A pair of fourth-quarter connections from Houston quarterback P.J. Walker to wide receiver Cam Phillips helped complete a Roughnecks comeback over the Seattle Dragons and keep them a perfect 5-0 after their 32-20 win Saturday afternoon at TDECU Stadium.
A record turnout of 19,773 fans saw the visiting Dragons score the first 14 points unanswered with less than 10 minutes remaining in the first half only for Houston to bounce back and tie the game before halftime.
Walker recorded his first score on a 50-yard pitch and catch to Nick Holley and James Butler supplied a 1-yard rush with only 13 seconds to play before intermission.
Roughnecks head coach June Jones said the conversations in the locker room at the break helped the team rally and complete the comeback.
“There’s nothing magical to it. I wish I could tell you that,” Jones said. “I just know that every halftime we talk about hanging together and playing the play longer than the other guy and if we do that, we’re going to end up winning some games.”
Despite the Dragons scoring on their first two possessions of the second half to take a 23-14 lead with just less than 24 minutes left in the game, another Butler touchdown provided some momentum the Houston defense took advantage of.
The Roughnecks forced Seattle to punt away its next two possessions before the Dragons lost a fumble that sealed the win for Houston after the pair of fourth-quarter connections from Walker to Phillips.
Free safety Cody Brown said some of the team’s preparation for the Seattle squad was challenging because they were unaware of who the quarterback would be to start the game.
“When you don’t have a lot of film on a guy, you have to get a feel for him and it just takes a couple of drives to do that,” Brown said. “After that first quarter, we kind of figured out how their game plan evolved around (B.J. Daniels). We didn’t know who was going to be the starting quarterback coming into the game so we game planned for both guys. After seeing that and seeing how they did, we just figured out what adjustments we were going to make.”
Brown, a Bellville High School alum, also mentioned the camaraderie the defensive group has been building in their time together which translates to them making plays on the field.
“We spend a lot of time with each other,” he said. “We’ve been here since December or January and a lot of us have similar backgrounds so that helps to be able to mold to each other and understand where each other is coming from and what the main goal is at the end of the day and what it takes to get there.”
They were able to do that, ultimately retaining the title of last remaining undefeated team in the league, which Jones said has his squad motivated.
“We certainly weren’t expecting that,” Jones said of an undefeated first half of the season. “We talk about it all the time but to actually do it I feel good for those guys. For me, I’ve been fortunate enough one time to be on an undefeated team in 50 years and I don’t know how many guys have been through that in the locker room but you try to win them all and whether you do win them all or not, you go out each week to get that win and we found a way to win this game.”
After the game, Jones was asked how he and his staff fight complacency on a team with an unblemished record and he explained that Saturday was the perfect teaching opportunity.
“I think they learned a lesson today,” he said. “We talked about it all week; Seattle was 1-3 coming in here but I kept telling them that this might be the best team we play defensively. Had they not had all their injuries, I still believe that to be true, but they came back held together and we won the game.”
The Roughnecks were able to emerge with the victory thanks to some record-setting performances; Holley’s 50-yard score is the longest reception of his career, Mobley set the same personal record with a 42-yard catch as part of a career-high 95 yards receiving, Andre Williams ran for a career-high 54 yards and Butler’s two scores was the first time a Houston player recorded two rushing scores in the same game.
In addition, Walker increased his lead league-wide in the passing-yard column, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark with career-highs in yards (351) and completions (27) in his fifth game with at least two passing touchdowns.
The Roughnecks will travel to the Big Apple for their next game Saturday, March 14, at MetLife Stadium against the New York Guardians who owned a 2-2 record entering play this week.