On Sunday, February 9, The New York Guardians opened their season inside MetLife Stadium against the Tampa Bay Vipers. Like most matchups during the XFL's relaunch weekend, the Guardians dismantled the Vipers 23-3.
Guardians quarterback Matt McGloin scored two touchdowns, one a rushing TD in which he ran two yards for, and threw for 182 yards. He showed signs of brilliance throughout the game, throwing laser shots all over the field.
"I just thought offensively there was a lot of flashes of how good we could be," McGloin stated after the game. "W''ve got guys that are fully committed that are buying into what Coach [Kevin] Gilbride, G.A. [George Mangus], and the rest of that staff is trying to accomplish. It's always good to win, especially the first one of the year and especially when it's at home."
With an announced attendance of 17,634, the XFL's use of huge stadiums worked well, even if a smaller amount of fans appeared. One of the overall leaders in the offense for the Guardians was Mekale McKay, who caught a total of 58 yards. One catch, an outstanding 45-yarder, was the highlight of the day. The rushing aspect of the team needed work, as only a total of 44 yards was accumulated on the run.
The defense of the Guardians was on par with the DC Defenders, as the team was able to make Vipers QB Aaron Murray throw for two interceptions. Speaking of Murray, he was 16/34 with over 231, but coach Marc Trestman was scrutinized for leaving him in for so long. It wasn't until RB/QB Quinton Flowers came into the game where things got interesting. Flowers ended up receiving for 34 yards and was 1-for-2 on the passing game. Trestman didn't give any indication at the postgame press conference that a change would be coming at QB.
"Our play today was unacceptable," Trestman stated. "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 yards of offense and come up with three points… your play is just not acceptable."
It appears that the players were showing more enthusiasm than ever before, as each player hit and ran as hard as they could to get towards their goal. As week two approaches it will be interesting to see how everyone holds up. There were only two major injuries during the game: Vipers CB Shelton Lewis came out of the game with a hand injury while C Jordan McCray came out of the game due to a leg injury. It is unknown the status of both athletes.
While attendance was low, the excitement shown by the fans was what the main story was all about. With media interacting with players, the replay booth allowing fans to be in on the action and the rules being shown for all to see, fans couldn't help but get excited for football after the NFL. Coach Kevin Gilbride, who was a member of the New York Giants' two Super Bowl runs as the offensive coordinator, was able to show a different side of him in a new leadership role.
"We're very proud of our football team," Gilbride stated. "It was a game that I think more than anything else showed the character and resilience that we had. We certainly struggled stopping them offensively, but to the tremendous credit of our defense, I thought they showed incredible courage and character to just keep battling all the way down and get all those turnovers and stop them. They controlled the ball, controlled the time, and got down close to the goal line. A lot of teams crumble under those circumstances. I thought our guys rose up and played their best football down there."
The Guardians are set to face Cardale Jones and the Defenders on February 15 in Washington, DC at 2 p.m. ET. The Vipers are set to face the Dragons in Seattle on the 15th at 5 p.m. ET