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Stallions surge past Stars in wild finish to win USFL crown

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Quarterback Alex McGough, who was playing in relief of injured starter J'Mar Smith.
By Bryan DeArdo
www.cbssports.com

CANTON, Ohio — The USFL’s inaugural championship had everything. Great weather, a packed house, big plays and, most importantly, a thrilling game between the league’s top-two teams. The night ended with the Birmingham Stallions, the league’s top team all season, being crowned the champion after posting a 33-30 win over the Philadelphia Stars. 

Down 23-20 late, the Stallions took the lead for good on Victor Bolden’s touchdown pass from Alex McGough, who was playing in relief of injured starter J’Mar Smith. Linebacker Scooby Wright’s pick-six moments later proved to be the deciding score. Philadelphia, who also finished the game with a backup quarterback after Case Cookus injured his knee, clawed back with a late touchdown. But a missed conversion attempt after the score and a late-minute interception sealed the Stars’ fate. 

The Birmingham Stallions looked like they were in trouble with just over nine minutes left in the fourth quarter.

The Stallions had just fallen behind for the first time in the game when McGough  threw an interception off the hands of CJ Marable. That gave the Philadelphia Stars the ball and a chance to extend their lead having already scored 14 unanswered points.

“Don’t get frustrated,” Holtz said. “We’re gonna win this game.”

Holtz’s words rang true. The Stallions forced a key three-and-out and McGough responded well to his interception. He led his team on an eight-play, 64-yard touchdown drive that gave the lead back to Birmingham.

Then, linebacker Scooby Wright notched an interception on the first play of the next drive to give the Stallions a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.

As critical as Wright’s pick-six was in the Stallions’ 33-30 win over the Stars, he refused to take individual credit for it. He wouldn’t even wear the turnover chain after the big play because he wanted to celebrate the team aspect of the championship.

“Teamwork. Team, team, team,” Wright said when asked about how the Stallions won the inaugural USFL championship. “Everyone pulling their weight. Offense, defense, special teams, coaches, we all just emptied the tank.”