Wildcats Fall 25-18 to Renegades in Home Opener
Jason B. Hirschhorn
CARSON, Calif -- After the Los Angeles Wildcats and Dallas Renegades suffered disappointing losses in Week 1 of the rejuvenated XFL season, both teams entered Week 2 with a modicum of desperation for their first victories.
The week leading up to the game was tumultuous for the hometown Wildcats after they dismissed defensive coordinator Pepper Johnson and traded their disgruntled defensive captain Anthony Johnson to the DC Defenders. Both teams also featured new starting quarterbacks, with Josh Johnson and Landry Jones returning from injury for the Wildcats and Renegades, respectively.
With the warm Southern California sun shining and almost 15,000 fans in attendance, both teams took the field, hoping to put their Week 1 performances behind them. The game started off rocky, with the Renegades losing wide receiver Jeff Badet to injury on their first offensive play, although he did return shortly after, and being forced to punt after picking up a single first down. In foreshadowing how the rest of the first half would go, the Wildcats did not fare much better, with their opening drive also resulting in a punt.
The rest of the first half continued mostly in the same fashion, with the teams trading turnovers and punts, capitalized mostly by sloppy play. Jones appeared to be rusty playing in his first professional football game since a knee injury suffered in 2017, tossing an interception late in the first quarter that allowed the Wildcats to drive down to their red zone. The Wildcats ultimately could not score, as the Renegades defense stiffened and recovered a fumble by Wildcats RB Elijah Hood in the red zone. The half ended with both teams trading field goals, sending the game into halftime with a 3-3 tie.
The second half got off to a similar start as the first, with the Wildcats moving down the field quickly, only for kicker Nick Novak to miss a 50 yard try to secure the lead. The following drive by the Renegades ended with another Landry Jones interception, his second of the game. Once again, the Wildcats failed to capitalize on the turnover, turning the ball back over to the Renegades a few minutes later on a fumble by quarterback Josh Johnson.
Following a 45-yard field goal late in the third quarter to put the Renegades up 6-3, the game seemed destined to be a slow-burner. But the fourth quarter came, and with it brought the awakening of the offenses on both sides. Both teams exploded in the 4th, scoring a combined 34 points. Nelson Spruce lead the way for the Wildcats, securing 2 receptions for touchdowns. The Renegades stuck to the ground game, with RB Cameron Artis-Payne scoring 2 touchdowns of his own. The teams traded touchdowns until the final minute of the game.
In the end, the Renegades made just enough plays to put the Wildcats away, notching their first victory in franchise history, 25-18.
-- Report by Bill Bergquist.