Generals nip Panthers for eighth consecutive victory

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The New Jersey Generals almost fell in what could be considered a trap game, but didn’t.

New Jersey, which already has clinched a USFL playoff berth and leads the North Division, improved to 8-1 with a hard-fought 25-23 victory over the 1-8 Michigan Panthers Saturday at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Ala. It was New Jersey’s eighth consecutive win.

The Generals, coached by MIke Riley, were able to utilize their two-quarterback system again as De’Andre Johnson returned to the lineup after missing two games with a left ankle injury he suffered in New Jersey’s 26-25 win over the Houston Gamblers.

Luis Perez finished 10-for-16 for 92 yards and a touchdown, and Johnson was 5-for-8 for 60 yards and an interceptions.

Trailing 23-19 late in the fourth quarter, Perez hit Darrius Shepherd on 17-yard fade for the winning score.

“When your number is called, you have to make plays,” Shepherd, who finished with eight catches for 99 receiving yards, told FOX Sports. “Coach [Riley] got us involved in the passing game today, gave us an opportunity to show what we can do.” 

Shepherd’s big game carried the Generals offensively as their normally prolific rushing attack, which entered the game averaging a league-high 165 yards per game, was held to 108 yards.

Their struggles on the ground likely could be attributed to Darius Victor, who was the USFL’s leading rusher entering Week 9, being slowed by a toe issue. He was held to 18 yards on seven carries. Trey Williams led the Generals rushing attack with 11 carries for 62 yards.

New Jersey also got a boost from the explosive KaVontae Turpin, who had another impactful game. In the first half, Turpin returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown — the first punt return taken to the house this season in the USFL.

The Panthers, who outgained the Generals 346-260 in total yards through the ground and air, were led by quarterback Josh Love, who finished 12-for-21 with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Eric Barriere, a former standout quarterback at Eastern Washington, went 14-for-24 for 118 yards, a touchdown and an interception in his first USFL game.

The playoff-bound Generals will face the Philadelphia Stars on Saturday in their regular-season finale before the playoffs begin. The top two teams in each four-team division will advance to the playoffs following the 10-week regular season, which ends on June 19.

The first playoff games will take place on Saturday, June 25, and the championship will be on Sunday, July 3. All playoffs games will be held in Canton, Ohio.

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