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Thursday, April 9, 2020

Sports

Roughnecks rough up BattleHawks in win as Walker-Phillips duo shines


Quarterback P.J. Walker has taken the XFL by storm in the first two games, scoring a league-best seven touchdowns in the first two games, which had fans at TDECU Stadium chanting "MVP" right before the second half started against the BattleHawks on Sunday evening. | Kathryn Lenihan/The Cougar

Quarterback P.J. Walker has taken the XFL by storm in the first two games, scoring a league-best seven touchdowns in the first two games, which had fans at TDECU Stadium chanting “MVP” right before the second half started against the BattleHawks on Sunday evening. | Kathryn Lenihan/The Cougar

The Roughnecks won their second game of the season 28-24 over the BattleHawks as quarterback P.J. Walker dazzled spectators again with his performance on Sunday evening at TDECU Stadium.

From escaping defenders on the verge of getting a sack to throwing the football sidearmed like a baseball, the one thing that has stood out in the first two games outside of Walker’s performance has been the connection between wide receiver Cam Phillips, which continues to be the most dynamic duo in the XFL as they linked up for three touchdowns in Sunday’s win.

“It comes from practice, and taking it really seriously,” Phillips said.” P.J. (excels) at just trying to keep things alive and keeping his eyes down the field, he doesn’t really want to run, so having those traits as a quarterback (works for him) really well.”

All three of Sunday’s touchdowns came on goal-to-go situations. The pairing has combined for four touchdowns through the first two games in the 2020 season.

Walker on his own has stood out as arguably the league’s best signal-caller through the first two games, leading the XFL with seven passing touchdowns, which is more than two franchises have total in the young season.

The Roughnecks’ offense, however, has not been the only unit making plays. Houston’s defense forced two key takeaways on BattleHawks quarterback Jordan Ta’Amu, who finished the game with 284 passing yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, which helped seal the win.

The second pick by the defense came on a drive that could have potentially set-up a go-ahead score or at the least tied the game at 21, but instead led to a 2-yard touchdown from Phillips.

“No question that was the biggest play of the game,” Roughnecks head coach June Jones said.

Cornerback Jeremiah Johnson was the player who intercepted the pass for Houston, and even though his play helped out the team in a big way, it still didn’t stop his teammates from getting at him for falling short of returning the turnover for a touchdown.

“I was tired; I ain’t even going to lie,” Johnson said. “I (definitely) heard about it once I got to the sidelines.”

Though teammates are willing to call out each other, they share a bond that pushes one another to improve every day.

“We have a hard-working group. At times, we get into fights at practice still just because guys are trying to get better,” Phillips said. “I’m a fan of it just because competing against each other and then with each other just makes (winning) that much sweeter.”

Houston is currently alone as the No. 1 team in the West division at 2-0.

The Roughnecks are set to go on the road for the next two contests and will not play again at TDECU Stadium until March 7.

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