After two weeks of 2024 UFL play, this is the first time a team called the “Houston Roughnecks” have started a season 0-2. The 2020 and 2023 XFL version of the Roughnecks started both seasons 2-0. Then again, is that a fair comparison? This UFL iteration of the Roughnecks is the remnants of a 2023 USFL “Houston Gamblers” squad who started 0-2 as well. For head coach Curtis Johnson and a several former Gamblers, now Roughnecks players, this is familiar territory.

After dropping their week 2 game to the DC Defenders 23-18, Coach Johnson said the team “didn’t finish our assignments”, “gave up big plays”, and the offensive line prevented the Roughnecks from “getting in a rhythm”. He was alluding to mental mistakes, mainly penalties, that kept setting the team back. Mental mistakes and execution breakdowns are plaguing this team, especially on the offensive line. It’s not shocking that Houston has been penalized 19 times for 128 yards this season, which equates to second worst in the league in both categories.

It’s not all bad though. There is hope. In his week 2 postgame press conference, Coach Johnson mentioned the spark that Reid Sinnett provided. After Sinnett took over for the injured Jared Guarantano, the offense seemed to settle down and score with Sinnett capping off a 5 play 70-yard drive with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Keke Chism. Two drives latter it appeared that the Roughnecks might score again, but Kirk Merritt was stripped from behind on a 57-yard catch and run pass from Sinnett, only to turn the ball over at the DC 22.

So far, the brightest spot on the entire team is LB Reuben Foster. To the naked eye, he appears to be the best player on either side of the ball when he’s on the field. In two games Foster has accumulated 13 tackles (8 solo), 3 tackles for a loss, 1 interception and 3 pass break ups. Foster constantly pressures the offense when the Roughnecks most need him. If he’s not stuffing the run, you can find him dropping in coverage to break up a 3rd down pass to end a drive. He looks like a man among men.

When the Roughnecks travel to Michigan this week, they’ll face the 1-1 Panthers and a defense that gives up 281.5 yards per game (6th in the league), is last in takeaways (1) and second to last in sacks (3). This is the kind of match up that a struggling offense must take advantage of. Houston is last in the league averaging 15 points per game. If that’s the case, Sinnett will have to get some help from his running game which is last in the UFL with 46 yards per game. T.J. Pledger and his backfield mates will need to take advantage of a Panthers defense that allows 111.5 rushing yards per game (2nd to last in the UFL).

The Roughnecks defense enters this game giving up 255.5 yards per game (3rd best in the UFL) and will face a Panther offense that averages 15.5 points (2nd to last in the league) and 242.5 yards (also 2nd to last) per game. In what presents itself as a potentially low scoring game, Foster and friends will have to shut down Michigan’s 3rd ranked run game (79.5 yards per game) and throttle its last place pass game (163 yards per game).

This is a crucial week for Coach Johnson and the Roughnecks. If they want to beat Michigan, they’ll have to curtail the mental breakdowns and execution issues on the offensive front. If they do, it could open things up for Pledger which will in turn help Sinnett and the passing game. On the other side of the ball, the Foster lead defense will have to shut down Michigan leading rusher Wes Hills. I believe (hope maybe) Coach Johnson and the Roughnecks are up to the task and will upset Michigan 23-17.

author avatar
Chris Ronquillo
Chris has worked in and around sports for a number of years. Co-owner of (now 2006-2010. AF2 Red Hat Official 2007. Texas Copperheads AF2 Media Director 2008. Houston Aeros Director of Corporate Sales and Service 2007-2008. Chris is currently a Texas Real Estate Agent (Lake Conroe Area) and Licensed Auctioneer.

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