UFL 2024 Week 6 roundup: Adrian Martinez-led Stallions clinch playoff berth

Yes, the Birmingham Stallions are in the playoffs — again.

With four weeks left in the UFL season, the Stallions already clinched a postseason berth with a runaway, 39-21 victory over the Memphis Showboats (1-5) on Saturday, pushing the team’s winning streak to 13 games dating back to last season and improving to 6-0 on the year.

For the first time this season, Birmingham head coach Skip Holtz started QB Adrian Martinez in back-to-back games. Martinez didn’t disappoint, completing 64% of his passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns, both UFL-highs this year.

Wideout Kevin Austin finished with four catches for 108 yards, including an 80-yard reception for a score. Linebacker Kyahva Tezino led the Stallions with seven combined tackles.

Martinez, who’s second in the UFL in rushing yards (327) and fourth in passing yards (971), said he’ll continue to focus on the things he can control.

“For me, I’m very fortunate to play this game,” Martinez said. “I think when you come to it from a standpoint of gratitude, I’m thankful to get this opportunity for my end goal, which is to get into the NFL. And I’m fortunate that we have a great quarterback room with J’Mar Smith and Matt Corral. We all have similar goals, and we understand that it’s tough. Sometimes only one guy can play, but we all want to get to that end goal. 

“We all want to win. We all want to enjoy this experience. Some things you can control and some things you can’t, and for me, one of those things is I can come to the facility, come to the field with gratitude, and we can make sure we’re getting better.”

Here’s a closer look at some of the other storylines from Week 6.

Battlehawks‘ win sets up possible UFL championship preview

The Battlehawks won their fifth straight game this weekend, a 22-8 victory over the Houston Roughnecks (1-5), in front of a crowd of 32,969 fans at The Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis on Saturday.

Receiver Hakeem Butler had another big game, finishing with six catches for 134 yards and two scores. Butler now has a team-leading five scores on the season. 

With the win, the Battlehawks remain atop the XFL Conference standings, leading to a potential championship preview in Week 7 when they take on the USFL Conference-leading Stallions (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app).

“You want to be in games that matter.,” head coach Anthony Becht said. “You want to be in games where they (the Stallions) say they’re the best team. I think this is a game where we talk about our team, and everybody has to play well. We know who our best players are, and our best players have to show up in this game. That’s what it’s all about.”

However, Holtz took a page from his father — retired legendary Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz — declining to put any more emphasis on the weekend’s big matchup. 

“That’s the luxury that everybody else has,” Holtz said. “We call it the circus that’s going on outside the lines, and we can’t get involved in the circus. We get involved in it on Saturday night and Sunday, and when our game is over, we can look at the big picture.

“But come Sunday when our game is over and we put this thing to bed, it’s time to hit the reset button — and we can get started on Monday. This team has done a great job of doing that.”

Jake Bates drills another game winner, keeps Renegades winless 

Amid chants of “MVP” from the stands at Ford Field, Michigan’s star kicker hit a 42-yard field goal as time expired to seal a 28-27 victory over Arlington. Bates’ heroics were set up by a 45-yard kick return by Marcus Simms and helped by a defensive face mask penalty on the Renegades.

The effort was part of a 5-for-5 day on field goals for Bates, including his third field goal of 60-plus yards this season — this one from 60 yards out. Bates had a UFL-long 64-yarder to beat St. Louis in Week 1. He’s now 12 of 14 on the year and 3 of 4 from 60-plus yards. 

Bates is under contract with the UFL for the remainder of the season and can’t entertain talks with NFL teams until the season wraps, but he hopes there’s an opportunity for him at the completion of this season. For now, Bates said he’s focused on making kicks and helping his team win.

The victory kept Michigan (4-2) in second place in the USFL division, while the Renegades fell to 0-6 on the season in what was their fourth loss this season by eight points or fewer. 

Defenders reach .500 mark on Kelvin Harmon TD catch 

With the game tied at 12-all and 7:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, Chris Rowland returned a kickoff 39 yards to put the Defenders in scoring position.

Five plays later, QB Jordan Ta’amu found Harmon for an acrobatic, 13-yard touchdown on a drag route for the game-winning score, giving the Defenders an 18-12 victory over the visiting San Antonio Brahmas (4-2). 

Harmon finished with a game-high eight receptions for 101 yards. 

With the win, the Defenders improved to 3-3 on the year, just one game behind the Brahmas in the XFL Conference.

San Antonio running back John Lovett churned out a league-high 153 rushing yards in the loss. 

Houston edge rusher Chris Odom regaining playmaking ability  

Odom finished with five combined tackles, including three tackles for loss, and a sack in Week 6’s loss to St. Louis. He also had a sack negated because of a defensive holding penalty.

Working his way back from a season-ending ACL knee injury he suffered two years ago during an NFL preseason game with the Cleveland Browns, the USFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2022 is getting back to making game-changing plays on defense for Houston.

Through six games, Odom has 3.5 sacks and 17 combined tackles, including six tackles for loss. Houston held St. Louis to 22 points — the Battlehawks’ lowest offensive output since Week 1.

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him at @eric_d_williams.

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