Brahmas Breakdown: St. Louis holds off San Antonio comeback, hands Brahmas their first loss

With the win, St. Louis is now tied with San Antonio at 2-1 overall

Head Coach of the San Antonio Brahmas Wade Phillips (Copyright 2024 by the San Antonio Brahmas - All rights reserved.)

SAN ANTONIO – The United Football League was made for San Antonio and St. Louis. Both cities have either been underrepresented (San Antonio) or disrespected (St. Louis) in the professional football space.

St. Louis football fans have experienced the unique pain of watching two NFL franchises call the city home only to see the Cardinals (1988) and Rams (2016) decide to pack up and head west to Arizona and Los Angeles.

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The Rams’ departure for the City of Angels was particularly acrimonious. In 2016, St. Louis city and county leaders filed a $1 billion lawsuit against the NFL and Rams owner Stan Kroenke, accusing them of, among other things, enriching themselves with the Los Angeles move at St. Louis’ expense — and won. Three years ago, St. Louis County and St. Louis city officials were awarded $519 million in a settlement with the NFL and Kroenke.

When the Battlehawks started playing XFL football in the Rams’ former home, The Dome at America’s Center, St. Louis welcomed them with open arms. Only one XFL market averaged more home attendance than the San Antonio Brahmas (14,893) in 2023: St. Louis (35,104).

St. Louis wants to outdo itself in 2024. Battlehawk fans recorded an all-time UFL attendance mark last week when 40,317 packed The Dome at America’s Center for St. Louis’ 27-24 win over the Arlington Renegades.

First Break: Time wasn’t on their side

The Brahmas’ late-game, high-wire act was successful last week against Memphis but no match for the St. Louis Battlehawks on Sunday.

Similar to Week 2, San Antonio’s offense was awakened out of its slumber after halftime when it scored two of its three offensive touchdowns in the second half.

The pivotal moment in Sunday’s game came early in the fourth quarter. After a St. Louis field goal, the Brahmas offense ran three plays and punted from their own 29-yard line. Punter Brad Wing pooched it to St. Louis’ Darrius Shepherd, who promptly returned the ball back to San Antonio’s 29-yard line.

The Battlehawks offense took advantage of the short field and executed a scoring drive, capped off by a 19-yard touchdown run by running back Jacob Saylors. Quarterback A.J. McCarron found Saylors for a two-point conversion to pad St. Louis’ lead to 31-18.

San Antonio quarterback Chase Garbers (27-for-41, 143 passing yards, one touchdown pass) found tight end Alizé Mack for a touchdown throw late in the fourth quarter, but the offense couldn’t convert a scoring drive in the game’s final minute when a Garbers pass on fourth down fell incomplete.

Second Break: Kickin’ it

Injuries have bitten the Brahmas early and often in 2024. Center Alex Mollette, best known for making a touchdown reception against the D.C. Defenders in Week 1, was placed on injured reserve on April 8.

In addition to Mollette, kicker Donald De La Haye — best known for his “Deestroying” YouTube channel — posted a picture of himself wearing a neck brace on social media. De La Haye, who said he fractured his neck in multiple places while attempting a special teams tackle in Week 2, was declared out for the rest of the season.

The Brahmas received quality help from the waiver wire when they signed former NFL kicker Ryan Santoso.

Santoso’s number was called early, nailing a 35-yard field goal to give the Brahmas a brief 3-0 lead in the first quarter. He also converted a 32-yard field goal early in the third.

The University of Minnesota alum spent portions of five NFL seasons with the Detroit Lions, New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Rams between 2018 and 2022.

If there is a bonus for San Antonio’s signing of center Alex Pihlstrom, the Brahmas did not allow a sack to St. Louis all afternoon long.

Third Break: Pay attention

After the United States Football League merged with the XFL last year, the United Football League still has that new league smell.

The job of raising a young league’s visibility involves each UFL franchise letting as many people as possible in their UFL city know that they exist and to come out to their games.

St. Louis’ attendance numbers are through the roof, but what about San Antonio’s numbers?

It looks like the Brahmas have run into bad luck through their first two home games in 2024.

The UFL opened the 2024 season on Easter weekend which this year fell on Saturday, March 30 and Sunday, March 31. The Brahmas drew an 11 a.m. kickoff on Easter Sunday and its attendance numbers reflected the holiday and early start time.

Paid attendance was officially 13,164 on Easter Sunday, a far cry from the team’s 2023 home opener of 24,245. The Brahmas’ 2024 home opener marked a 45.7% decline in attendance compared to their 2023 home opener.

It is important to note San Antonio’s 2023 XFL season kicked off on Feb. 19, 2023, instead of Easter weekend in March.

Sunday’s 2 p.m. home kickoff against the St. Louis Battlehawks brought about another problem for the Brahmas. They went head-to-head with the San Antonio Spurs in their season finale at Frost Bank Center.

The Spurs, who tipped off Fan Appreciation Day at 2:30 p.m., drew a paid attendance of 18,516, considered a sellout for basketball events at Frost Bank Center.

The Brahmas announced a crowd of 11,790 people who paid for tickets to Sunday’s game at the Alamodome. The team’s second 2023 home game happened in Week 5 on March 19, 2023 when 13,274 was the announced attendance for a game that kicked off at 8 p.m. on a Sunday. There was no Spurs head-to-head conflict because they played earlier that Sunday afternoon.

San Antonio’s third home game against the Michigan Panthers is set for 6 p.m. Saturday, which — as bad luck would have it — falls on the first Saturday of Fiesta 2024.

There are a large amount of logistics that goes into scheduling games for an eight-team football league in eight different cities. Stadium availability and friendly broadcast timeslots are two of the most important details of all.

Still, San Antonio is one of the markets the UFL has been counting on to bring meat to the seats at the Alamodome.

Like the Brahmas’ 2024 offense, attendance will need a second-half comeback to keep pace with their strong 2023 numbers.

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About the Author

Nate Kotisso joined KSAT as a digital journalist in 2024. He previously worked as a newspaper reporter in the Rio Grande Valley for more than two years and spent nearly three years as a digital producer at the CBS station in Oklahoma City.

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