Vipers lose their XFL opener to New York 23-3. But there were some bright spots.

New York Guardians beat the Tampa Bay Vipers 23-3 as the Guardians defense caused three turnovers and kept the Vipers offense shut down all afternoon on a cold Sunday at Met Life Stadium. It was the first-ever XFL game for both teams and despite the one-sided score, there was plenty of action.

There was no question that Vipers head coach Marc Trestman was far from pleased about his team’s performance against New York.

“Our play today was unacceptable. We turned the ball over three or four times. We didn’t tackle as well as we needed to tackle in the first half. When you have over 400 yard of offense and come up with three points… your play is just not acceptable,” Trestman said of his team. He added “The score was as it was, and the Guardians deserved to win. I’ll leave it at that.”

Former Plant High School and University of Georgia product Aaron Murray , who is the Vipers starting quarterback was also far from pleased with his opening day performance.

Here were some of his postgame comments:

On getting back into the ‘game groove’:

It takes some time. We’ve had enough practice through December and through January, all the camps and scrimmages so: I thought we executed pretty good today. We ran the ball effectively- we saw that at times. I thought the pass game was pretty good. It was just those mistakes. If you’re going to turn the ball over three times, and the other team doesn’t turn it over, they’re going to win. Plain and simple. We drive down there, get to about the 5-yard line, and a bad play by me in throwing that up. I should have just thrown it away. We had 4 or 5 tries in the red zone and came away with no points. I think, moving the ball, it was pretty good, it’s just a matter of finishing those drives, being a little more efficient and understanding that windows get tighter in the red zone, players move faster, and there’s less room for the defense to have to cover. We just have to be better going forward. I think we can. Like I said, I thought we saw some good stuff today from this team: from players that really stepped up. I thought the offensive line was tremendous: the way they dominated during the game, especially when running the football. Like I said: we just can’t turn it over. Myself: two picks, the fumble that turned into a touchdown- those are the things that really shoot you in the foot. That really cost us today.

On finally ‘getting out there’ after months of anticipation of the XFL:

It was fun. Obviously, not the outcome we wanted, but I think everyone fought. That’s the one good thing about this football team: We’re a close team. There wasn’t any arguing. The defense wasn’t saying: “hey offense, you stink”. The offense wasn’t yelling at the defense. It was all: “hey boys, we got you, we got you, we got you”. That camaraderie, even in the locker room afterwards, guys were going up to each other and saying ‘heads-up, we’re good. Move on, short week: we’ve got Seattle next week and that’s somewhat of a blessing to be on a short week. We’ve got to play on Saturday. We’ve got to forget this, we’ve got to make the corrections and we’ve got to get going. We can sulk on this at all. It’s a long season. It’s only week one for goodness sakes. Like I said: I saw some promising stuff out there and we just have to work on making those corrections and understand that we have 9 more games. We just have to keep fighting to get better.

On the offensive strategy in the second half:

We knew, heading into the season that a big part of our offense was going to be the offensive line. I think we have probably one of the best, if not the best offensive line, in this league. Those guys are big, they’re physical, and they’re smart. Like I said, we did a great job in running the football in this game. We have some big, powerful running backs, and I thought the big guys did a great job in pass protection, as well. I think the core of our offense right there; the offensive line is going to be where we make our bread throughout the season. I think they had a great start today. Like I said: it was just some mistakes on my part and some other mistakes that we clean up and I think it’s a different ballgame, but: ‘what if, what if, what if?’ we’ve just got to get to work, come tomorrow, and get ready to go. 

Impressions of talent level of Guardians and atmosphere in MetLife:

I thought it was great. It’s been good to see: yesterday’s games and today’s: it seems like there’s a lot of energy in all the stadiums. I think that’s a good sign for this league. It’s a good football team. They’re fast. They’re big up-front (very, very big up-front) and they’re going to make you pay if you make a mistake. You have to understand that when you play a good defense, you have to play perfect football. You have to take care of it, you have to tuck it, you can’t force balls into tight windows because good defenses are going to make plays and you can get away with some of that stuff vs. lesser defenses. As we saw today it’s a good defense. They can make plays if you give them opportunity and they definitely did that.

 On red zone struggles:

Not taking care of the football: plan and simple. Like I said, I go back to that first one. If I don’t force a ball in the back of the end zone and throw it away [instead], it’s second down and five. You just have to understand: points are a premium and every possession needs to end with a kick. So, even if we go three downs and don’t get anything, we at least, put a field goal on the board. We just have to be a little bit smarter; I have to be a little bit smarter in the red zone. I think our plan was fine, we have a ton of great plays that we didn’t get to today because of some of those turnovers. So, if we just clean that up, we’ll really get to see this offense flourish.

On immediate media attention on the sidelines after a play: It’s different. But, it’s been fun to see, if you step back as a fan. I could see the intrigue- to be ‘part of it’. I thought it was fine, as long as they’re pretty quick and easy: 1 question, 2 questions, and then you get your mind focused back on the game. I don’t think anyone was too distracted. I think it was good that we saw it happen yesterday, so we understood what could happen during the game, so everyone was well prepared and understood that you may be called upon to do a quick interview.  

 — POSTGAME NOTES —

 1234TOTAL
TAMPA BAY VIPERS00303
NEW YORK GUARDIANS7100623

·       K Andrew Franks reco­rded the first points in Vipers history when he converted a 23-yard field goal with 1:00 remaining in the third quarter.

·       CB Anthoula Kelly recorded three passes defensed on the day, tied for the second-most in the league through three games this weekend…His three passes defensed trail only Los Angeles’ Harlan Miller (four).

·       WR Dan Williams hauled in six passes on nine targets for 123 yards…His 123 receiving yards rank first in the XFL through three games this weekend.

·       Tampa Bay finished the game with 150 rushing yards on 30 carries, good for most in the league through three games this weekend…RB De’Veon Smith amassed 79 rushing yards… QB/RB Quinton FlowersRB Jacques Patrick, and WR Jalen Tolliver contributed 34, 32, and 5 yards rushing, respectively.

·       The Vipers finished the game 7-for-15 (47%) on third-down conversions…The seven conversions and the 47 percent conversion rate are both league-highs through three games this weekend.

·       Tampa Bay allowed just 45 yards rushing on 15 attempts from the Guardians…The 45 yards allowed is the fewest by any team through three games this weekend.

·       Tampa Bay finished with 394 yards of total offense, most for any team through three games this weekend. 

Please see the table below for a list of Tampa Bay Vipers firsts:

SnapDe’Veon Smith rush for 0 yards (9:45 – 1st Q)  
CompletionAaron Murray to TE Nick Truesdell for nine yards (9:10 – 1st Q)
RushDe’Veon Smith rush for 0 yards (9:45 – 1st Q)  
First DownDe’Veon Smith rush for four yards (8:55 – 1st Q)
PointsAndrew Franks 23-yard field goal (1:00 – 3rd Q)
Field GoalAndrew Franks 23-yard field goal (1:00 – 3rd Q)
TackleEmmanuel Beal at TB 48-yard line (14:52 – 1st Q – opening kickoff)
Tackle for LossMarcelis Branch/Ricky Walker 1-yard tackle for loss on a rush (11:10 – 2nd Q)
Pass DefensedAnthoula Kelly (5:01 – 1st Q)
Offensive PenaltyFalse Start – Nick Truesdell (1:32 – 1st Q)
Defensive PenaltyPass Interference – Micah Hannemann (10:01 – 1st Q)

OFFENSIVE STARTERS

WR      #17      Jalen Tolliver

LT        #73      Martez Ivey

LG       #67      Jerald Foster

C         #63      Jordan McCray

G         #76      Daronte Bouldin

RT       #71      Isaiah Williams

TE       #85      Nick Truesdell

WR      #18      Reece Horn

WR      #81      Dan Williams

QB       #11      Aaron Murray

RB       #24      De’Veon Smith

DEFENSIVE STARTERS

DE       #95      CeCe Jefferson

DT       #92      Josh Banks

DT       #49      Nikita Whitlock

DE       #53      Deiontrez Mount

MLB     #45      Lucas Wacha

WLB    #41      Terrance Plummer

CB       #33      Shelton Lewis

CB       #23      Anthoula Kelly

NCB    #27      Micah Hannemann

SS       #21      Robert Priester

FS       #35      Marcelis Branch

INACTIVES

QB       #8        Chase Litton

WR      #12      Ryan Davis

CB       #22      Rannell Hall

T/G      #69      Na’Ty Rodgers

TE       #80      DeAndre Goolsby

DE       #96      Jason Neill

Stats and quotes in this story were provided by the Tampa Bay Vipers.

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