FOX Sports National College Football Analyst
Close observers of the USFL — which I’m guilty of — I’ve been trying to tell anyone with ears to listen and a heart to receive that the best ballplayer in any league playing football this spring is a man from Florida with long hair and a smile Electric enough to light Magic City for at least a week.
We modern-day USFL fans would tell them, bless them, to play on the dog days of April, May and June, but there’s no one quite like Alex McGough.
It’s one thing for Joel Klatt to call McGough artistic. is another for birmingham stallions coach Skip Holtz to compare his quarterback’s game to that of the Rembrandt painting. Not really.
“I think what he does on the field is brilliant,” Holtz said. “I mean he’s absolutely artistic and amazing with what he’s doing right now with his mind and what you see out in the field and everything. Yeah, I’d like to keep them healthy. But I also know he’s painting this absolute Rembrandt.” “
Highlights: McGough, Stallions defeat Breakers
We who proselytize and witness the fantastic feats taking place in the cathedrals of Protector Stadium, Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, Ford Field Stadium and Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, urge you not to give back to McGough, lest he break it, as he did. he New Orleans Breakers in a 47-22 victory on Sunday to win the Southern Division Championship and be one win away from clinching a back-to-back USFL championship.
“It’s one of the best I’ve ever had,” Holtz said immediately after the game. “He’s my offensive coordinator right now.”
And it felt like McGough wasn’t just an OC on the field, but was playing high school football in a professional football league, running around, making plays every which way, but losing to the Breakers.
New Orleans coach John DeFilippo knew McGough was capable of these types of plays because he had seen McGough practice and prepare. McGough was a quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars when DeFilippo was the quarterbacks coach in Jacksonville.
“So I know Alex very well. I mean he would sit in the boardroom every day. I’ll tell you I’m proud of Alex, I really am. I know he kicked our butts tonight, but there’s a part of me As his coach, I’m very proud of him.”
The glow was happening before their eyes, before our eyes. McGough made several plays Sunday that made it clear he was reaching that higher level, where your mind, body and soul must be one.
Maybe it was when McGough put Anree Saint-Amour, a Breakers defensive end who had six sacks in the 10-week regular season, on skids, escaped the bench, and then leaned into a crowd of Stallions fans who they supported him.
And the “Giddy up!” after every first opportunity he ran through the crowd like a shepherd who has just asked, “Can I get an Amen?”
Maybe it was when McGough found wide receiver Davion Davis wide open on a back-breaking, 13-play, 88-yard drive that lasted less than four minutes to put the Stallions up 25-7 in the first half.
That sound you heard at halftime was the Stallions faithfully catching the Holy Spirit.
Maybe it was when Skip Holtz made his first performance in professional football: he picked up the touch screen, sat down next to McGough and analyzed what McGough saw and what he could improve, and conveyed his faith and commitment to his quarterback, all online. on live Tv. He not only coached his quarterback, but also every viewer of the FOX broadcast, a first in television history.
But it was definitely when the Stallion offense came out to start the second half, scored and saw the defense respond with a second pick by McLeod Bethel-Thompson, a quarterback who had led the Toronto Argonauts to the League’s Gray Cup. Canadian Soccer. McGough then rushed for a TD, his fourth touchdown of the day, capping a seventh straight scoring drive for the Stallions.
The Breakers managed a couple of touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Still, the game was out of reach for New Orleans by then. It wasn’t just that the Stallions’ offense didn’t stop scoring, it’s that former SEC defensive coordinator John Chavis and his defense recalled giving up 45 in a loss to New Orleans earlier this season and chose to hold a grudge. . With the return of former All-American linebacker Scooby Wright to the lineup for the first time since Week 4, the Stallions generated almost as many turnovers (two) as they allowed touchdowns (three).
And through it all, Holtz’s relationship with his quarterback was on display.
“He plays for the players,” McGough told me. “That gives us confidence and makes us want to go out there and play harder.”
A few weeks ago, following a 27-24 win, Holtz told me how much McGough, perhaps the league’s MVP, has grown into the kind of quarterback he envisioned when he made the first pick out of McGough the Stallions in the 2022 USFL Draft.
“In practice a couple of times here in the last few weeks, I call a play and he’s leaning over,” Holtz said. “When he leans over, I can see that he’s thinking about the play in his head, because he has to have an idea of what’s going on. If he can’t see it, I’m not going to call him. So my job is to make sure that sits well with whatever we’re running. And I think it’s better to call a play that you’re comfortable with than just play to attack the defense.”
Other coaches around the league have also taken note.
Houston Gamblers coach Curtis Johnson said, “He (McGough) is like spaghetti sauce. He makes everything go right.”
Philadelphia Stars coach Bart Andrus, who led his team to the USFL title game last season, praised McGough’s ability to solve problems.
“If someone lets him extend the play, he’ll call. And we did,” he said.
So did the Breakers. The last time the Breakers would see the lead was when they led 7-3 in the first quarter. After that, it was all “Ragu” McGough.
By the fourth quarter on Sunday, the Stallions led the Breakers 40-7, in a demonstration of why Birmingham has the most productive offense in the USFL, with the best player in the USFL behind center. His offensive outburst was not unpredictable.
The Stallions put up 42 on the Memphis Showboats in Week 2.
And his last five games of the regular season look like this: 27 points in Week 10, 38 in Week 9, 27 in Week 8, 24 in Week 7 and 27 in Week 6. At halftime of the NBA Championship South Division, the Stallions had already had 26 points before getting the ball back to open the second half.
McGough, who became the only quarterback selected by the Seattle Seahawks during the Russell Wilson era (7th round, 2018), had 300 or more total yards with at least two touchdowns for the third time in his last four games. At the start of the Southern Division title game, he had already been responsible for 25 touchdowns, 10 more than the second-ranked (Case Cookus, 15).
And then he put together one of his best performances in the biggest game the Stallions have played all season. He eventually got the hook with just over two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but not before he tallied 394 total yards, including 21 of 31 for 310 passing, with five total TDs. He became the first player in the modern USFL era to pass for 300 yards and rush for 75 in the same game. And the Stallions have scored more points in a game than any other team in the past two years.
The Stallions offered over 500 yards and finished the night with the starting quarterback with the WWE title belt on the sidelines.
That’s in somewhat contrast to when McGough played every play of the Stallions’ Week 10 matchup against the Showboats, even though the Stallions had already clinched the regular-season division title and home-field advantage for the Championship Game. of the South Division. And there was never a thought, from him anyway, that he should sit out anywhere in the last game of the season to stay healthy and recover before Sunday night.
“We didn’t want to go back to the playoffs,” McGough told me on “The Number One College Football Show.” “We didn’t want to go limping in there.”
No, they came in looking to kick ass.
RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The number one college football show.Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young and Subscribe to “The Number One College Football Show” on YouTube.
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