The Los Angeles Wildcats’ season has been a bumpy ride so far this year. After losses to Houston and Dallas, LA had high hopes after a convincing win in week three against the undefeated DC Defenders 39-9 on Feb. 23. However, they were out-kicked 17-14 by the New York Guardians on Feb. 29.
The Wildcats began the inaugural XFL season with a tough loss to the still undefeated Houston Roughnecks 37-17. They were dominated by the best team in the league in every category. Total yards were 315-289, with yards per play at 3.0, compared to Houston’s 5.1. LA did have an advantage in first downs 20-17. But the defense were unable to hold the potent Houston offense in the second half.
Houston scored the first touchdown of the game before LA took the lead 14-6 with two touchdowns. LA continued to lead 17-12, until giving up a touchdown just before halftime 18-17. The second half was completely controlled by Houston as they shut out the Wildcats.
LA’s head coach, Winston Moss, had to make a drastic change in the defense and fired defensive coordinator Pepper Johnson.
Week two against the Dallas Renegades was much more competitive but also resulted in a 25-18 loss on Feb. 16. Stats showed that LA was overwhelmed as Dallas nearly doubled LA in total yards 444-240, with yards per play advantage of 4.8 to 3.7. Dallas outperformed LA both in rushing yards 154-57 and passing yards 290-183.
LA made an enormous turnaround in week three, blowing out the DC Defenders 39-9. It was a tale of two teams, as the winless Wildcats manhandled the undefeated team from the nation’s capitol. LA had a small edge in stats over DC in yards 334-290. But there was no doubt LA dominated the game on the scoreboard.
LA’s running back, Martez Carter, had a spectacular game with three touchdowns. Carter started the game after Elijah Hood had struggled in the first two weeks. Coach Winston Moss plans to continue to have several running backs share the load.
Los Angeles quarterback Josh Johnson had his best game, completing 278 yards. He’s a former NFL quarterback with hopes of returning if successful in the XFL. Johnson has stated the XFL provides opportunities for players who feel like they’ve been overlooked by the NFL.
LA’s passing defense was exceptional, as two cornerbacks started due to injuries and held DC to 90 yards. The Wildcats were able to shut down the opponent’s attack by intercepting four passes. This win was Moss’s first victory as a head coach.
In week four, Los Angeles travelled to New York on Feb. 29 to face the Guardians. LA had the advantage in yards gained 345-250, but lost by a field goal 17-14. Most of LA’s yards came through the air 305-128, but lost the ground battle 122-40. Still, LA was able to average 5.7 yards per play to 2.7 yards by NY. The one interception by LA had a big impact in stopping a late comeback drive.
However, the biggest difference was the kicking game. NY’s kicker, Matt McCrane made three field goals from distances of 51, 23, and 47 yards. The last field goal broke a tie in the fourth quarter to give NY the final lead at 17-14. LA’s kicking game however was disappointing with an attempt blocked in the third quarter. LA’s kicker, Nick Novak, also had an opportunity to tie the game in the fourth quarter with 8:06 remaining, but the 44-yard attempt went wide to the right and missed.
In the post-game interview, LA Wildcats’ head Coach Moss had this to say: “I thought we had a breakthrough. After meeting with the guys, and there were some emotions. … We’re at a crossroads, and I think that with the heart and character, the Wildcat way will show itself strong moving forward. I think this loss is actually going to help us move forward for the rest of the season.”
LA returns home this week on March 8 against the Tampa Bay Vipers. Kickoff is at 6pm, PST. Watch it live or on ESPN. For more information on the LA Wildcats and the rest of the XFL visit xfl.com.