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 Michigan Panthers

Michigan Panthers Game Notes for Week 8 vs. the Memphis Showboats

May 15, 2024 - United Football League (UFL)
Michigan Panthers News Release


The Michigan Panthers are returning home to Ford Field in Week 8 with a few notable accomplishments under their belts. They are currently on a three-game win streak, the longest win streak in this new era of Panthers football. Most importantly, Michigan clinched the final spot in the USFL Conference Championship against the currently undefeated Birmingham Stallions. Michigan took take of business in Week 7 against the Defenders, and both Houston and Memphis lost in their respective match-ups, securing a playoff berth for the Panthers in consecutive seasons. Michigan defeated DC with two new faces making their season debuts under center in Brian Lewerke and Bryce Perkins, who both played well in the victory. Matthew Colburn II contributed more than his fair share on the ground, rushing for 137 yards, setting a new Panthers individual game-high. As for the Showboats, they have lost six in a row and are looking to get back in the win column. Last week the team fell to Arlington Renegades, who captured their first victory of the 2024 season. These two teams met earlier this year in Week 5 in Memphis, where the Panthers defeated the Showboats 35-18. It was the first win in Michigan's current win streak.

LIVING IN A SIMMULATION

Michigan wide receiver has taken the league by storm through the first seven weeks of the season, ranking second in the league with 421 receiving yards and three touchdowns on only 22 receptions. His 19.1 average per catch leads the league. After only making two receptions for 38 yards in Week 1 against St. Louis, he followed that performance up with three catches for 96 yards, including a 76-yard catch, against Birmingham and four catches for 84 yards, including a 66-yard score, against Houston. Against San Antonio, the West Virginia product finished with four catches for 63 yards, including the team's lone touchdown which went for 41 yards.

In Week 5 at Memphis, Simms had two catches for 37 yards. In Week 6 against Arlington, he finished with 67 catches on four receptions. Simms also added a 45-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter against the Renegades, which help set up a Jake Bates field goal to win the game. In Week 7, Simms finished with three receptions for 36 yards. He had a big grab late in the game for over 50 yards, but it was called back due to a questionable offensive pass interference call. Simms also ranks fifth in the league in all-purpose yards after recording 622 yards, which includes 201 kickoff return yards.

BATES. BOOTS. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.

Michigan Panthers' kicker Jake Bates has been other worldly this season. Below are a few notes through six games this year with additional commentary on a week-to-week basis:

-Jake Bates is 15-of-17 this season, which ranks as the most FGM and FGA in the UFL.

-Bates is a perfect 10-for-10 when kicking at Ford Field, including going 5-for-5 in Week 6 against Arlington.

-Bates is 3-for-4 from 60-plus yards (64-yard FG in Week 1, 62-yard FG in Week 2, 60-yard FG in Week 6).

-Bates' 3 FGM from 60-plus yards are more than any NFL kicker has made in an individual season, and he's done it in six weeks.

-Bates' 3 career FGM from 60-plus trail only Brett Maher's 4 FGM (63-yard FG in 2019, 62-yard FG in 2019, 62-yard FG in 2018, 60-yard FG in 2022) in terms of career 60-plus yard FGs for the most in professional football. Bates' is tied with Matt Prater (64-yard FG in 2013, 62-yard FG in 2021, 62- yard FG in 2023) and Greg Zuerlein (61-yard FG in 2015, 60-yard FG in 2022, 60-yard FG in 2012)

-Bates' 64-yard field goal with three seconds left in the game against St. Louis in Week 1is tied for the second longest field goal in professional football history, only behind Justin Tucker's 66-yard field, which he made in 2021, coincidentally at Ford Field. Bates' field goal tied Matt Prater, who made a 64-yard field goal in 2013.

-The game-winning field goal in Week 1 was Bates first-ever made field goal in his football career at any level (he previously kicked extra points for the Houston Texans during the 2023 preseason).

-The ball that Bates kicked in Week 1 kicked is now representing the UFL in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

-Bates became only the second kicker to connect on 60-plus yard field goals in back-to-back weeks. Brett Maher of the Dallas Cowboys is the only other who did it in Weeks 6 & 7 in 2019, connecting on 62-yard FG and 63-yard FG.

-Bates (24) is the fourth youngest kicker to ever make a 60-plus yard field goal at the professional level behind: Jake Elliott (22 in 2017), Tom Dempsey (23 in 1970) and Justin Tucker (23 in 2013).

Bates is ahead of Dan Carpenter (24 in 2010) and Greg Zeurlein (24 in 2012) as he made his 64- yard field goal on his 24th birthday.

-Bates served as a kickoff specialist from high school and into college following a stint on the Central Arkansas soccer team, but never attempted a field goal.

Additional Bates notes... What makes Bates' Week 1 64-yard field goal even more impressive is that he connected on it twice. The first attempt didn't count as the St. Louis coaching staff called a timeout directly before the play, but Bates' was already in his kicking motion and the ball easily went through the uprights. After being iced by the Battlehawks, he calmly settled in and connected on the extremely long field goal once again and gave Michigan a 18-16 lead ... Bates followed that performance up in Week 2 going 2-for-2 against the Birmingham Stallions. He started by nailing a 62-yard field goal as time expired in the first half ... Bates continued his perfect start to the season by going 2-for-2 against Houston in Week 3, connecting from 46 yards and 55 yards ... Against San Antonio in Week 4, Bates converted his only attempt, which was from 49 yards ... In Week 5, he missed two attempts but weather played a bit of a factor. Bates was 1-of-3, connecting on a 30-yard attempt, but missing on 58-yard and 62-yard attempts in the second quarter following a downpour ... In Week 6 against Arlington, Bates kicked two field goals as time expired, making a 60-yard attempt at the end of the first half and a 47-yard game-winning field goal to end the game. He finished the game a perfect 5-of-5 ... Against DC in Week 7 on a natural grass surface, Bates was 3-of-3 making his attempts from 51 yards, 22 yards and 40 yards.

NEW YEAR, NEW RESULTS AT FORD FIELD

Last season in the USFL, the Michigan Panthers won only one of their five games while playing at Ford Field. After starting 0-4 in the "friendly" confines, the Panthers defeated the Philadelphia Stars 23-20 and earned a playoff berth with their first home win. In five games, Michigan was outscored 127 to 66 by its opponents. In 2024, though, the Panthers have surpassed their win total in the Motor City with an 18-16 win over St. Louis in Week 1 and a 34-20 win over Houston in Week 3. The 16 points against the Battlehawks are the fewest points ever allowed by Michigan while playing at Ford Field. Following the team's 28-27 win over Arlington in Week 6, the Panthers are 3-1 at home this season.

PLAYOFF CLINCHING SCENARIOS

The Birmingham Stallions and Michigan Panthers have each clinched a spot in the USFL Conference Championship game. Birmingham would clinch home field for the USFL Conference Championship with a win over Houston AND a loss by Michigan against Memphis. The XFL Conference is still looking for its first team to clinch a playoff berth, but we could potentially see both spots filled in Week 8. The St. Louis Battlehawks would clinch a spot in the XFL Conference Championship with a win over DC. Also, San Antonio can clinch a spot in the XFL Conference Championship with a win over Arlington AND a loss by DC against St. Louis. The Memphis Showboats and Houston Roughnecks were eliminated from playoff contention in Week 7 while the Arlington Renegades were eliminated in Week 6.

O'KAI, WE SEE YOU!

Michigan safety Kai Nacua recorded his third interception of the season in the Panthers' Week 5 victory over Memphis. It was also his second interception in as many weeks. His three picks rank first in the UFL this season and only Birmingham's A.J. Thomas and St. Louis' Mike Rose has recorded more than one INT this year. Nacua's three picks are more than Memphis (2), San Antonio (2) and DC (1) have recorded this year as individual teams. The Las Vegas native also is tied for the league lead in pass breakups (6 PBU) with DC's Michael Jospeh. Nacua leads the team with 43 tackles this season and has also recorded one sack. As a team, the Panthers ranked tied for fourth with five interceptions and are third in the league with 29 pass breakups through seven games.

SPEAKING IT INTO EXISTENCE

Michigan defensive end Breeland Speaks led the defensive charge against the Memphis Showboats in Week 5, tallying three of the team's seven total sacks in the game. Speaks, who was named to the All-USFL team last season, ranks second in the UFL this season with 5.5 sacks and is tied for a league-best seven tackles for loss. He has also recorded one forced fumble this season. As a team, the Panthers rank third in the league with 17 total sacks.

MICHIGAN CONNECTIONS

A total of five Michigan Panther players have connections to the Great Lakes State. Running back Nate McCrary (Muskegon) and linebacker Kenny Willekes (Rockford) are natives of the state, while three additional players played college football in Michigan. The full list of players, their hometowns and universities are below:

19 QB Brian Lewerke Phoenix, Arizona Michigan State

28 RB Nate McCrary Muskegon, Michigan Saginaw Valley State

48 DE Kenny Willekes Rockford, Michigan Michigan State

79 OL Jarrett Horst Middleton, Wisconsin Michigan State

84 TE Gunnar Oakes Swanton, Ohio Eastern Michigan

DOUBLE THREAT IN THE BACKFIELD

Last season in the USFL, Michigan running back Wes Hills led the league in rushing with 679 as a member of the New Orleans Breakers. Matthew Colburn II ranked 12th in the USFL with 264 yards after playing in eight games for the Philadelphia Stars. Each were selected by the Panthers in the dispersal draft ahead of the 2024 UFL season and Hills picked up where he left off, rushing for 85 yards in the team's season-opening win against the St. Louis Battlehawks. However over the next three weeks, he tallied only 58 rushing yards, but in Week 5, Hills reemerged as one of the best backs in the league. Against Memphis, Hills rushed for 82 yards on a team-high 16 carries and found paydirt three times. Colburn II burst on the scene in Week 7, posting 137 rushing yards on 16 attempts, both team-highs this year. Colburn II leads the team and ranks third in the league with 294 yards and Hills ranks sixth in the league in rushing with 277 yards and is second with five scores through seven games. Michigan is the only team to have two players rank in the top-6 in rushing.


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