Video Credit: XFL/ESPN

FSM Essential Recap: Vipers vs Roughnecks – XFL Week 9

Vegas Vipers (2-6) | Houston Roughnecks (5-3)

Franchise Sports Media


The Vegas Vipers took on the Houston Roughnecks Saturday. Heartbreakingly the Fang Gang once again fell short 28-21 to Houston.

The Vipers vs Roughnecks played a Week 9 game in St. Louis. 

Vipers vs Roughnecks
Photo Credit: Eric Sauseda/AP

It was Week 9 of the XFL regular season on Saturday, and the Vegas Vipers headed to Houston to take on the Roughnecks in a game that looked like a mismatch on paper. The Roughnecks have been one of the better and more consistent teams in the XFL this season, led by their head coach Wade Phillips. Meanwhile, the Vipers have been one of the more inconsistent teams for much of the season. But head coach Rod Woodson seemed to have found his QB1 in Jalan McClendon, and since then, the Fang Gang has been playing much better,

Last week Vegas lost to a Battlehawks squad playing arguably the best ball in the XFL in an entertaining overtime game. Vegas quarterback McClendon did not have Jeff Badet to throw to, but he still completed 13-of-23 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown. McClendon fumbled in the third quarter, but the Vipers‘ defense held the Battlehawks from scoring.

The Roughnecks came away victorious after their own hard-fought overtime win over the San Antonio Brahmas in Week 8. Returning as the starting quarterback after nursing an injury, Brandon Silvers completed 17-of-36 passes for 146 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Houston’s running game was held to only 25 yards, but the Houston defense came up big, holding off the Brahmas when they had to, recording six sacks and forcing two interceptions.

The Roughnecks came into the Week 9 match-up as the favorites, but the way the Vipers have been playing since McClendon took over, they would not roll over and would not go down without a fight. With McClendon and the Vipers having enough talent and the Roughnecks already clinching their spot in the playoffs, some thought the game would be much closer than fans and gamblers would expect.

It was time for the Vipers vs Roughnecks to kick off.

First Half

The Vipers vs Roughnecks start of the first half. 

Vipers vs Roughnecks
Photo Credit: Eric Sauseda/AP

The Vipers received the opening kickoff, and quarterback Jalan McClendon and the offense took over on their own 29-yard line. An 8-yard pass to Cinque Sweeting moved the chains. Facing 4th and one on their own 49, Vegas punted.

On their first possession, the Roughnecks quarterback Brandon Silvers took over on their 13-yard line. Silvers passed to Travell Harris, and he was dropped for a 3-yard loss. An 11-yard pass to Owens and then a 2-yard rush by Max Borghi gave the Roughnecks a first down. Silvers threaded the needle with a hitch over the middle to Cedric Byrd for a 3rd down conversion to the Houston 35. On 3rd and 4, Silvers connected to Deontay Burnett for a 5-yard gain and another first down. Silvers then threw 21 yards downfield to Justin Smith, who juggled the ball and reeled it in at the Vegas 33. Silvers’ next pass downfield was intercepted by Keylon Kennedy and returned to the Vegas 25-yard line.

On 1st down, McClendon ran the ball 14 yards to move the chains. A handoff to John Lovett was good for a 4-yard gain, and then a pass to Geronimo Allison was good for three more. On 3rd and 3, McClendon passed short right to Lovett, who was wide open in the flat, and he ran for a 28-yard gain to the Houston 26. An 8-yard rush by Burt and a 5-yard catch by Mathew Sexton moved the markers to the Houston 13.

A 6-yard rush by McClendon, followed by another rush by Lovett, put the ball on the 4-yard line, and then McClendon hit Sean Price for the touchdown. The 2-point conversion attempt was no good, making the score 6-0 for Vegas.

Houston returned the kickoff to their own 21. Brycen Alleyne rushed for 3 yards to end the first quarter, where Vegas led 6-0.

Silvers connected on a 9-yard pass to Travell Harris was good for a first down. Then, a pass to Byrd was caught and then fumbled. The ball was recovered by Avery, giving the Vipers the ball. The play was reviewed and confirmed to be a turnover.

McClendon started at the Houston 41. A 5-yard Houston penalty and a 7-yard pass to Bryant moved the sticks. On 2nd and 9, McClendon threw a 20-yard strike to Allison, set up 1st and goal from the Houston 8. McClendon ran the ball to the 2-yard line. On 3rd down, McClendon passed to Sweeting for the touchdown. The 2-point conversion drew a Houston penalty, and they had an opportunity to retry the conversion. The run attempt by Lovett failed, making the score 12-0 for Vegas.

After the kickoff, Silvers took the ball on his own 35-yard line. Houston could get nothing going, and they were forced to punt. The punt was downed on the Vegas 16.

McClendon rushed for a 14-yard gain to move the markers on 3rd down, but he took a good hit when he slid at the end of the play. On 2nd and 6, McClendon was hit just before he passed. The loose ball was recovered by Beckett, who ran it in for a Roughnecks touchdown. The 1-point conversion attempt failed, making the score 12-6.

After the kickoff, McClendon started on his own 29. He handed off to Smith for a 4-yard gain, but Smith left limping off the field. McClendon handed to Lovett for a 5-yard gain. But on 3rd down, Lovett was stopped for a 1-yard loss. At the two-minute warning, Vegas was forced to punt.

Silvers started at his own 32. On 2nd and 11, he threw long downfield to Burnett, and the ball was knocked away at the last minute. The Roughnecks were forced to punt.

Mathew Sexton returned the kickoff, and with penalties by both teams tacked on, the ball was placed on the Vegas 19-yard line. McClendon passed short to Lovett, who ran the ball for a 27-yard gain. McClendon passed to Allison for 5 yards, and a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer was tacked on. With 0:35 remaining, McClendon was pressured, but he escaped and rushed for 15 yards to the Houston 34.  A holding penalty knocked the Vipers back 10 yards. With 0:05 left, Sloman attempted a 55-yard field goal which was no good.

At halftime, the score was the Vipers 12 and the Roughnecks 6.

The Vipers vs Roughnecks end of the first half. 

Second Half

The Vipers vs Roughnecks start of the second half. 

Vipers vs Roughnecks Jadan McClendon
Photo Credit: Eric Sauseda/AP

Houston received the kickoff, and Silvers got the second half started on their own 28-yard line. A handoff to Alleyne was good for a 4-yard gain, and then a Vegas face-masking penalty was tacked on, adding 15 yards to the play. A swing pass to Alleyne was good for 7 yards, moving the ball past midfield, and then a 3-yard rush by Alleyne moved the chains. On 2nd down, Silvers ran for 6 yards. Then Silvers passed to Owens for a first down. Silvers’ next pass was intended for Burnett but was intercepted by Keylon Kennedy and returned to the Vegas 13. This was Kennedy’s second interception of the game.

McClendon passed to Bryant, who fumbled the ball, which Ajene Harris recovered with a scoop and score for the touchdown. The 1-point conversion pass attempt from Silvers to Salter was good, giving Houston a 13-12 lead.

The Vipers’ offense started on the Vegas 26-yard line. He handed to Burt for 2 yards and then passed to Badet for the first down. Then, Houston’s defense got to McClendon, with Ellerbee and Beckett sacking him for a 3-yard loss. Houston’s defense swallowed up a handoff to Brian Burt as he was pushed back 7 yards. The Vipers were forced to punt, and Travell Harris was able to return the ball to midfield.

On 2nd down, Silvers passed to Alleyne for a 9-yard gain, and then backup quarterback Cole McDonald came in to hand it off to Max Borghi for a 2-yard rush and a first down. McDonald stayed in and rushed for 5 yards, and on the next play, Borghi rushed for 21 yards to the Vegas 14.

Silvers returned, and his next pass was to Travell Harris for a 12-yard gain to the 2-yard line, and then Borghi ran it in for a Roughnecks touchdown. The 2-point conversion attempt failed, making the score 19-12, Houston.

McClendon and the Vipers‘ offense started on their 35. The Fang Gang offense began to move the ball with 11-yard passes from McClendon to both Sweeting and Allison. A 7-yard completion to Sexton moved the ball to the Houston 36 as the 3rd quarter ended.

At the end of the 3rd quarter, the score was 19-12 for Houston.

On 2nd and 3, Houston’s C.J. Brewer and John Daka sacked McClendon for an 11-yard loss. McClendon passed to Sutton for a 12-yard gain, giving Sloman a chance to kick a 53-yard field goal, which was good. The score was now 19-15 for Houston.

After Sloman’s kickoff went out of bounds, Silvers started a Houston drive on the Vegas 45. Fortunately, the Roughnecks went three and out and were forced to punt.

McClendon started deep in his own end with the ball on the Vegas 13. On 3rd and 9, McClendon could not connect to Sweeting downfield and the Vipers were forced to punt. Houston’s Harris returned the ball to midfield.

Silvers handed off to Borghi for a 36-yard run and then handed to Alleyne for a 14-yard touchdown, extending Houston’s lead. But the 2-point conversion was no good, making the score 25-15 for Houston.

With McClendon starting on his own 35-yard line after the kickoff, he was sacked for a 6-yard loss on the first play of the possession.  After a 17-yard completion to Sexton, which was good for a first down, the defensive was called for pass interference which moved the ball to the Houston 25. From there, Lovett ran the ball 25 yards for a touchdown. The 2-point conversion failed, making the score 25-21, Houston.

Borghi took the kickoff and ran it back to the 34. A late hit out of bounds tacked on 15 yards giving Houston the ball on their own 49. Alleyne took the ball and ran for 6 yards, and then he was handed the ball again for a 7-yard gain. With McDonald back in at quarterback, he ran the ball for 4 yards. Borghi then ran for 11 yards more, and Silvers came back in.  Two plays later, a face-masking penalty on an Alleyne run gave the Roughnecks first and goal on the Vegas 10-yard line. At the two-minute warning, Houston was 3rd and goal on the Vipers 8.

Borghi was stuffed for a 1-yard loss which was nearly fumbled. An Austin Jones 28-yard field goal was good, making the score 28-21 for Houston.

With 1:49 remaining, the Houston kickoff was returned By Cinque Sweeting to the Roughnecks’ 45. But a questionable holding call brought the ball back to the Vegas 25-yard line. A 21-yard pass to Jeff Badet put the ball on the Vegas 47, and then a 12-yard catch by Allison was good for a first down. McClendon passed to Badet for a 7-yard gain, and with the clock ticking down, he passed to Badet for eight more yards to the Houston 27.

Confusion and poor clock management left Vegas with only 18 seconds remaining. A pass to Allison put the ball on the Houston 18. With 0:04 left, McClendon and the offense had one final chance to put the ball in the end zone. His pass was a tad high to Sexton but still hit him in the hands, but it fell incomplete in the endzone ending the Vipers’ comeback.

The Vipers vs Roughnecks’ final score was 28-21, Houston. 


Here are some Vipers vs Roughnecks’ final thoughts. 

Vipers vs Roughnecks Rod Woodson
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

The Vipers have a few defensive building blocks with Deontay Anderson, Pita Taumoepenu, Marwin Evans, Max Roberts, and Keylon Kennedy. They have been playing at a different level nearly all season and should get a look from another league, namely the CFL or NFL. If they return in 2024, the Vipers will have a very good group to continue to build and especially since McClendon has taken over as the starter.

McClendon has shown enough to give the Vipers and the Fang Gang hope he is the starter in the future. His development is vital, but he also is a relative baby starting, especially at the pro level. Having a veteran play caller in Ray Sherman, who has been calling plays since Week 4, work with him going forward, and continuing to understand the playbook will be critical for him. McClendon has many tools NFL teams covet, so another year of tape and maybe a look in a training camp will also help his growth.

The Fang Gang has been waiting for the Vipers to finish close games all season. They have been unable to do that, but they have not fallen apart or played the blame game. In fact, it seems it has galvanized them and made them even closer. This group believes in Rod Woodson. While frustrating for the team and fans, the turnaround could be quick in 2024. Let’s see how the Vipers finish off the season next week.


Next Saturday, the Vipers travel to St. Louis to take on the Battlehawks.

The Vegas Vipers will be back in action for the final time in 2023 next Sunday when they travel to Seattle to take on the Sea Dragons. Kick-off is at noon and can be seen on ABC. For Vipers ticket information or to buy season tickets for 2024, tap here.


-Joe Arrigo – Franchise Sports Media

Follow Joe on Twitter & Instagram at @JoeArrigoFSM

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