Apr 2, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Roughnecks quarterback Cole McDonald (14) drops back to pass against the St. Louis Battlehawks linebacker Carson Wells (53) in the fourth quarter at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
FINISHING STRONG: 5 Observations from the Roughnecks’ 25-9 victory over the Renegades
These are the five things that stood out the most during the Houston Roughnecks’ 25-9 win over the Arlington Renegades in the regular season finale.
Cole McDonald was very sharp. McDonald has been used in sub packages all season long but got extended playing time for the first time in relief of Brandon Silvers against the D.C. Defenders and was terrific, going 8-for-11 for 194 yards and a touchdown. He ran for a touchdown as well. McDonald followed that up with a rough performance against St. Louis, as he threw for just 106 yards on 15-for-32 passing in a 24-15 defeat. In Week 10 against Arlington, McDonald was excellent, leading three touchdown drives and finishing 10-for-11 for 120 yards. He also rushed eight times for 66 yards and a touchdown.
Jeremy Cox was a beast. I have no idea how Cox is the fourth running back after the game he had in Week 10. Cox entered the game with one carry for one yard on the season. He finished with the Roughnecks first 100-yard rushing day of the year, and it would have been even greater had the Renegades not successfully challenged a missed holding call on what would have been a 45-yard touchdown run and Cox’s second score of the game. Cox bullied defenders all game long, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Cox finished with 21 carries for 120 yards and a touchdown.
The Renegades don’t look like they are in the Roughnecks’ class. Arlington played its starting quarterback Luis Perez the entire game, which is understandable as he hasn’t been on the team but a month after the Renegades acquired him in a trade from the Vegas Vipers on March 28. However, in a game where Houston played their second and third-string quarterbacks and the Renegades played their top guy, with absolutely nothing on the line, Arlington looked clearly inferior. Houston has defeated Arlington twice this season, and it is hard to imagine that the Renegades will have any chance against the Roughnecks in next week’s playoff game unless Houston completely implodes. That seems highly unlikely.
Houston’s defense is a big weapon. Not only are they the best pass rush in the league (most sacks, second-most TFL), but they are also extremely dangerous on the scoreboard. A week after scoring twice, Houston’s defense scored again this week on a pick-six by Tavante Beckett off a pass deflected by Ajene Harris. They have a league-high five defensive scores this season. Their defense can change any game at any time with a big play.
Houston appears past its midseason doldrums. Injuries played a big part in the Roughnecks’ three-game midseason slide. While they won’t get back Jontre Kirklin or Sean Davis, the team seems mostly healthy as they head into the postseason on a three-game win streak. While those three wins didn’t always feature pretty play, they found a way to win games while scuffling and finished Week 10 strong with backups in key spots (like QB). A healthy Roughnecks team is a threat to win it all. They will be an underdog against whoever they face in the championship game should they make it there, but they have the ability to beat anyone.