The first inaugural “Texas Throwdown” turned out to be a spectacle from start to finish. The Renegades and Roughnecks combined for nearly 600 yards of total offense, 5 touchdowns, and a whopping 6 turnovers. The game marked the third start for Renegades quarterback Landry Jones who started the game ice-cold, ending his first three possessions with interceptions. Off the other sideline, the de-facto league MVP, Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker, got off to a hot start and stayed that way throughout the game.
First quarter fireworks
Renegades got going early with a two-pronged rushing attack from backs Cameron Artis-Payne and Lance Dunbar, rushing for a quick 22 yards in the first 4 plays before Landry Jones threw an interception to Roughnecks safety Cody Brown.
The Roughnecks were able to capitalize on the turnover and set up their first score, a 37-yard field goal from kicker Sergio Castillo.
On the subsequent possession, Landry Jones threw his second interception of the game; an errant pass to a well-covered Jazz Ferguson was stolen by Roughnecks corner Deatrick Nichols.
June Jones and the Roughnecks continued to take advantage of the turnovers using Castillo’s leg to extend the lead to 6-0 on a crisp 30-yarder.
Good ole fashioned shoot-out
The Renegades’ first three possessions all ended in interceptions as Landry Jones struggled to make clean throws. His third interception, again picked off by Deatrick Nichols, set the Roughnecks up with favorable field possession at the Dallas 40. A short 5-play drive culminated in a 6-yard touchdown dart from Walker to his workhorse wide-out Nick Holley.
On a bold 3-point conversion attempt, Walker showed impressive flexibility as the pocket collapsed around him and he was able to tuck the ball and run it in; one of only a handful of successful 3-point conversions in the league this season.
Though rumors swirled of an impending quarterback change, Dallas offensive coordinator Hal Mumme trusted his starter and kept Landry Jones under center. After throwing three interceptions in the first quarter, Jones stayed calm and regained his composure, making a series of decisive throws to tight end Donald Parham for a second-quarter touchdown and 2-point conversion.
Late in the half, Dallas kicker Austin MacGinnis was good from 46, setting a new career long and staying perfect on the season. His field goal closed the gap for the Renegades, down 15-11 with under a minute to go in the half. After the kickoff, the Roughnecks were able to get off a few productive plays before letting kicker Sergio Castillo try a field goal of his own, this one a 60-yard attempt. Castillo kicked the potential XFL record field goal wide right and it was returned for 50 yards before time expired.
2nd half adjustments
After a fiery first half, both teams settled into offensive plateaus. P.J. Walker threw his second interception of the season, and first since Week 1. On his next possession, Walker shook off any excitement he may have given Renegades fans by threading a third-down needle to receiver Blake Jackson for a 19-yard touchdown reception.
Meanwhile, Landry Jones and the Renegades ended two of their three third quarter drives with punts. Jones managed to piece together a solid drive out of three big passes to Parham and receiver Flynn Nagel for nearly 60 total yards. Lance Dunbar dealt the final blow of the drive with a one yard touchdown run. The Renegades then proceeded to convert a 3-point attempt of their own on a pass to Nagel, bringing the Roughnecks lead to a very fragile 21-20.
Early in the fourth quarter, on his own 16, Landry Jones was sacked by Roughnecks linebacker Edmond Robinson who forced a fumble, recovered it, and ran it back for a game-defining touchdown, silencing the crowd.
Still behind by a single score, the Renegades continued to threaten the Roughnecks dominant performance until late into the 4th quarter, when Landry Jones was injured on a short 4th down run. He left the field limping on his left leg.
Renegades backup quarterback Philip Nelson stepped up and looked like he’d be able to close out the drive that Jones started. A completed a pass for 11 yards, a 6 yard slide, and a few favorable defensive penalties put Dallas within a few feet of the goal line. On a crucial 2nd and goal from the 3 yard-line, Nelson fumbled to Roughnecks linebacker DeMarquis Gates, all be ending the Renegades hopes for a comeback. The Dallas defense was unable to get a stop to regain possession and P.J. Walker ended the game on one knee.
In a game that was defined by explosive defensive takeaways and dynamic offensive schemes, the result was largely determined by Houston’s ability to capitalize on turnovers. The Roughnecks earned 21 of their 27 points off of turnovers. The Renegades, conversely, squandered their extra opportunity after Walker’s interception with a quick three-and-out.
The Roughnecks return to TDECU Stadium next week where they will host the Seattle Dragons, who are coming off of a one-score loss in St. Louis. The matchup between the West divisions best and worst teams will be Saturday, March 7 at 2PM EDT on ABC.
The Renegades will stay in Arlington where they will try to regroup and finally win in front of their fans. Based on Landry Jones condition after getting injured today, it is likely he will still be on the sidelines next week so Philip Nelson may be getting his second start. They will host the New York Guardians immediately after the Roughnecks game on March 7, at 5PM EDT on FOX.