Arlington Renegades fall to Houston Roughnecks in preview of XFL South Division Championship


© Alex Bierens de Haan/XFL

The Houston Roughnecks take on the Arlington Renegades at Choctaw Stadium on April 23rd, 2023 in Arlington, TX. (© Alex Bierens de Haan/XFL)

By Charles Baggarly

ARLINGTON – The Arlington Renegades (4-6) and Houston Roughnecks (7-3) have already punched their ticket to the XFL playoffs. Still, both teams had to close out the regular season at Choctaw Stadium on Sunday.

In a preview of the South Division Championship at TDECU Stadium in Houston on Saturday, the Renegades lost to the Roughnecks 25-9. Arlington head coach Bob Stoops said the bottom line was that the Roughnecks thoroughly outplayed the Renegades.

“A tough game out there for us today,” Stoops said. “Big congrats to coach [Wade] Phillips and his group, staff and team. They really out-coached us and played us through the game.”

Regardless of the situation, Stoops said the Renegades didn’t do anything well in all parts of the game.

“It didn’t matter what quarterback [the Roughnecks] played,” Stoops said. “They moved the ball on us. I think we forced one punt the entire day. So not very good. Not what we’ve been doing anyway.”

After the loss, Arlington is two games below .500 and will rematch the Roughnecks, who have never lost to the Renegades in franchise history. If Sunday’s game is any indication as to what will happen in the South Division Championship, the Renegades are in for a tough time.

The lopsided result creates a steep mountain for the Renegades to summit, but one day of winning football on Saturday can punch a ticket to the 2023 XFL Championship.

“We could put it together for one big game down in Houston this coming weekend, and you’ve got a shot at it,” Stoops said. “Remember that old saying, ‘So, you’re telling me I’ve got a chance?’ You know, so there’s a lot to that.”

The Renegade offense struggles to score

In the first half, the Renegades relied on kicker Taylor Russolino, who recorded all nine of the team’s points; Arlington failed to score an offensive touchdown in the contest.

Russolino converted a 56-yard field goal to put the Renegades on the board and a 36-yard field goal to cut into the lead.

In the closing moments of the first half, Arlington faced a first down on Houston’s one-yard line after a red zone penalty. The Renegades made three attempts to score, failing to gain the sole yard needed. Quarterback Luis Perez, on third down, made an accurate pass to wide receiver LuJuan Winningham, who dropped the potential touchdown.

The Renegades, once again, turned to Russolino, who converted his third field goal of the half, a 19-yarder.

Stoops called the Renegades execution near the end zone terrible, and added the points from field goals could be the difference in a game. Due to the results of past games, Stoops elected to turn to Russolino.

“I don’t have any confidence to go for it,” Stoops said. “And through the year we haven’t made [fourth down conversions].”

Meanwhile, the Roughneck offense scored touchdowns on two of three drives but missed extra point opportunities helped to limit the damage. Houston took a 12-9 lead into the half.

As the game continued, it was clear the Renegades needed more than field goals to carve into the lead. Although the Roughneck offense took a step back after the first two scoring drives, they did just enough to drain the clock and secure the lead.

After a Roughneck field goal, a pick six from Tavante Beckett halted the Renegades’ momentum. Another Roughneck field goal was the nail in the coffin.

“We’ve got to do a better job in our execution, and that’s what the biggest thing is for us,” Stoops said. “And it’s been been a headache that way for most of the year.”

The Roughnecks rushing game thrived. Houston accumulated 196 rushing yards on 31 attempts while Arlington tallied 55 on 21 attempts.

Perez finished the game with 205 passing yards, completing 61% of his attempts.

Stoops said Perez’s game “wasn’t great” but mentioned there were other variables that limited his performance.

“[Perez] had some drops on him you know, he got pressured in some cases,” Stoops said. “… So we’ve got to help him more as an offensive staff. Receivers got to catch balls when they have opportunities. We’ve had several drops out there.”

Even though Perez didn’t have the best performance, he said it was good to play against the Roughneck defense prior to the South Division Championship.

“You kind of know their tendencies,” Perez said. “You start seeing, you know, different things. So again, we gotta go back and watch the film and details and see what it’s about.”