Michigan Panthers rally late, but can't hold off Tampa Bay Bandits in 27-20 loss

·3 min read

After a loss last week in which the Michigan Panthers struggled with forward passes and field goals, they came back with a vengeance in both. Unfortunately for the Panthers, their defense couldn’t stand up in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s 27-20 loss to the Tampa Bay Bandits in USFL Week 5 action in Birmingham, Alabama.

Former Wolverines quarterback Shea Patterson completed 23 of 37 passes for 306 yards and a touchdown, but he wasn’t the only one chucking the ball around; three other Panthers attempted passes, including wide receiver Joe Walker completing a 30-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ryan O’Malley on a double-pass play (Patterson started the play with a short forward pass behind the line of scrimmage) legal only in the USFL. (La’Michael Pettway also had a pass attempt fall incomplete.) Then, later in the first half, it was kicker/punter Cole Murphy’s turn.

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Facing fourth-and-6 from the Bandits’ 46 early in the second quarter, Murphy found Cameron Scarlett for 9 yards and a first down. The conversion eventually led to a 36-yard field goal by Murphy, who was signed this week after kicker/punter Michael Carrizosa missed a 21-yarder that would have won last week’s game as time expired. Murphy, a Syracuse alumnus added an extra point on the Panthers’ first touchdown, then closed out the first half with a 41-yard field goal as Michigan tied the Bandits at 13-all.

After the two teams traded punts to open the second half, the Bandits, starting at the Panthers’ 43, needed just one play to take the lead, as QB Jordan Ta’amu, a DetLions signee last season, hit John Franklin III in stride with a bomb. Franklin blew by cornerback Joseph Putu with a double move for the score.

On the next drive, Patterson led the Panthers down the field for 60 yards before the offense sputtered out; on second-and-12 from the Bandits’ 15, Patterson’s short pass was picked off at the 13 by Christian Sam and returned to the 24.

After more punts — two by the Bandits, one by the Panthers — Michigan got the ball on its own 12 with nearly 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The Panthers then strung together a 12-play drive, capped by a 15-yard TD run by Reggie Corbin … which was negated on an offensive holding call, moving the Panthers back to the 25. On the next play, however, Patterson found Pettway for the equalizer with six minutes remaining.

It took the Bandits just over two minutes to take back the lead, though; starting at the Bandits’ 38, Ta’amu completed three passes for 26 yards and rushed for six to reach the Panthers’ 30. From there, running back Juwan Washington took a handoff through a hole at right guard and rumbled 30 yards to give Tampa Bay a lead with 3:41 remaining.

The Panthers had one final chance to even things and drove 16 yards before disaster struck again. On first-and-10 from the Panthers’ 41, Patterson found Scarlett over the middle for 8 yards, but Scarlett fumbled and the Bandits recovered with 1:47 remaining. Michigan worked Tampa Bay into a third-and-1 with 95 seconds remaining, but Washington picked up the first down to allow the Bandits to run out the clock and send the Panthers to their fourth loss in five games at the midpoint of the season.

Contact Ryan Ford at rford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @theford.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan Panthers rally late, but can't hold off Bandits in 27-20 loss