Panthers running back Stevie Scott III looks to evade a Generals defender. Scott played in college at Indiana University.

Panthers running back Stevie Scott III looks to evade a Generals defender. Scott played in college at Indiana University.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Michigan Panthers homecoming silenced by Generals in 28-13 loss

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Metro | Published May 1, 2023

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DETROIT — The day had all the makings of a beautiful homecoming for the Michigan Panthers as they took the field April 30 against the New Jersey Generals at Ford Field.

The current Panthers had a perfect 2-0 record. The Ford Field scoreboard showed video highlights of the Panthers’ 1983 USFL championship. Panthers cheerleaders from the 1983 season were present, as was former Panthers quarterback Bobby Hebert. World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Big E was electric on the mic as the team’s emcee, working the crowd to perfection.

The Panthers’ faithful were ready for their squad.

Then the Generals offense exploded onto the scene with a quick 14-3 lead with six minutes still left in the first quarter, and the Generals went on to a 28-13 win over the Panthers.

The Michigan Panthers fans made a good impression.

“I thought they were awesome; I really did,” Panthers head coach Mike Nolan said. “There were a bunch of people out there, and to be perfectly frank with you, that’s one of the disappointments I had, was not to have a better showing for the people that were here, because we’re a much better football team than that.”

Although Panthers fans didn’t have much to cheer for in the first half, they weren’t afraid to show off their impressive dance moves on the jumbotron or, a crowd favorite, the Simba Cam where fans do their best impersonation of “The Lion King” with their child or friend.

From a statistical standpoint, one would think the Panthers offense would have had a better showing offensively, totaling 22 more plays than the Generals and 11 more minutes of offensive possession, but the Panthers had no answer for the Generals’ big-play ability.

Averaging 12 yards per passing attempt and just over 7 yards per carry en route to 377 total yards, the Generals offense had the Panthers guessing throughout the game.

“When it got right down to it, we gave up another big play in the second half, which I think sealed the win for them,” Nolan said. “In things that stood out, I think we’re disappointed more so with the explosive plays they got on us. In particular, in the first quarter, I think we were down by 21 points there pretty quick.”

After the Panthers opened the scoring with a 45-yard field goal from Cole Murphy, Generals quarterback De’Andre Johnson showed off his dual-threat ability, finding running back Darius Victor on a screen pass for a 51-yard touchdown and rushing for a 9-yard touchdown to take the early 14-3 lead. Victor finished with 119 total yards and two touchdowns on the day.

Johnson, who had 10 carries for 98 yards, had a 71-yard run to set up his rushing touchdown.

As the Panthers offense stalled, the Generals offense continued to pound the run game as Victor made a 35-yard house call to give the Generals a 21-3 lead.

The Panthers offense finally found life as former Nevada Wolfpack and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Strong took over in place of Panthers quarterback Josh Love, leading the Panthers on an 81-yard drive capped off by a pass to wide receiver Trey Quinn for a 28-yard touchdown to pull within 11 points.

From there, the Panthers offense stalled as Love, who played college football at San Jose State University, took over in the second half again, tallying only a 30-yard field goal in the loss as the offense totaled 265 total yards.

“I think they obviously had a good game plan coming in against us, but we just can’t shoot ourselves in the foot,” Love said. “We got to go out there and do our jobs. We need to go out there with whatever play call we have and compete and get the job done.”

The Panthers made it interesting as the Murphy field goal pulled the team within eight of the Generals late in the third, and a fumble recovery by the Panthers made it seem like all momentum had swayed in their favor.

That was until a pair of penalties had the Panthers staring down a third and 20 at midfield, and to Love’s credit, he went for the first down before being picked off by Generals defensive back D.J. Daniel.

One play later, Johnson connected with wide receiver Alonzo Moore on the right sideline for a 72-yard touchdown pass after a double move by Moore left him with nothing but daylight.

“When we punted, obviously it was still an 8-point game, but the double move on the outside for the long pass, and that’s when they went up by 13, that’s when I thought the game changed,” Nolan said. “There was probably still a half a quarter left at that time, but I really thought, prior to that play, that we were in it.”

The Generals jumped over the Panthers in the division standings with the win, improving to 2-1 on the year and moving into first place in the North Division.

The Panthers currently hold the second-place spot in the division and will look to rebound May 6 when they host the Memphis Showboats at Ford Field at 7:30 p.m.