XFL Week 1 Highlights Game Recaps Top Players Whats New

XFL Week 1: Highlights, Game Recaps, Top Players, What’s New

ESPN Staff 11:00 PM ET14 Minute Read

Michael Joseph flips into the end zone after a DC pick-six

DC’s Michael Joseph gets away with an interception, returns it for a touchdown and celebrates with a flip.

The football season continued this weekend as the XFL made its debut with Saturday’s game between the Vegas Vipers and the Arlington Renegades at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington, Texas. This is the third iteration of the XFL following the original season in 2001 and a 2020 restart that was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

XFL 2023 started quickly, with the Renegades defeating the Vipers 22-20 and recovering from a 14-3 halftime deficit with 19 straight points before repelling Vegas’ 2-point conversion attempt with eight seconds left. The Houston Roughnecks rolled over the Orlando Guardians in the late game and scored four straight first-half goals to break an early deficit in a 33-12 win.

Sunday began with a thrill as the Battlehawks used a 3-point conversion and a fourth-and-15 conversion to keep the ball in an 18-15 comeback win over the San Antonio Brahmas. The DC Defenders ended Week 1 with a comeback win of their own over the Seattle Sea Dragons, forcing a late fumble in Seattle to earn the 22-18 win.

All XFL games are streamed live on ESPN+ and are available on ESPN family networks (ABC, ESPN and FX).

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The games on Sunday

Michael Joseph made two passes for the Defenders (1-0) to turn a game that the Sea Dragons had controlled. He returned one for a 15-yard touchdown to put the Defenders at 18:16 and then knocked out Seattle quarterback Ben DiNucci early in the fourth quarter. Joseph’s second pick gave DC a 14 lead at the Sea Dragons, with D’Eriq King giving the defenders the lead on a five-yard touchdown run two games later. DC then held Seattle on the final drive, retrieving a DiNucci fumble at the DC 4-yard line with 19 seconds left.

D’Eriq King pockets it to put the defenders ahead

DC QB D’Eriq King calls his own number, rushes to the center and scores a touchdown to put the defenders ahead.

The Sea Dragons rolled early and scored on their first two drives to take an early 9-0 lead. DiNucci finished the first drive with a 6-yard backhand flick to receiver Josh Gordon — a former All-Pro with the Cleveland Browns — for a touchdown. DiNucci threw 282 yards on 35-of-54 passes while Gordon hauled in six catches for 74 yards.

Ben DiNucci scoops past Josh Gordon for Sea Dragons TD

Seattle QB Ben DiNucci sneaks a scoop pass to Josh Gordon in the end zone for an early touchdown.

The Sea Dragons lead grew to 18-8 in the third quarter after a 13-yard touchdown run by Brenden Know and a matching three-point conversion run by DiNucci. But that’s when the DC crowd started to make an impact.

The defenders won despite gaining just 175 yards on offense. They forced three turnovers, Joseph’s two interceptions and defenseman Jamal Brooks’ late fumble recovery.

The Battlehawks failed to get going for more than three quarters as San Antonio took a 15-3 lead with 3:02 left. But St. Louis rallied behind former NFL quarterback AJ McCarron, who shook off five sacks. He threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Hakeem Butler with a 1:25 left, then hit Austin Proehl with a 10-yard 3-point conversion to level the score at 15-12.

St. Louis opted for a fourth-and-15 conversion in lieu of an onside kick, and McCarron once again found Proehl to retain possession. McCarron and Proehl met again for 14 yards to win the game. With 16 seconds left, the Battlehawks (1-0) gave the unlikely win.

Battlehawks score 15 points in the final minutes to stun the Brahmas

The Battlehawks come back from 15-3 in the last two minutes and edge the Brahmas 18-15.

McCarron went 11 of 14 for 133 yards and two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter.

The Brahmas (0-1) dominated most of the game, taking a 15-3 lead thanks to a 4-yard touchdown pass from Jack Coan to Fred Brown in the fourth quarter and three field goals. Coan threw for 207 yards on 25 of 36 passes with a touchdown and an interception, while former NFL running back Kalen Ballage rushed for 84 yards on 24 carries.

Fred Brown drags in Brahmas’ TD

Jack Coan joins Fred Brown for the point as the Brahmas extend their lead to 12-3 over the Battlehawks.

The games on Saturday

Houston’s defense dominated Orlando as the Roughnecks registered seven sacks to Guardians quarterbacks Paxton Lynch and Quinten Dormady, overcoming an early touchdown to set the tone. The Guardians (0-1) scored the first goal when receiver Cody Latimer – who played with Lynch for the Denver Broncos – beat a Roughnecks defensive back by a 27-yard touchdown reception in the first series of the game.

Orlando Guardians score first TD on review

Paxton Lynch connects with Cody Latimer, who is rewarded with the Guardians first touchdown after verification.

But the Roughnecks (1-0) dominated from there thanks to four sacks from linebacker Trent Harris and two from defensive end Tim Ward. This allowed Houston to break out for 24 unanswered points, 21 of which came from four consecutive possessions in the first half. Roughnecks quarterback Brandon Silvers threw two touchdown passes, a 10-yarder to Jontre Kirklin for Houston’s first hit and a 46-yarder to Deontay Burnett, which saw the former NFL receiver catch it with one hand and pull it away for the touchdown.

Deontay Burnett grabs a one-handed TD for the roughnecks

Roughnecks QB Brandon Silvers praises it to Deontay Burnett, who makes a one-handed hold for a touchdown.

Houston running back Max Borghi also ran for a 27-yard touchdown.

Orlando broke the Houston scoring run in the fourth quarter with a 51-yard touchdown pass from Dormady to Andrew Jamiel, but a fumbled punt late in the fourth quarter dashed any hopes of a Guardians comeback as the turnover ended in a 5th -yard touchdown was operated by Houston backup quarterback Cole McDonald.

Silvers led the roughnecks, throwing for 265 yards and two touchdowns on 26-of-42 passing with two interceptions. Burnett had eight receptions for 88 yards while Kirklin had five catches for 66 yards. Lynch led Orlando with 136 yards on 15-of-21 passing.

After a difficult first half, the Renegades grabbed 12 points from two Vegas turnovers in the third quarter to take the lead and held on to the 1-0 lead. Arlington’s defense dominated second-half action, highlighted by two pick-sixes. Defensive tackle Tomasi Laulile marked the run in the third quarter with a 22-yard touchdown return after a faulty pass from Vegas quarterback Luis Perez, while cornerback De’Vante Bausby had a 4-yard interception return for one in the fourth quarter TD met. The Renegades’ D was also big eight seconds from time when TJ Barnes sacked Perez on a potentially game-changing 2-point conversion attempt.

Arlington’s Tomasi Laulile hits an electric pick six

Arlington’s Tomasi Laulile jumps in front of the receiver, intercepts the pass and returns it for a touchdown.

Bausby’s pick came after the Vipers (0-1) briefly stopped the Renegades in a fourth and scoring situation from the 1. Vegas held Arlington’s offense from the end zone as the Renegades settled for three field goals from Taylor Russolino, the third, to give the Renegades the lead to stay long in the third quarter.

The first half went much better for the Vipers, who scored on two touchdown passes from Perez to receiver Jeff Badet to take a 14-3 lead at halftime. Perez hit Badet with a 5-yard scoring pass on the game’s first possession and then connected with the former Oklahoma receiver on a 39-yard score in the second quarter. Perez tossed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Cinque Sweeting with 14 seconds left. Perez threw for 249 yards on 22 of 36 passes with three touchdown passes and two interceptions, while Badet had six receptions for 81 yards.

Jeff Badet grabs the first XFL TD of the season

Luis Perez dodges the pressure and finds Jeff Badet for the goal as the Vipers take a 6-0 lead over the Renegades.

Arlington quarterback Drew Plitt threw 172 yards on 19-of-25 passing with an interception while Sal Cannella caught seven passes for 70 yards.