. Perez completed 16 of 30 passes for 229 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He was 10-14 for 170 yards in the second half alone.
“The more opportunities and reps you get, the better you’re going to be,” said Perez, who practiced with the first team all week. “I think we did a better job offensively, just being on the same page as far as last week. We left a lot of plays out there again. It shows we still have a long way to go, but we were still able to come out with a win.”
The Guardians blew the game open with 21 consecutive points in the third quarter to take a 27-6 lead. Perez was instrumental in the first two touchdowns against what’s been one of the league’s stingier defenses.
“We had a sense of what we could do, and we needed just to take advantage of the chances we thought would come our way,” New York coach Kevin Gilbride said. “We took that opening drive and marched it right down there, which was a quite a boost of confidence and belief that we could win this thing.”
Perez engineered the best drive of the day up to that point to open the third quarter. The 76-yard march featured two long completions to Mekale McKay (3 receptions, 67 yards) and four consecutive first downs, the last setting up first-and-goal from the 1.
Williams came in to run a draw and scored the game’s first touchdown easily.
“We made an emphasis with that drive that we had to get some points,” said Perez, a Texas A&M-Commerce product who had several of his college coaches and family members in the stands.
The Renegades couldn’t take advantage of their only forced turnover -- a pick by cornerback Josh Hawkins in the third quarter. McKay wasn’t able to pull in a deep pass down the sideline, and Hawkins snagged the bobble.
A melee ensued after the play, resulting in the ejections of New York tackle Jarron Jones and Dallas defensive end Gerald Rivers. Guardians center Ian Siberman was also assessed a personal foul after pulling off the helmet of Dallas defensive end Frank Alexander.
Dallas punted after the takeaway and the Guardians needed just one snap to get back in the end zone. Perez connected with receiver Colby Pearson on an 80-yard touchdown -- the XFL’s second-longest pass of the season.
Pearson faked a curl on the route and ran a go, with the throw down the right sideline slightly underthrown. That appeared to help, as Pearson slowed down, split two defenders after the catch and stayed on his feet.
“That big play to Colby was huge,” Gilbride said.
Perez hit running back Justin Stockton for a two-point conversion and 20-6 edge.
Still reeling, the Renegades self-destructed on their next possession. Dallas quarterback Philip Nelson, starting in place of injured Landry Jones, had a screen picked off by Ryan Mueller. The linebacker read the play, tipped the pass, came down with it and raced 33 yards for a back-breaking score.
The 21-point burst was more than enough. New York hadn’t scored in the third quarter in any of its previous four games, and had a combined nine points in its other two road games.
Now the Guardians own their first winning streak of the season and squarely in the playoff hunt.
“The biggest thing is just confidence,” Perez said. “We’ve built that the last two weeks offensively. We know how good we can be.”
A week after giving the ball away five times, the Renegades (2-3) had three turnovers. Nelson was intercepted twice.
Dallas’ lone touchdown came a league-record 97-yard kickoff return by Austin Walter. The Renegades are the only winless team at home, dropping to 0-3.
“New York did an excellent job and played a heck of a game in really putting it on us,” Dallas coach Bob Stoops said. “A lot of the same old story with us, some of the same things, just very ineffective offensively, big touchdowns, interception for a touchdown, those kinds of things continue to plague us.”
Both offenses struggled throughout the first half, as neither side could muster much consistency. The teams split four field goals to go into the break tied.
“Even when things were tied 6-6 at half, I don’t think there was any sense that we couldn’t win the game,” Gilbride said. “When I talked to them at halftime that’s what I talked to them about, we’re really where we want to be.”
The Guardians return home Saturday to face the West-leading and undefeated Houston Roughnecks (5-0) at MetLife Stadium (2 p.m. ET, ABC). Dallas is at the Defenders on Sunday (4 p.m. FS1).