Following nine quarters and change of touchdown-less offense, the Tampa Bay Vipers finally found pay dirt on Saturday and flirted with an upset along the way.
However, quarterback P.J. Walker, receiver Cam Phillips and the Houston Roughnecks continued their high-scoring and undefeated ways as they fended off the winless Vipers, 34-27.
Walker continued to dazzle with 306 yards passing and three touchdowns, all of them to Phillips, whose monster day saw a second-straight three-TD game to go with eight catches for an XFL season-high 194 yards.
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"I try to just prepare as best as I can," said Walker, whose team stayed perfect on the season, improving to 3-0, as Houston holds the lead in the XFL West.
Meanwhile, the Vipers fell to 0-3 despite far and away their best effort of the season. The game was in doubt with Tampa Bay driving until Houston linebacker DeMarquis Gates picked off Vipers quarterback Taylor Cornelius with 1:05 to play to seal the game.
"When the time came in the fourth quarter, our defense stepped up big time," Walker said.
Phillips’ 84-yard touchdown catch-and-run in the first quarter gave the Roughnecks an early lead, but the Vipers kept up throughout.
Cornelius was the catalyst for the Vipers, throwing for 193 yards and a touchdown and adding a score on the ground. Quinton Flowers scored the franchise’s first offensive touchdown in the second quarter on a seven-yard run off right tackle. Receiver Jalen Tolliver turned in a terrific day with eight receptions for 104 yards.
However, the Vipers simply couldn’t keep up with the Roughnecks, who also got a game-high 72 yards rushing on seven carries from running back James Butler. Walker added a rushing score, but it was his final scoring throw to Phillips from 17 yards out that stood as the game-winner.
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