United Football League
UFL 2024 Week 5 roundup: Sizzling Battlehawks hand Defenders first home loss
United Football League

UFL 2024 Week 5 roundup: Sizzling Battlehawks hand Defenders first home loss

Updated Apr. 29, 2024 6:40 p.m. ET

Playing in front of more than 40 friends and family members, St. Louis Battlehawks receiver Hakeem Butler made sure to give them something to cheer about.

The Baltimore native finished with six catches for 147 yards and two touchdowns in his team’s 45-12 victory over the DC Defenders (2-3) on Sunday.

"I only get to play in this area once a year," Butler said. "For them to come and be able to watch me, it means a lot." 

The setback was the Defenders' first loss at home in two seasons, ending a 10-game winning streak at Audi Field dating back to last season in the XFL. On the other side, the Battlehawks are on a four-game winning streak and stayed tied with the San Antonio Brahmas (4-1) atop the XFL Conference. However, St. Louis holds the tiebreaker because of a head-to-head victory over the Brahmas in Week 3.

Playing without UFL all-purpose yardage leader Darrius Shepherd (hamstring), Butler and QB AJ McCarron picked up the slack. The Alabama product continues to be the most productive signal-caller in the league, completing 14 of 24 passes (58.0%) for 213 yards and two scores. McCarron leads the UFL in touchdown passes (10) and is second in passing yards (1,051) while also having just one interception.

The Battlehawks lost two offensive linemen to injuries but were still able to effectively move the ball against a stout Defenders defense. St. Louis also played with heavy hearts, as long snapper Alex Matheson lost his father this week. He opted to stay with his team and played in Sunday’s game.

Here’s a closer look at some of the other storylines from Week 5.

Stallions QB Adrian Martinez runs over Roughnecks

Making his second start of the season, the Stallions QB sprinted past a Roughnecks defense that could not catch him in the open field. Martinez rushed for a league-high 138 yards and threw for another 155 and a touchdown in Birmingham's dominant 32-9 victory over Houston.

The undefeated Stallions (5-0) have won 12 straight games dating back to last season, avoiding an upset bid from the team that last defeated them.

Martinez leads the league in rushing with 302 yards through five games and has the league’s only 300-yard passing performance this season. Despite the eye-popping performances by Martinez, head coach Skip Holtz remains committed to a two-QB system between Martinez and Matt Corral.

"I have no idea where I’m going next week," Holtz said when asked about the quarterback situation. "I have two very talented quarterbacks. They both have good feet, very strong arms, and they’re both throwing the ball very accurately. I like what they’re doing."

The Stallions have averaged 32.5 points per game and won by an average margin of 21 points in Martinez's two starts. In three starts by Corral, Birmingham has scored an average of 22.3 PPG and won by an average margin of 7.3 points.

Justin Hall finished with 11 catches for 93 receiving yards for Houston (1-4) in the loss.

Panthers RB Wes Hills posts a three-score performance vs. Showboats

Hills had not scored a touchdown in four games, but all that changed Sunday. The USFL's leading rusher last season finished with 82 rushing yards and three touchdowns in Michigan's 35-18 road win over Memphis.

Panthers safety Kai Nacua, the older brother of Los Angeles Rams receiver Puka Nacua, continued to show that he’s one of the best defensive players in the league, corralling an interception for a third consecutive game.

The Showboats (1-4) made a change at quarterback from Case Cookus to Troy Williams, but they still suffered their fourth straight loss. Williams threw for 248 yards and three scores but also had two interceptions. Memphis finished with four turnovers, and the Panthers (2-3) turned those miscues into 14 points. 

Panthers edge rusher Breeland Speaks posted four combined tackles and 3.0 sacks. 

Brahmas lean on big plays, outlast winless Renegades

San Antonio leaned on the ground game in its 25-15 road victory over Arlington, churning out 190 total rushing yards. 

John Lovett led the Brahmas with 95 rushing yards on 13 carries and two scores. Fellow RB Morgan Ellison finished with 84 yards on seven carries, including a long of 47 yards. 

Creating chunk plays has been a key part of San Antonio’s offense. Led by QB Quinten Dormady, the Brahmas have generated 10 offensive plays of 18-plus yards over the past two weeks.

Last year’s XFL champions, the Renegades (0-5), are still looking for their first win. "We’ve just got to be more detailed in everything that we’re doing," Arlington head coach Bob Stoops said. "You never know, miracles happen."

Michigan’s Jake Bates, more kickers cool down

Responsible for a record 64-yard game-winning field goal in Week 1, Bates started a sizzling 6-for-6 on field goals through four weeks, leading an impressive display of accuracy for kickers in the spring football league. 

That all changed over the weekend, however, as Bates missed for the first time this season, spraying a 53-yard attempt wide right. He also barely missed a 62-yard attempt just before halftime before making a 30-yarder in the second half.

Overall, UFL kickers made 13 of 19 (68.4%) kicks in Week 5. Through five weeks, kickers have gone 75 of 87 (86.2%).

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him at @eric_d_williams.

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