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Michigan Panthers Wrangle Houston Roughnecks, Advance To 2-1 on the Season

Brian Gornick, Sports Editor

Michigan Panthers quarterback Danny Etling (8) scrambles against the Houston Roughnecks on April 14, 2024 at Ford Field. Photo//Gregory Shamus

Believe it or not, there’s a second professional football team in Michigan making great strides of progress. The Michigan Panthers in the inaugural season of the United Football League currently stand with one of the best records three games in after yesterday’s game against the Houston Roughnecks.

In front of a crowd of around 7,000 at Ford Field, the Michigan Panthers found their groove in improving to a 2-1 record on the season. 

The main takeaway of the game was the Panthers offense finally coming to life. Their past two games have been marred by slow starts, putting the Panthers early on in situations where they need to claw back from a point deficit. Their first game was a close 18-16 win against the St. Louis Battlehawks, but they couldn't overcome the slow start last week playing the Birmingham Stallions, losing 20-13.

Despite the defense allowing an opening drive touchdown and a two-point conversion to give the Roughnecks an early 8-0 lead, the defense solidified to give the Panthers a 34-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter of the game.

The Panthers offense relied heavily on its play makers, with quarterback E.J. Perry gaining yardage through both the air and on the ground. Perry not only completed 16 of 19 passes for 208 yards, but also scored two touchdowns on scrambles outside the pocket. 

Wide receiver Marcus Simms was also instrumental in the win, leading the Panthers in receiving with 84 yards, much of those coming off of a 66-yard touchdown catch. Simms has been an electric receiver that gives the Panthers a big play receiver not many in the UFL have. Simms has only nine catches on the season, but has 218 yards plus two touchdowns. Simms yardage and touchdowns makes him second-best in the league in both categories. 

Panthers kicker Jake Bates also continues to be sensational. After kicking field goals of 64, 62, and 52-yard field goals in the first two weeks of the season, Bates followed up in yesterday's game with two field goals of 47 and 55 yards. Bates continues his perfect streak and will likely garner significant interest from the NFL once the UFL season concludes. 

The Panthers defense made stops when called upon, and while the offense was the main story line, they were crucial in stopping any potential comeback attempt from the Roughnecks. Panthers players and coaches will hope to continue that momentum into next week to get a consistent winning culture instilled in the program. The Panthers made the USFL playoffs last season, and continuing that into the newly coined UFL would certainly give fans in Detroit something else to cheer for.

The Panthers play their next game against the 2-1 San Antonio Brahmas this upcoming Saturday at 7 p.m..

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