By Eric D Williams
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – For Michigan Panther Head coach Jeff Fisher made the decision for kicker Michael Carrizosa Trying to play a 21-yard field goal to win the game was easy.
“Your kicker has to do that kick,” Fisher said. “That’s not even a PAT.”
Unfortunately for Fisher’s Panthers, Carrizosa’s attempt bounced off the left post and wide left, allowing the Philadelphia Stars to survive with a 26-25 win over Michigan in a Friday night contest at Protective Stadium that continued into early Saturday morning.
Case Cookus, Philadelphia Stars survive Wild One vs. Michigan
The Philadelphia Stars defeated the Michigan Panthers, 26-25, with help from Case Cookus’ passing game. The Michigan Panthers missed a potential game-winning field goal after time ran out.
Philadelphia head coach Bart Andrus said he was considering letting the Panthers score a touchdown so his offense could get the ball back, but decided against it.
“The boy hit the post,” Andrus said. “We had two of these last week; I don’t know if the ball contains magnets or what (laughs). John Madden called them ‘Doinks’. And we had our share of ‘Doinks’ this year. I feel bad for the kid, but that’s how it happens.”
With the win, the Stars improved to 2-2 overall while the Panthers fell to 1-3.
Fisher ran back Reggie Corbin five times in a row to put Carrizosa in chip-shot territory at the 3-yard line. The Stars had just taken a field goal of their own, a 21-yarder from Matt Mengel that ended the evening 4-5 by field goals by a point.
Mengal’s field goal was set up by a punt fumbled by Joe Walker, and Philadelphia’s Bradley Sylve recovered at the Michigan 13-yard line for a 7-29 score
In his first start since playing college in Northern Arizona three years ago, Case Cookus made the most of it. Cookus replaced the injured Bryan Scott and finished the game 22-30 for 190 yards with two touchdown passes and an interception.
“I’m always ready”, Cookus. “Something can always happen. You can’t be the guy who comes in and isn’t ready to roll. Just last week I had this bad taste in my mouth that I couldn’t pull out for the team.”
The game featured four lead changes, six turnovers, and 34 points from those turnovers. There were only two punts in the entire game.
While Cookus shone, Panthers quarterback Shea Patterson put in an uneven performance. The University of Michigan product finished 9-for-17 for just 67 yards with a touchdown pass and three interceptions.
Despite struggling to get a lot through the air, Patterson rushed for 79 yards and a score.
“He completely turned the field around and kept us in the game with his legs,” Fisher said. “He made some key shots. The touchdown pass was a good throw so we’ll just keep trying to improve every day.”
Cookus led the Stars early in the game with a 14-play scoring drive for 55 yards, topped by a 21-yard field goal from Mengel that gave Philadelphia a 3-0 lead. Cookus finished the drive for 27 yards 6-for-8 and completed passes to five different receivers.
The Panthers had kept opponents scoreless for six straight quarters before Philadelphia scored.
The Panthers also moved the football on their first possession of the game. However, Patterson made an ill-advised throw, leaping to the right and throwing himself over his body. Philadelphia’s Channing Stribling intercepted the submission ball for Lance Lenoir Jr. in the end zone.
On Philadelphia’s second possession, Cookus delivered a 39-yard shot to Devin Gray via safety for the score, taking Philadelphia’s lead to 10-0.
iPad glitch: Fall Cookus connects with Devin Gray
Case Cookus connects down the middle with Devin Gray for a 39-yard touchdown for the Philadelphia Stars, then gives a game breakdown via iPad!
The Panthers then scored 17 straight points and took the lead.
Corbin returned a kick 45 yards. That big play set up a 22-yard field goal from Carrizosa and cut Philadelphia’s lead to 10-3 — Michigan’s first points by kick this season.
The Panthers maintained the momentum, with defenseman Sean Williams forcing a Paul Terry fumble that was recovered by defenseman Cavon Walker. Patterson converted the turnover into points in a skillful 9-yard scramble for a score.
However, Carrizosa missed the extra point wide left, leaving the Panthers 10-9 in the first half with 5:27 left.
Cookus then made his first big mistake of the night with 2:44 left, a route error with Jordan Suell that resulted in Williams intercepting the erroneous throw at Michigan’s 12-yard line.
It wasn’t long before Michigan made Philadelphia count, and Corbin shook loose on a zone run for a USFL-record 88 yards and gave the Panthers a 17-10 lead after Stevie Scott scored the two-point conversion on one had run inside.
With the run, Corbin went for 100 yards for a second straight week.
The Stars leveled the score at the end of the first half to 17-all when Cookus found Diondre Overton in the middle of the field for a 41-yard TD.
Corbin’s record run
Michigan running back Corbin had another strong day, finishing with 152 yards in 12 rushes, including the league’s best 88-yard rush for a first-half score.
The University of Illinois product ran for 100 yards for the second straight week and helped the Panthers land a total of 251 yards on the ground.
Michigan Panthers’ Reggie Corbin shines
Reggie Corbin had a great day for the Michigan Panthers as he rushed for 152 yards and a touchdown.
Cookus throws his body around
With just one healthy quarterback, Cookus might consider taking some gliding lessons.
Cookus put up 35 rushing yards and took a few hits to move the chains at critical moments of the game.
The QB isn’t known for his running ability but said he’ll take advantage of the open space if defense gives him the opportunity to run.
“At the time I did it, I was helping cheer for the team by getting some first downs,” Cookus said. “I didn’t do it in the first half. I’m trying to pick and choose.”
Bryan Scott traveled back to his hometown of Los Angeles to have his family doctor perform a procedure to remove floats in his injured knee.
Andrus said the QB is expected to be out for three weeks and he will not add another quarterback to the roster. Instead, the Stars will go with receiver Maurice Alexander Jr. as a backup quarterback. Alexander played quarterback at Florida International University.
Fisher said he hopes Paxton Lynch can train next week. The QB watched the game from the touchline with a boot on his left foot.
Philadelphia cornerback Mazzi Wilkins left the game with a first-half ankle injury but was cleared for a second-half return. Stribling left the game in the second half and did not return due to a leg injury. Cody Brown suffered a right leg injury late in the fourth quarter.
Eric D. Williams has been covering 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 on Twitter @eric_d_williams.
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