USFL Game 1 final score: Birmingham Stallions defeat New Jersey Generals, 28-24, in inaugural game

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The Birmingham Stallions defeated the New Jersey Generals, 28-24, in the inaugural game of the USFL season at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama on Saturday night.

The matchup came down to the final minutes as both teams traded scores back-and-forth throughout. But QB J’Mar Smith, who entered the game in the second half to replace the injured Alex McGough, rushed for a game-winning two-yard touchdown with 29 seconds left to secure the victory for the hometown Stallions.

The Generals dominated the first half of the game as QB Luis Perez threw two touchdown passes, including one to standout WR Randy Satterfield, to give New Jersey a seven-point lead heading into the locker room.

After relying predominantly on their passing game in the first half, both teams found the ground game in the second. Fellow Generals QB De’Andre Johnson helped set up a 47-yard field goal with two minutes left in the game to give New Jersey a three-point lead. But there was too much time left on the clock and the Stallions took advantage, driving 10 plays all the way down the field for the game-winning touchdown score.

The Generals were led by head coach Mike Riley, who was a former defensive back for the University of Alabama from 1971-74 and has over 40 seasons of head coaching experience at the pro and collegiate levels.  Skip Holtz led the opposite sideline for the Stallions. Holtz is the son of former head coach Lou Holtz, who spent 11 seasons at the helm at Notre Dame and won a national championship in 1988. Skip most recently spent the last nine seasons at Louisiana Tech where he finished with an overall record of 64-50. He made his coaching debut at the professional level against the Generals and is now 1-0 as a pro football coach.

Generals vs. Stallions score, results, highlights

Final score: New Jersey Generals 24, Birmingham Stallions 28

1st quarter, 11:51 (Generals): L.Perez pass short middle complete to BHAM 3. Catch made by R.Satterfield at BHAM 3. Gain of 3 yards. R.Satterfield for 3 yards, TOUCHDOWN

1st quarter, 11:18 (Stallions): A.McGough pass complete to NJ 35. Catch made by O.Mitchell at NJ 35. Gain of 35 yards. O.Mitchell for 35 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

2nd quarter, 9:16 (Generals): L.Perez pass complete to BHAM 13. Catch made by B.Bowman at BHAM 13. Gain of 13 yards. B.Bowman for 13 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

3rd quarter, 0:42 (Stallions): C.Marable rushed to NJ End Zone for 3 yards. C.Marable for 3 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

4th quarter, 9:21 (Generals): D.Johnson rushed right end to BHAM End Zone for 4 yards. D.Johnson for 4 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

4th quarter, 6:00 (Stallions): J.Smith pass complete to NJ 28. Catch made by C.Angeline at NJ 28. Gain of 28 yards. C.Angeline for 28 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

4th quarter, 1:54 (Generals): N.Rose 47 yard field goal attempt is good, Center-S.Flanick, Holder-B.Miller.

4th quarter, 0:29 (Stallions): J.Smith scrambles right end to NJ End Zone for 2 yards. J.Smith for 2 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Generals vs. Stallions reaction and coverage

10:50 p.m. ET: It comes down to the final play of the game but the hometown Stallions hold on for the win!

10:45 p.m. ET: On the 10th play of the drive, Smith takes it for himself and scrambles two yards into the end zone. The Stallions take a 28-24 lead with 29 seconds left to play in Birmingham!

10:34 p.m. ET: The Generals have rushed the ball 24 straight times!

Rose gets his third shot of the night to try to convert a field goals for the Generals. This time, he converts the 47-yard field goal to give New Jersey a 24-21 lead with less than two minutes left to play.

Can Smith pull off a successful two-minute drive for the Stallions?

10:23 p.m. ET: The Stallions respond on their following drive as Smith completes a 28-yard touchdown pass over the middle of the field to Cary Angeline.

Angeline has spent time with the Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles.

We’re knotted at 21-21 with less than six minutes left to play.

10:10 p.m. ET: After recording less than 50 rushing yards in the entire first half, the Generals embraced their run game in the fourth quarter.

To cap off an 11-play, 65-yard drive, Johnson rushes for a four-yard touchdown down the sideline and just makes it inside the pylon to give the Generals a 21-14 lead.

The Generals tallied more rushing yards on this scoring drive than they did in the entire first half.

9:56 p.m. ET: The Stallions put together their strongest drive since their opening offensive drive of the game as Smith leads Birmingham all the way down the field to the New Jersey 3-yard line.

Running back CJ Marable rushes for a 3-yard touchdown run – the first rushing TD in the game – and the Stallions tie the score at 14.

9:50 p.m. ET: Behind the scenes!

9:40 p.m. ET: With QB De’Andre Johnson under center, the Generals drive down the field. Johnson leads New Jersey on a 12-play, 75-yard drive to set Rose up for a 23-yard field goal. But the kick veers left and the score stays at 14-7.

Can the Stallions take advantage of another missed Generals FG?

9:30 p.m. ET: We are underway in the second half!

McGough is out with an injury and QB J’Mar Smith is leading the Stallions under center.

9:20 p.m. ET:

Halftime stats:

The Generals ran eight drives in the first half, while the Stallions ran seven.

New Jersey tallied 224 total yards and Birmingham recorded 82. NJ dominated the passing game in the half with 175 yards in the air versus 49 passing yards for Birmingham.

Each team recorded one turnover.

The Generals won the time of possession battle at 19:41, while the Stallions held the ball for 10:19.

9:15 p.m. ET: Generals kicker Nick Rose attempts a 47-yard field goal to close out the half, but his kick veers wide left.

New Jersey takes a 14-7 lead into the locker room.

9:08 p.m. ET: Some game clock differences to note as the first half winds down:

The play clock is 35 seconds in the USFL instead of 40.

The clock automatically stops on first downs inside the 2-minute warning.

8:58 p.m. ET: Satterfield continues to dominate in 1-on-1 matchups with one 15-yard pass followed by another 31-yard catch down the sideline to set the Generals up on the Birmingham 27-yard line.

But Stallions LB Scooby Wright sacks Perez and forces a fumble to give the ball back to Birmingham and halt the Generals’ momentum.

8:50 p.m. ET: The Generals have been playing with multiple quarterbacks all night. Perez started the game but QB De’Andre Johnson is also getting snaps under center.

Perez escapes a couple of grabs by the Stallions defense and connects with Braedon Bowman for a 13-yard touchdown pass. The Generals capitalize on the turnover and take a 14-7 lead.

8:35 p.m. ET: McGough is back on the field despite walking off gingerly at the end of the Stallions’ last possession.

But his pass is intercepted by Generals safety Shalom Luani at the New Jersey 37-yard line – the first turnover of the game and in the history of the league.

8:25 p.m. ET: Defensive pass interference called on the Stallions down the sideline.

Unlike in the NFL, this results in only a 15-yard penalty, and is not a spot foul.

For further explanation on the difference in rules in the USFL, click here.

That brings us to the end of the first quarter as the Generals continue to drive down the field.

8:20 p.m. ET: New perspective!

8:16 p.m. ET: DeMarquis Gates of the Stallions records the first sack of the game as he picks up a huge loss of seven with his tackle of Perez.

Fun fact about another part of the Stallions defense: their secondary has played in a combined 83 NFL games.

8:08 p.m. ET: Birmingham, the host city for the USFL this season, has a long history of professional football that dates back to the 1970s.

Players on both sidelines have ties to the area.

Generals QB J’Mar Smith’s father, Kenny Smith, played DL at Alabama (and went on to play in the NFL).

Stallions WR Peyton Ramzy grew up in McCalla, Alabama, which is roughly 25 minutes Southwest of Protective Stadium in Birmingham.

7:57 p.m. ET: The Stallions respond right away as QB Alex McGough connects with WR Osirus Mitchell on a 35-yard touchdown pass. Mitchell makes a one-handed grab in the back of the end zone to tie the score at seven apiece.

The scoring drive takes just two plays and 36 seconds.

7:50 p.m. ET: Luis Perez is under center for the Generals in their opening possession. He gets the game off to a hot start with a 49-yard pass down the sideline to Randy Satterfield.

On fourth-and-1 inside the 10-yard line, the Generals make the first gutsy call of the game and opt to go for it. They successfully convert and its Perez to Satterfield again for the touchdown – the first in the history of the USFL!

Generals take an early 7-0 lead.

7:45 p.m. ET: Birmingham wins the toss and defers.

And we are officially playing football in the spring!

7:40 p.m. ET: Bigger than football.

7:30 p.m. ET: It’s just about that time! Former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is in Birmingham helping to tell us what to expect.

7:10 p.m. ET: The hometown Stallions are fired up for the first kickoff of the season.

7:06 p.m. ET: Are you ready?

The first game of the USFL’s inaugural season is less than 30 minutes away from kickoff!

Everything you need to know about the USFL:

What time and channel is the Generals vs. Stallions on?

RELATED: How to watch the New Jersey Generals vs Birmingham Stallions: TV, Live Stream for tomorrow’s USFL game

  • When: Saturday, April 16 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC, Peacock, and FOX. FOX will produce tonight’s game coverage while NBC does pregame, halftime and postgame coverage.
  • Where: Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama
  • Live Stream: NBC and Peacock

Control what you can control: How journey through the fire led Generals RB Darius Victor to the USFL

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“Life feels good when you’re winning,” says one of the men responsible for the Generals’ success last season, running back Darius Victor. “I’m playing the game I love, my team is winning games, and that’s all a man can ask for.”

Victor was named the USFL’s Offensive Player of the Year after leading the league with nine rushing touchdowns, ranking third in rushing yards (577), and fourth in yards per game (57.7). At 5’8″ and 209 pounds, with 30-inch quads (yes, you read that right…30 inches), the Generals RB is a wrecking ball on the field.

“Thick thighs save lives,” Victor recalls as he laughs about the Week 5 game-winning play. “I had to put them to use and push him [Perez] over to the endzone.”

With his light-hearted demeanor and self-described goofball personality, it would be hard to fathom the hell Darius Victor has walked through to get to where he is today.

“I’m not even supposed to be here”

Victor, who is one of seven children (4 brothers, and 2 sisters), was born in 1994 in a refugee camp in Africa’s Ivory Coast after his parents, Gary and Patricia, fled the first Liberian Civil War.

“Have you ever seen the movie Blood Diamond?” Victor asks, “That’s the type of environment I was born into.”

Victor and his family literally ran for their lives, hiding and sleeping in bushes for safety when their country was being torn apart by violence and bloodshed. Nearly 250,000 people — men, women, and children — lost their lives in Liberia’s civil war.

“I was too young to remember what happened at the time,” Victor told NBC Sports. “But from the stories my parents have told me about what we were running away from, I’m not even supposed to be here.”

The Victor family moved to the U.S. in 1999 and lived in Manassas, Virginia before moving to Hyattsville, Maryland, in 2002. After leaving everything behind, Gary and Patrica worked tirelessly to provide for their family and while their parents were out just trying to make ends meet, all seven of the Victor siblings Velma, Earl, Kevin, Darius, Leon, Shaka, and Nicole — looked out for one another. Helping with homework, making sure everyone was fed, and involved in activities. For Kevin and Darius in particular, that activity was football.

Sibling Rivalry

“My older brother Kevin was my role model growing up,” Victor recalls. “I used to go with him to football practice and he was pretty good. He was a Boys and Girls Club legend. I had to compete with him in everything and I wanted to be better than him in everything that I did. So I started playing football and tried really hard to be better than him. Having that role model to follow is what really gave me a love for the game.”

The duo, four years apart in age, went on to play football at Northwestern High School, sharpening each other with their competitive nature both on and off the field. But everything changed in December 2011, when Kevin was tragically shot and killed walking home from the local community center after playing basketball with friends — just one block away from his family’s apartment.

“Losing a child and a sibling is crazy,” Victor said. “It was tough but it made us even closer as a family. It made me go even harder because Kevin was always the tough one on me. When we were kids I would always cry on the football field if something didn’t go my way and Kevin would straighten me out.”

“His passing has given me a mindset of toughness and resiliency. I’m always thinking about him and trying to live up to the level of confidence that he had in me.”

In October, just 10 months after Kevin’s passing, Darius was in the midst of a breakout senior season when the Victor family’s apartment burned down.

“The toughest part wasn’t even losing our stuff but it was seeing my Mom and Dad cry again. That was so tough on me.” Darius recalls. “At that point in my life, I had to decide to never question God, believe that everything happens for a reason, and control what I could control.”

Towson Tough

With family at the forefront of his mind, Victor decided to play football at Towson University, where he earned a scholarship, roughly 45 minutes away from his hometown. He earned First-Team All-CAA honors in 2014, rushing for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns on 250 carries, but says he also a learned new level of toughness from his coaches and teammates that he still keeps in contact with today.

“Coach Reno Ferri really believed in me and that gave me so much confidence,” Victor said. “But there are so many guys there that really spoke into my life including my teammates FB Dreon Johnson, RB Terrance West, and coaches Rob and Jared Ambrose.”

Stay Ready

Victor, who only played in 4 games during his senior year of college due to a toe injury, went undrafted after graduating from Towson in 2017 but had several opportunities with NFL teams. Victor received an invite to the New York Jets rookie minicamp, the New Orleans Saints training camp, and even landed a spot on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad but unfortunately, those opportunities didn’t end the way he wanted them to.

However, the Hyattsville native didn’t let that discourage him.

“I’ve been through so much in life that I’ve grasped the concept of controlling what you control,” the 28-year-old said. “One of my mottos is to stay ready so you don’t have to get ready so doing that and just trusting God made me available mentally and physically for the next opportunity.”

For Victor, that meant showing up to train long hours after working a 9-5 job every day as a Sales Operations Manager at Penske and staying consistent no matter what — even when the CFL signed and cut him a day before he was supposed to leave for Canada (2019) and when the XFL season came to a sudden halt in the midst of a global pandemic (2020).

But when the USFL finally called, selecting him in the 6th round of the Supplemental Draft, he was ready. Victor says his love for his family and his faith in God is what fueled him during the hard times in life.

“Knowing all that my family has been through and the fact that we’re not even supposed to be here, every day I get is a blessing and I just want to make them proud. They are my why, ” says Victor, who is often spotted wearing merchandise with the phrase “Keep God 1st” on his clothing.

“I don’t care if you are a millionaire or dirt poor…life is going to life, but if you put God first everything will work itself out and that’s how I live my life.”

First and 10 with Darius Victor

To what do you attribute the New Jersey Generals’ early success?

“We have great coaching and great leadership. The team is very close and we hold each other accountable because we all have the same goal. We’ve all been through similar experiences. I’m pretty sure I’ve talked to 30 or 38 players who’ve been cut multiple times too and that creates a bond.”

“Also, we have a little chip on our shoulder because in preseason we were projected to finish last in the league due to our ‘talent level’, so shout out to whoever released those preseason polls because it made us hungry.”

If someone were to be a fly on the wall in the locker room, what’s one thing that they’d be surprised to find out about the New Jersey Generals?

“After a win, we do a ‘hip, hip hooray’ chant. Coach Riley goes ‘hip hip’ and the rest of the team goes ‘hooray’. It’s the greatest thing ever.”

What’s your role on the team?

“I’m one of the older guys on the team so I consider myself to be one of the leaders and the ‘special teams captain’. Coach always jokes around and says I’m the heart and soul of the team. I just want to do everything I can to make this team successful.”

How would you describe your style as a running back?

“I think I’m pretty balanced but the thing that separates me the most is my physicality. I don’t think a lot of human beings can run the football like me. If you just watch the tape or just watch the football games, that’s how I stand out.”

Pre-game hype song?

“I have to listen to the song “I’m a dog” by Gucci Mane that puts me in my zone.

Gameday superstitions?

“I have a superman Jesus cut-off shirt that I wear under my pads every game. I wouldn’t really call it a superstition but I wouldn’t feel right without it.”

What’s one thing about yourself that not everyone knows?

“I’m addicted to Candy Crush. I’m on level 4,650.”

Favorite Football player?

John Johnson, he’s the starting safety for the Cleveland Browns and also my best friend”.

Favorite Movie?

“Oh, Forest Gump. Easy.”

Favorite pair of kicks?

“Jordan 1s, I can’t pick one specific pair.”

Just Keep Going: Stallions RB CJ Marable makes a policy of perseverance

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RB CJ Marable was instrumental in helping the Birmingham Stallions become the inaugural USFL champions in 2022. Marable who was named the USFL Week 5 Offensive Player of the Week, was Birmingham’s leading rusher finishing the season with 401 rushing yards and 5 rushing touchdowns.

While his highlight reel was, quite literally, on display this past season, his journey to playing professional football has been far from easy.

A Dream is Born

Torrance Marable Jr., who goes by the nickname CJ, laced up his first set of football pads at the age of 5. Some of his earliest memories include tossing the ball outside with his father, Torrance Marable Sr., who doubled as his all-time quarterback in outdoor pickup games. It was in his hometown backyard in Decatur, Georgia that the elder Marable told his son he was capable of taking it to the next level, instilling in him a new passion for the game.

“He just looked at me one day and said, man, you’ve got it,” CJ recalls. “Just stay focused, stay consistent, and the sky is the limit. And that confirmed everything for me. I fell in love with the game and believed I could be whatever I wanted to be because my Dad said it.”

Marable, a two-star recruit coming out of Towers High School, initially signed with Arkansas State as a grayshirt, but in the weeks leading up to his expected start date, he says the communication with the school just stopped, unexpectedly. Arkansas State wasn’t returning his calls and when they finally called him back, they no longer had a place for him on the team.

Pivoting along the Path

Wanting to keep his football dreams alive, Marable pivoted his focus to playing at the junior college level. But a last-minute offer to play at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina — with a full scholarship — was one he couldn’t refuse. Marable’s 2017 freshman season was explosive: the Georgia native started all 11 games and led the Big South with 1,038 rushing yards only to find out that the school was pulling back on its football team and would become a non-scholarship program by 2020.

With his dreams once again the line, it was a familiar time for Marable – time to pivot. He transferred to Coastal Carolina, a place he says shaped him into a better person on and off the field.

“We had this acronym B.A.M., which stood for Be a Man,” Marable told NBC Sports. “Coach Jamey Chadwell taught us to be accountable for whatever we do and to stand on our own two feet. He told us that if you quit on football and can’t go through the hard times here, then there’s no way that you’ll be able to deal with the hard times in life.”

Deferred but not Denied

Marable finished his collegiate career with a streak of 32 straight games with at least one reception. In his three years at Coastal Carolina (2018-2020), he rushed for 2,691 yards with 41 total touchdowns, assembling impressive enough stats and film to sign as an undrafted free agent contract with the Chicago Bears in 2021. But once again, things didn’t go as planned and Marable was released before the start of the regular season.

“I wasn’t comfortable where I was because I felt like I should have been drafted,” he said. “I felt like I had a point to prove. I did what I was supposed to do but it just wasn’t in my favor at the time. I never wanted to question God so I just had to stay consistent, stay focused, and continue to grind to get to where I wanted to be.”

It was in this period, dialed in on training and staying pro-ready with tunnel vision focus, that he heard about the USFL, not just once but on three separate occasions. First, the idea came from his manager, who he calls “Hood”, who thought it would be a good opportunity for the running back. His trainer for the NFL combine agreed. But Marable brushed the idea off both times, wanting to stay focused on that potential NFL opportunity. It wasn’t until his girlfriend’s father brought it up again that Marable took it as a sign to do his own research and take the USFL seriously as a path forward in professional football.

Just Keep Going

Looking back, Marable credits his strong support system, specifically his Mother, Sabrina Sims, for helping him stay positive in periods of disappointment and uncertainty.  “She reminded me that every storm I’ve been in, I’ve got out of.”

“Life is going to hit you,” the 25-year-old said. “Nothing is going to go as planned but never give up. If I could go back in time and give my younger self advice it would be these two simple words: keep going. God’s got you, never give up.”

Leading by Example

Marable, who welcomed a baby boy in March with girlfriend Bayley Randall, says he wants to instill that lesson in his son Trae (Torrance Christopher Marable III).

“When he grows up I want to be that example and show him that Dad never gave up. Even though I failed at times the difference between me and anybody else is that I just never gave up.”

The Stallions running back is currently working towards a Master’s degree in Sports Psychology. He wants to help other athletes develop when his football career is over — which, at the rate he’s playing, doesn’t look like it’ll be anytime soon.

First and 10 with CJ Marable

Pregame ritual?

“I love to listen to music, my favorite artist is Future so that’s all I play. But my go-to hype-up album is “Thug Motivation” by Young Jeezy.

What is your role on the team?

To get the offense rolling. My strengths include blocking the ball out the backfield, my vision, and my speed.

To what do you attribute the Birmingham Stallions’ early success?

“I’m really impressed with how well we get along with each other. We laugh with each other. We joke with each other. We are a family. We spend our off days and downtime together. The offensive linemen and the running backs go out to eat every Thursday or Friday depending on the week.”

“Honestly, it feels great when everything you work for is paying off. But in the back of our minds, we know that we have to stay consistent. We have a bullseye on our chest. Everybody wants to beat the Birmingham Stallions.”

What is it like being the only USFL team to play in front of a home crowd?

“I feel like the fans are really coming out there and doing their job and it’s helped us a lot, especially on third downs you can just hear them yelling ‘defense, defense’. We’re the first professional football team for Alabama so it feels great to be able to just go out there and put on for the city of Birmingham.”

Favorite Running Back?

Reggie Bush. When I was at Carolina, we played against BYU on “College GameDay”, and I had a great game. Later during the week, I got interviewed by Reggie Bush so that was a cool experience.”

Favorite Food?

“Wings. All flats.”

Favorite Movie?

“Friday”

Favorite Vacation Spot?

Hawaii

How would your family and friends describe you as a person?

“I’m a driven person and I won’t let anything stop me from getting to where I want to be in life. I’m also funny and outgoing.

Name one thing about yourself that not everybody knows about you.

“I enjoy fishing.”

RELATED: Control what you can control – How journey through the fire led Generals RB Darius Victor to the USFL