Pittsburgh Maulers quarterback Vad Lee wasn’t playing professional football at this time just a week ago, but on Sunday he led the Maulers to their first win of the season.
He came off the bench in the second quarter and eventually threw the game-winning pass, securing what turned out to be an emotional victory for him and his teammates.
Lee is one of nearly 300 players in the United States Football League who asked for and received a shot to continue to live their dream. It's an example of the opportunities the league has provided since kicking off just five weeks ago.
Now, let’s get to our mid-season power rankings.
The Stallions have reached the halfway mark of the season 5-0, and they've used every tool at their disposal to accomplish that feat.
Against the Philadelphia Stars on Sunday, they won by playing keep-away — 38 minutes of it — and forcing timely turnovers, including a strip-sack fumble by linebacker DeMarquis Gates who led the defense with talisman Scooby Wright sidelined due to injury.
The addition of former Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough paid off for the Stallions at the end of the game, as they used him to close it out after running back CJ Marable had rushed for 114 yards on 23 carries.
The Generals played one of their best games overall in their double-digit victory against a potent New Orleans Breakers squad.
Generals safety Shalom Luani, after missing the previous two games, picked off two passes against one of the league’s best offenses.
After using a two-quarterback system for every previous game, Generals coach Mike Riley settled on De'Andre Johnson for the entire game.
That decision proved not just correct but provided the Generals' offense with a rhythm they've struggled to find at moments throughout the season.
Todd Haley’s Bandits showed true grit in their 27-20 victory against the Michigan Panthers, hunting a victory like Rooster Cogburn.
Michigan running back Reggie Corbin was held to just 28 rush yards on 12 carries after going for 152 on 12 just a week ago.
Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu also is the only quarterback in the league who has played every snap for his team. That kind of consistency can only bode well for the Bandits.
4. New Orleans Breakers
The Breakers looked out-coached for the first time this season in their 27-17 loss to the Generals.
Not having offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone in the coach's box to call plays certainly didn't help the offense find a rhythm.
Defensively, the Breakers found their aggressive play turned against them, as the Generals took advantage of New Orleans’ commitment to running man coverage.
With one of the league’s best offenses, though, the Breakers are still in a great position to secure one of those playoff spots in the South Division.
5. Philadelphia Stars
In his second outing, quarterback Case Cookus looked just a bit off on some of his throws, though he completed 19 of 35 for 191 yards. Still, the Stars failed to score in the final 32 minutes of their 30-17 loss to Birmingham.
The Stars' run defense has been its glaring weakness, and teams have taken to exploiting it. Against the Stallions, Philly gave up 155 yards on the ground.
6. Pittsburgh Maulers
The Maulers earned their first win of the season behind the efforts of Lee, who came off of his couch and immediately took on one of the most opportunistic defenses in the league.
"Just keep working," he said. "Don't quit. I was so close to quitting so many times. But I'm here, and I have nothing to lose."
Those words could be used to describe the entire Pittsburgh franchise following the 21-20 win against Kevin Sumlin’s Houston Gamblers.
7. Michigan Panthers
Panthers quarterback Shea Patterson found his five-star form with a 300-yard passing performance against Haley’s Bandits.
Halfway through the season, with Patterson finally showing signs of the talent that led Jeff Fisher to select him No. 1 overall in the inaugural USFL Draft, Michigan fans will hope Patterson’s new groove will translate to wins.
8. Houston Gamblers
While the Gamblers' defense has kept them in every game this season, they have yet to find week-to-week consistency offensively. For the third time in as many weeks, Houston failed to hold on to a second-half lead, this time falling to previously winless Pittsburgh.
Sumlin has a reputation for high-powered, high-scoring offenses, and his offensive skill players have shined at times. Quarterback Clayton Thorson, running back Mark Thompson and wideout Isaiah Zuber all have the talent to make noise in this league.
There's still time for Houston to pull itself together and snag that second playoff spot in the South Division. But the Gamblers have to start winning now to achieve that goal.