USFL Week 3: Tampa Bay Bandits escape Houston Gamblers

Week 3 of the USFL season kicked off Saturday with a heavyweight matchup between the Houston Gamblers and the Tampa Bay Banditswho narrowly escaped with the win to stay above .500.

Here are the top moments between Tampa Bay and Houston:

Tampa Bay Bandits 27, Houston Gamblers 26

Don’t blink!

The Bandits came out swinging in this one, finding the end zone with ease on their opening drive.

Jordan Ta’amu found WR Derrick Dillon for a monster 64-yard touchdown to kick things off.

Bandits’ Jordan Ta’amu, Derrick Dillon connect for SPEEDY 64-yard TD

Bandits' Jordan Ta'amu, Derrick Dillon connect for SPEEDY 64-yard TD

The Tampa Bay Bandits strike first against the Houston Gamblers, thanks to Derrick Dillon’s 64-yard touchdown reception from QB Jordan Ta’amu.

Houston responds

The Gamblers kept the Bandits within arm’s reach early after Nick Vogel nailed a 46-yard field goal to make it a four-point midway game through the first quarter.

Just how they drew it up

On Houston’s ensuing drive, QB Clayton Thorson connected with wideout Anthony Ratliff-Williams for a 43-yard reception that turned into one of the most outrageous TDs of the season.

Ratliff-Williams fumbled the ball in the red zone, but a lucky bounce put it right back in his hands and he took it rest of the way to the house for the score.

Gamblers score one of the wildest TDs of the USFL season

Gamblers score one of the wildest TDs of the USFL season

Gamblers’ QB Clayton Thorson hits Anthony Ratliff-Williams deep over the middle for the 43-yd reception, who then fumbles and takes it all the way for the touchdown.

Just like that, the Gamblers led 10-7 to close out the first quarter.

Off to the races

Houston picked up right where it left off in the second quarter, snagging another score on the first play of the Gamblers’ opening drive of the frame.

RB Mark Thompson turned on the jets and took off for a 55-yard TD – the longest run of the USFL season.

Mark Thompson breaks loose for a 55-yard rushing TD

Mark Thompson breaks loose for a 55-yard rushing TD

Thompson was off to the races for a 55-yard score to increase the Gamblers’ lead.

The Gamblers held a double-digit lead after Thompson’s monster rush, 17-7.

Returning the favor

The Bandits answered right right back with a score of their own on the following drive, as RB Juwan Washington cashed in the middle for a 13-yard score to close the gap, 17-14.

Juwan Washington gets SHIFTY, walks in for WILD touchdown

Juwan Washington gets SHIFTY, walks in for WILD touchdown

The Bandits get seven more points on the board against the Gamblers, thanks to Juwan Washington’s shifty rushing TD in the second quarter.

What could have been

The Bandits nearly took the lead late in the second frame, but Tampa Bay came up just short.

Ta’amu connected with WR Rashard Davis at Houston’s 5-yard line, but as Davis launched himself into the end zone, the ball popped out after hitting the pylon.

It was deemed a fumble on Davis’ behalf after review, resulting in a touchback.

Making moves

The Gamblers made the most of the turnover, snagging another score on the next possession, thanks to a short reception from Isaiah Zuber.

Gamblers’ Thorson throws off back foot for a 16-yard TD

Gamblers' Thorson throws off back foot for a 16-yard TD

Clayton Thorson throws off his back foot to Isaiah Zuber on the near side for the Gamblers ’third touchdown of the first half, this time connecting for 16 yards.

Not on their watch

The Bandits’ defense came up with a huge stop headed into halftime, picking off Thorson in the end zone on Houston’s final play of the first half.

The Gamblers led 23-14 at the break.

Coming through!

Ta’amu picked up a huge first down on Tampa Bay’s first drive of the second half, picking up 19 yards to move the Bandits down the field. The drive ended with a short field goal to close the gap, 23-17.

Too good

The Gamblers answered back with a field goal of their own – this time a monster 51-yarder from Vogel – to make it a nine-point game headed into the final frame.

Block party

The Bandits turned a blocked puntcourtesy of Quenton Meeks, into a TD early in the fourth quarter.

Just like that, it was a two-point game.

Not so fast!

The Bandits weren’t able to get it done on their next possession, as Ta’amu was picked off as Tampa Bay made a play downfield.

Alijah Holder, who has previous stints in the NFL with the Denver Broncos and the Detroit Lions, came up with the huge play for the Gamblers.

TB gets the last word

Tyler Rausa nailed a 46-yarder with 13 seconds to spare, sealing the win for the Bandits.


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