Holtz, Smith, former Dogs lead Birmingham to USFL title

Courtesy Photo (Skip Holtz and J’Mar Smith led Birmingham to the inaugural USFL 2.0 title Sunday)

by Malcolm Butler

In its inaugural year of the USFL 2.0, a Birmingham Stallion roster loaded with former Louisiana Tech Bulldogs and coached by former Tech leader Skip Holtz defeated the Philadelphia Stars 33-30 Sunday night at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

Holtz and the Bulldogs – I mean the Stallions – capped a stellar first season in the eight-team league, posting a 9-1 record during the 10-game regular season before defeating the New Orleans Breakers 31-17 in the first round playoff game, setting the stage for the title game with Philly.

The Stallions championship roster included LA Tech alums in quarterback J’Mar Smith, fullback Bobby Holly, wide receiver Adrian Hardy, offensive linemen Michael Rodriguez and O’Shea Dugas, and linebacker Trey Baldwin.

Those six, some who were with the team for the entirety of the season and some that were additions during the campaign, all earned USFL title rings along with their Stallion teammates.

On Sunday, Smith started at quarterback for Birmingham, completing 10-of-18 passes for 131 yards and one TD before leaving the game early in the second half with a mid-section injury. Smith’s TD pass – a 41-yard strike to Mario Williams – showcased his arm strength and gave Birmingham a 17-9 lead in the second quarter.

Holly put his name in the stat sheeting with a 25-yard reception while Hardy added a five-yard reception in the win.

Birmingham didn’t clinch the title until the final minute when Stars backup quarterback KJ Costello was intercepted for the second time in the last three minutes of the game.

Minutes later, Holtz – who guided Tech to seven straight bowls from 2014 to 2020 – received a Gatorade bath on the field, culminating a championships run for the Stallions, Holtz and six former Bulldogs.