It’s hard to believe that we are finally here. The XFL officially kicked off their season this afternoon, in Texas. It was the Arlington Renegades who hosted the Vegas Vipers in a thrilling showdown to get the season underway.
This was bound to be an exciting matchup, no matter the outcome. The Arlington Renegades are loaded with talent, led by head coach Bob Stoops. Meanwhile, the Vegas Vipers were looking to steal one on the road in Arlington, as Rod Woodson prepped his fiery squad for action.
As expected, it came down to the wire in Arlington. Let’s take a look at what happened in the first game of the 2023 XFL season.
To start things off, the Vipers received the opening kickoff. Vegas looked solid on their opening drive. Luis Perez swiftly led the team down the field, converting on multiple third downs.
On third and goal, Perez found Jeff Badet for a six yard touchdown – the first score of this new XFL. The two-point attempt was unsuccessful, but the Vipers led 6-0 early.
What a sensational opening drive from Luis Perez for the @XFLVipers. Converted on multiple third downs, including this third and goal to Jeff Badet for the score.
Arlington got things underway with Drew Plitt at the helm. On a third and nine, an incomplete pass was actually overturned due to review, as WR Tyler Vaughns did in fact get his feet down in bounds.
The Renegades clearly have an excellent offense. De’Veon Smith made impact plays on the ground, and WR Brandon Arcondo caught a couple of important passes to keep the drive alive. However, a dropped pass from Sal Cannella led to a Taylor Russolino field goal, and Vegas still led 6-3.
The second period looked a bit different to start. Arlington’s defense got things going, putting Vegas in a third and long position. Perez got absolutely smoked by Colin Schooler, which forced a punt, and Arlington got the ball back.
What a big-time sack from Colin Schooler. Forces Vegas into a punt. Seems like the defenses are starting to pick up the intensity here in the second quarter.
However, the Renegades couldn’t get it going on their end, either. Vegas picked up the intensity on the defensive end, ultimately resulting in a punt for the Renegades. On third and four, Josh Hawkins made a huge tackle on De’Andre Torrey, which led to another punt for the Vipers.
Arlington’s offense struggled in the second quarter. Offensive miscues were a staple to begin the period. On a short third down, Plitt fumbled the handoff to Keith Ford. Luckily, the team recovered, but had to punt once again.
Vegas Vipers Strong Opening Half
Luis Perez looked fantastic in the first half. On Vegas’ next drive, Perez dominated. He continued to stay on point with his passes, finding receivers all over the place. Then, he scrambled in the pocket, and found a wide open Jeff Badet for a 39 yard score. After a successful two point try to Brandon Dillon, Vegas led 14-3.
LUIS PEREZ AND JEFF BADET ARE TEARING UP THE #XFL.
The duo connect for their second TD in the first half, this time for 39 yards. This Vipers offense looks excellent with Perez at the helm in the #XFL. pic.twitter.com/i2P4bCbLds
Unfortunately for the Renegades, things weren’t going so smoothly under Plitt. On 4th and 1, Bob Stoops decided to go for it. A huge play in the backfield from the Vipers defense stuffed De’Veon Smith, and Vegas took over with two minutes to go.
So far, this @XFLVipers defense looks amazing. The Vipers got another stop in the backfield, this time on 4th and 1.
Vipers lead 14-3, and take over with two minutes to go in the half. Arlington desperately needs a stop on D here.pic.twitter.com/By0R5aHzMs
Vegas couldn’t get things going on their next drive, and had to punt. Joe Powell gave Arlington excellent field position on the return, with under a minute to go. However, the team couldn’t capitalize. Plitt was picked off by C.J. Avery, for the first turnover in the new XFL.
Tough look for Drew Plitt, who gets picked off by C.J. Avery. Vegas is absolutely DOMINATING this first half.
Seems like Plitt simply didn't see Avery in coverage, throwing it right to him. First turnover in the new #XFL goes to the Vipers!pic.twitter.com/NOYnJyV10b
Arlington did catch a couple of breaks before halftime. An offensive PI call on Badet negated a big gain – and then, Bailey Giffen missed a 48 yard field goal. Heading into halftime, Vegas led 14-3.
To start the second half, the Renegades received the football. After a decent drive, the signal caller turned the rock over again. Max Roberts stripped Drew Plitt off the ball, and Vegas recovered. Early in the third, Vegas held complete control of the ball game.
Drew Plitt is having a rough go here to start for the Renegades. Another turnover results in Vegas taking over, this time on a fumble forced by Max Roberts. #XFLpic.twitter.com/9S6alz4PIb
The turnover trend continued. De’Andre Torrey was stripped of the ball by Jamal Carter, who picked it up for Arlington. While the Renegades settled for a field goal, the team had major momentum down only 14-12.
WHAT IS GOING ON?? Jamal Carter strips Torrey of the ball, and Arlington takes over.
With several minutes left in the third quarter, Vegas hangs on to a 14-12 lead, following a FG from Taylor Russolino. pic.twitter.com/BDCWvzuR7v
Interestingly enough, it seemed like nothing could go Vegas’ way in the third. The team had to punt – but, Michael Carrizosa pulled the ball back after it was almost blocked. This led to him being tackled before the first down marker, and Arlington took over with excellent field position.
To start the drive, Jordan Smallwood made an unbelievable catch, moving the chains. However, Vegas’ defense held up once again, as Taylor Russolino kicked a field goal. Just like that, Arlington led 15-14.
Vegas simply could not get it going in the second half, and had to punt again. With only one quarter to play, Arlington led 15-14.
The Vipers defense continued to play quite well, albeit the offensive missteps. Arlington marched the ball all the way down the field, even converting on fourth down.
However, the defense got four consecutive stops in the red zone. On fourth and goal, Plitt attempted to pass to Cannella, but was sacked by Vic Beasley – the former NFL pro. With under six minutes to go, the Renegades were clinging to a 15-14 lead.
VIC BEASLEY. The former NFL-Pro Linebacker putting his mark on this one, with a massive sack on Drew Plitt to end this drive.
It couldn’t go any worse for the Vipers offense, though. Luis Perez was picked off by De’Vante Bausby, who took it several yards to the end zone. After a successful PAT by De’Veon Smith, Arlington led 22-14.
De'Vante Bausby with a crushing pick six on Luis Perez. Arlington now leads 22-14 with just a few minutes to go.
No surprise to see Bausby make a big play. This guy has been doing it at a high level for years in spring football, and now the #XFL. pic.twitter.com/Jo00rshVrQ