Victor, Generals bully Maulers on way to seventh straight win
By Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports NFL Writer
Birmingham, Ala. — Darius Victor owns the box.
That’s what the bowling ball of a running back calls the end zone.
"I call myself a box-boy CEO," joked Victor. "Nothing else matters but the box. That’s my job."
Riding behind the powerful legs of the bruising Victor, the New Jersey Generals bullied the Pittsburgh Maulers for the team’s seventh straight victory of the year — a convincing, 29-18 win at the legendary Legion Field on Friday.
Victor totaled 87 rushing yards and a season-high three rushing touchdowns, upping his league-leading total to nine rushing TDs on the season. It’s the third contest this season that Victor rushed for at least two touchdowns in a single game.
Trey Williams added 66 rushing yards on 12 carries.
New Jersey receiver KaVontae Turpin continued to show his explosive playmaking ability, catching a shallow cross over the middle and sprinting 24 yards for his fourth touchdown of the season.
Austin Jones added a 50-yard field goal.
With the win, the Generals improved to 7-1 as the top team in the North division, while Pittsburgh dropped to 1-7 and was eliminated from playoff contention.
It was the Generals' second win over Pittsburgh this season, having beaten the Maulers 21-13 in Week 4.
The Generals took control of the game early, marching 46 yards on five plays, capped by a Victor 2-yard run up the middle of Pittsburgh’s defense.
New Jersey’s opening touchdown was set up by a big return by Cam Echols-Luper and helped by a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on the Maulers for tackling him out of bounds.
The Maulers answered with a touchdown of their own, a 5-yard run by new starting quarterback Roland Rivers, who finished 3-for-4 for 35 yards on his team’s opening drive.
However, the Generals responded with another scoring drive, capped this time by a 7-yard touchdown run by Victor, and never trailed from there.
Battle of Harlon Hill trophy winners
For the first time in a professional game, two quarterbacks who won the Harlon Hill trophy — given to the best player in Division II football — matched up on the field.
New Jersey quarterback Luis Perez won the award in 2017 while a senior at Texas A&M Commerce, while Rivers took the honors in 2019 during his final season at Slippery Rock.
Rivers started his first game of the season in place of Vad Lee, who helped the Maulers earn their only victory of the season in Week 5.
Perez played well for a third straight week, finishing 18-for-24 for a season-high 220 yards and a score.
Rivers had his moments, but was not as efficient, completing 18 of 38 passes for 218 yards, with a touchdown pass and an interception.
"You watch pro football in general, and these players come from everywhere," New Jersey head coach Mike Riley said about the two signal-callers. "So, that’s not at all surprising to me. The other thing is, with guys that have won games, there’s kind of a common denominator there, especially at that position. Those guys have made plays to win championships or to be thought of at that high of a level."
Riley returns to Legion Field
Riley got a chance to coach on the same field he played at for iconic head coach Paul "Bear" Bryant when he competed for the University of Alabama as a defensive back from 1971 to 1974.
Riley came in as a left-handed quarterback but moved to the defensive side of the ball.
"I was kidding with the guys that I saw my locker in there, which is not true," joked Riley. "I love football history, and when we played here, it was special. They had that sign out there, ‘The Football Capital of the South.’ And it really was. This is where all the big games were.
"We played Auburn here. We played Tennessee here. We played LSU here. And just the trip up from Tuscaloosa was a big deal. I love football history, and I’m proud to have a team that I’m with to get to play here. I think that’s pretty neat, and I’m glad we came in here and won."
Ramiz Ahmed nails 61-yarder
One of the few bright spots for Pittsburgh this season has been placekicker Ramiz Ahmed.
The Nevada product made a USFL-record 61-yard field goal that just made it over the uprights with 4:01 left in the third quarter, cutting New Jersey’s edge to 23-10.
Ahmed made a 58-yarder last week and is 3-for-6 from beyond 50 yards this season. Ahmed has been the best scoring option for a Pittsburgh offense averaging a league-low 13 points a game entering Friday’s contest.
"He’s very committed to what he does," Pittsburgh head coach Kirby Wilson said. "He’s a true professional, the way he works. There wasn’t a member of this football team that wasn’t extremely pleased and happy for him."
Maulers convert first Fourth-and-12 alternate kickoff
Trailing by 11 points with just over six minutes left, the Maulers chose to use the USFL’s alternative kickoff for the first time this season.
Under the new rule, teams can go for it on fourth-and-12 from their own 33-yard line instead of executing an onside kick. If they make the play, they get to keep the ball. If they do not convert, the opposing team gets the ball on the 33-yard line.
The Maulers managed to convert the play, with Rivers finding Jalen McCleskey on an in route for a 17-yard reception.
"We were looking for a specific coverage based upon our personnel," Wilson said. "And when we all saw it, as a staff we said that we were going to have an opportunity to make this, it just depends on if the protection is right, he reads it right and the receiver makes a play. And all three of those components happened."
However, Ahmed missed a 49-yard field goal attempt eight plays later, and the Maulers failed to take advantage of the play.
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 on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.