While the backdrop the XFL’s Houston Roughnecks debut Saturday was at University of Houston’s well broken in TDECU Stadium, the feeling of something new just couldn’t be overlooked.
Wrestling kingpin Vince McMahon certainly brought the glitz for his re-imagined football league with the brand-new turf complete with the XFL logo in the center of the field, cameras swinging all across the field and drones dropping in to capture the crowd.
Oh, and the football was pretty impressive, too.
The Roughnecks overcame a sluggish first half, scoring 25 unanswered points on the way to a 37-17 win over the LA Wildcats in front of an enthusiastic crowd of nearly 18,000 at TDECU Stadium.
It was a great coming out party for this team and league that promises excitement and fun.
“(The Crowd) came out and it was actually loud,” said Roughnecks running back and kickoff returner James Butler. “It was impressive. I was out there having fun and embracing the moment, just flying around. It was just amazing to go out there and actually play in a live football game.”
Led by quarter P.J. Walker, the Roughnecks played an exciting brand of football that moved the ball through the air in June Jones’ Run-and-Shoot offense.
Walker completed 23 or 39 passes for 272 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Walker, who has spent much of the last few years on the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad, completed passes to eight different receivers.
He tossed a 50-yard touchdown strike to Cam Phillips on the third play of the game.
But it was the hard-hitting of the Roughnecks defense that completely shut the Wildcats down from late in the second quarter on.
“I feels good,” said Jones, whose team hosts the St. Louis Battlehawks on Sunday at 5 p.m. “I love Houston, No. 1. I love these kids. I was in Hamilton (Canadian Football League) for year and half and I hadn’t been on a sideline in almost a year.”
Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker is the truth. The kid has a heck of an arm and when things break down, the Temple product can make things happen with legs. You can see why the Indianapolis Colts have held onto him and you have to figure if he was taller than 5-foot-11 he would not be playing in the XFL.
There was much made of the pace of the football game being much faster due to the 25-second clock between plays. That may have mostly been noticeable to the players who had to get set up for next play a lot faster, which requires greater conditioning.
Points after touchdown
One of the most noticeable differences between the NFL game and the XFL is the points after the touchdown. In the XFL, there are no extra-point kicks. Instead, teams have the option to go for one, two or three points. This figures to become a game-changer and add to great excitement at the end of close games. The Roughnecks-Wildcats outcome was far from a nail-biter, but it was interesting to see how Jones decided whether to go for one, two or three points. His run call on the one-point conversion was stuffed. He had a mix of success going for two points from 10 yards out. The Roughnecks never attempted to go for three points.
Follow Terrance Harris on Twitter @terranceharris.