Bob Stoops’ team upsets league-best squad to win XFL championship

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Bob Stoops is a champion again.

The longtime Oklahoma football coach guided the Arlington Renegades to the XFL title Saturday, defeating the league-best D.C. Defenders 35-26 in the championship game played at San Antonio’s Alamodome.

Arlington went just 4-6 in the regular season, but that was enough to secure the second playoff spot in the South Division. They took down the 7-3 Houston Roughnecks in the divisional playoff before upsetting the Defenders, who went 9-1 in the regular season, in the title game.

Stoops, who won the 2000 national championship at Oklahoma, praised his team’s ‘hard work and the way we’ve turned our season around.’

“The assistant coaches and the players really deserve the credit. They’ve stuck together, they’ve hung together and here towards the end of the year we’ve really hit our stride at the right time,’ Stoops said.

The victory concludes the first season of XFL version 3.0.

‘I think what this first season of the XFL has proven to us as owners, to the football community whom we embrace because we love the game of football — it has proven that we can do it. We can do this. We can create, in time, day-by-day, the best spring football league in the world,’ league co-owner Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson said in an interview before kickoff.

Here’s how the Renegades won the XFL title:

First quarter

Arlington scored on its first possession, when Luis Perez connected with Sal Cannella for a 41-yard touchdown, then forced a three-and-out when the Defenders’ Josh Hammond was unable to corral a pass from Jordan Ta’amu. A holding penalty on the Renegades’ ensuing drive wiped out Kelly Bryant’s rushing touchdown, but Arlington overcame the setback in the waning moments of the first quarter when Perez connected with Tyler Vaughns on a 9-yard touchdown to cap the 8-minute, 45-second drive. A successful two-point conversion pushed the Renegades’ lead to 14-0.

The first quarter stats were about as lopsided as you’ll ever see. Arlington ran 24 plays to D.C.’s four, had an eye-opening 174 to -1 advantage in total yards and held the ball for 12:47 of the opening 15 minutes.

Second quarter

D.C. finally put a drive together, stringing three first downs together after Arlington held a 10-0 advantage in that department in the first quarter, but the drive ended when Joe Powell intercepted Ta’amu’s tipped ball in the end zone.

The Renegades took another 6:50 off the clock on the ensuing drive, but were forced to settle for a field goal to extend the lead to 17-0.

Scary moment in second quarter

There was a significant delay in the second quarter following a scary collision on the sideline between Hammond and a photographer. The photographer was attended to by trainers and medical personnel and was eventually placed on a backboard and carted off the field.

The Defenders finally got into the end zone when play resumed, capping off the 10-play drive on Abram Smith’s rushing touchdown with 32 seconds to go. Arlington managed to get another field goal before halftime to go into the break with a 20-6 advantage.

Third quarter

Smith further cut into the deficit, to 20-12, with a 52-yard touchdown on the Defenders’ first possession of the second half. But Arlington extended the lead back to 14 points as Leddie Brown finished off a 12-play, 71-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown run.

After exchanging punts, the Defenders scored again as Ta’amu and Hammond connected on a 72-yard bomb to cut the deficit back to 26-20 with nine seconds to go in the quarter. A personal foul penalty, combined with an illegal kick penalty on the kickoff, though, helped set Arlington up in great field position and they immediately took advantage as Perez hit Brown for a 30-yard touchdown and 32-20 lead as the third quarter concluded.

Fourth quarter

Ta’amu was picked off again on the Defenders’ next drive as Brandon Rusnak made an acrobatic play.

Arlington turned that into another field goal for a 35-20 lead then bled a lot of clock with a lengthy drive following a D.C. three-and-out. A fumble gave the Defenders the ball back and Hammond scored a 23-yard touchdown with a great catch and run to cut the deficit to 35-26 with 1:17 to go.

D.C. went for it on fourth-and-15 after the score in order to try to maintain possession — one of the XFL’s many quirky rules — but Ta’amu was picked off again.

Ta’amu, the XFL’s offensive player of the year, went 16-for-30 for 245 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Perez was named the game’s MVP, after going 26-for-36 for 288 yards and three touchdowns.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY