Power Drillers: Roughnecks crush Guardians 33-12 in season opener

Feb 18, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Roughnecks head coach Wade Phillips reacts when told the replay shows the Orlando Guardians scored a touchdown in the first quarter at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Power Drillers: Roughnecks crush Guardians 33-12 in season opener

The Houston Roughnecks are still undefeated as a franchise.

Houston Roughnecks head coach Wade Phillips was well aware of the short history of the Roughnecks franchise. He knew they had been undefeated when XFL 2.0 was shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Roughnecks started out (undefeated) last time. Our first three games are at home, so we’d like to do that same thing.”

Coach Phillips didn’t disappoint, as his Roughnecks demolished the Orlando Guardians 33-12 at TDECU Stadium Saturday night.

Phillips’ defense was the biggest story in this game, as his unit followed a sluggish start with a dominant performance. Houston chased Guardians starting quarterback (and former Denver Broncos’ first-round pick) Paxton Lynch from the game by sacking him five times and intercepting him once. Lynch’s replacement, Quinten Dormady, didn’t fare much better, as he was sacked twice and intercepted twice.

Overall, Houston’s defense tallied seven sacks, eight tackles for loss, and three interceptions. After allowing 77 yards on the Guardians’ opening drive, they allowed just 237 yards the rest of the way, and 58 of those came on the final garbage time drive Orlando had. That drive, of course, ended in an interception.

Offensively, the Mike Leach-inspired Air Raid offense managed four touchdowns and three field goals. Roughnecks quarterback Brandon Silvers may have some arm talent limitations, but he made the right reads, and his pair of mistakes didn’t hurt the team in this game.

Silvers found wide receivers Deontay Burnett and Jontre Kirklin for touchdowns while completing 26 passes to seven different receivers. He nearly had a third touchdown to tight end Garrett Owens, but Owens couldn’t hold on to the ball despite its good placement.

RB Max Borghi only had eight carries, but he made the most of them, including breaking off a 27-yard touchdown run. That second-quarter TD run by Borghi capped three straight drives the Roughnecks scored touchdowns as they seized control of the game and four straight scoring drives overall as Houston took a 21-6 lead into halftime.

Silvers struggled in the third quarter, as two of the Roughnecks’ first three possessions to start the second half resulted in interceptions. Both interceptions were cases of Silvers being unable to make a particular throw in a tight window, as he could not get the ball past the underneath defender in both instances.

The Roughnecks’ defense would bail him out both times, forcing a three-and-out after his first interception and getting an interception of their own on the Guardians’ first offensive snap on Silvers’ second interception. That Roughneck interception, in which linebacker Tavante Beckett intercepted Paxton Lynch, led to Lynch being benched the rest of the way for Quinten Dormady on Orlando’s next possession, their first of the fourth quarter.

Dormady made the game more respectable for a short time, connecting with WR Andrew Jamiel for a 51-yard touchdown, making the game 24-12 with 6:40 remaining.

However, the Roughnecks would score the final nine points of the game by recovering a muffed punt by Guardians punt returner (and former Pittsburgh Steelers WR) Eli Rogers at the Orlando 13 and then intercepting Dormady on each of the Guardians’ final two drives. The first interception led to a 22-yard field goal to make the score 33-12; the second effectively ended the game.

The Roughnecks will host Week 2 against the Arlington Renegades, who defeated the Vegas Vipers 22-20 at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington. That contest will be Sunday, Feb. 26, at 6 p.m. at TDECU Stadium.

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