Offense sputters as Roughnecks drop third straight, 24-15 to Battlehawks

Apr 2, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; St. Louis Battlehawks wide receiver Gary Jennings (12) makes a touchdown reception against Houston Roughnecks defensive back John Brannon III (25) in the second quarter at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Offense sputters as Roughnecks drop third straight, 24-15 to Battlehawks

After Cole McDonald went 8-for-11 for 194 yards and a touchdown in relief of Brandon Silvers in Week 6 against the D.C. Defenders, there was hope he could carry over that level of performance in his first start of the season in Week 7. That hope did not last long.

The offense did little, throwing for just 106 yards on 32 attempts, as Houston dropped its third straight game falling 24-15 to the St. Louis Battlehawks. This was the Roughnecks’ first-ever home loss.

After the Roughnecks’ defense forced a fumble on the first play of the game and set up the Houston offense at the St. Louis 25, McDonald threw a terrible interception that thwarted a golden scoring opportunity. After rolling to his right, he went completely across his body and across the field with a pass that was easily intercepted at the Battlehawks 3. The ball had little zip and was telegraphed. It was indicative of what the Roughnecks’ offense would look like for the majority of the day.

Houston’s offense was completely shut out in the second half, as the only points the Roughnecks scored in the final 30 minutes came via the defense. Cornerback Will Likely returned a fumble by Battlehawks running back Brian Hill 35 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to get Houston within two points at 17-15.

A.J. McCarron, who was brilliant all day, then led a touchdown drive that would prove to be the dagger score in this contest. McCarron, 26-for-34 for 222 yards and three touchdowns in the game, went 6-for-6 for 57 yards on the drive that put the game out of reach with 3:54 to go in the game and chewed nearly seven minutes of clock in the process. St. Louis had three separate drives of at least 5:20 and scored touchdowns on all three.

With Brandon Silvers inactive (arm), Houston ran the ball more often than they usually do. Normally, Houston would run between 10-15 run plays per game. They rushed the ball 25 times Sunday for an impressive 136 yards (5.44 YPC), but they would go to the passing game on crucial third downs and could not convert. McDonald was just 15-for-32 passing for 106 yards. Houston converted less than 40% of their third down conversions in the game.

Houston’s final six offensive drives of the game resulted in two turnovers on downs (one drive was only the four plays) and four punts. Those six drives generated a cumulative 72 yards as the offense was completely inept following their third drive of the day.

Defensive back Sean Davis suffered a hamstring injury in the second half and did not return. Davis entered Week 7 third in XFL in interceptions with three and often shadows the other team’s top receiver.

Next week, the Roughnecks (4-3) are back on the road as they travel to San Antonio to take on the Brahmas (2-5) Sunday, April 9, at 2 p.m. CT.

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