Guardians take care of Vipers, win XFL debut

Feb 9, 2020; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Guardians running back Tim Cook III (20) celebrates after scoring an extra point against the Tampa Bay Vipers during the first quarter of an XFL football game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Guardians provided an alternative to what the Giants and Jets put out in 2019: Winning.

New York’s XFL franchise — who shares a stadium with the two NYC-area NFL teams at MetLife Stadium — reigned supreme in their debut game on Sunday afternoon at the Meadowlands, defeating the Tampa Bay Vipers 23-3.

Penn State standout and former Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin led the Guardians’ effort, completing 15-of-29 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown.

It was their defense, though, that did the heavy lifting as they forced three turnovers and didn’t allow a single touchdown.

Their heroics provided a triumphant return to the sidelines for Guardians head coach Kevin Gilbride, who last worked in football as the Giants’ offensive coordinator in 2013 and helped them win a pair of Super Bowl titles.

The Guardians showed more offensive affluence than both New York City-area NFL franchise, scoring a touchdown on their first-ever drive.

McGloin finished off an impressive opening possession with a one-yard keeper to polish off an eight-play, 48-yard drive five minutes into the game.

He showed off his arm early in the second quarter when he hooked up with Mekale McKay for a 45-yard completion to set up a 12-yard touchdown connection to Colby Pearson, who played his college football in MetLife Stadium’s backyard at Monmouth University.

New York’s defense flexed its muscles with a pair of interceptions of Georgia product Aaron Murray, the second leading to a field goal in the final seconds of the first half to give the Guardians a 17-0 lead heading into the break.

The Guardians’ defense wouldn’t yield until a minute left in the third when the Vipers tacked on a field goal for their first-ever XFL points after New York stood them up on the five-yard-line.

They made up for it early in the fourth to put the game away when Tampa Bay’s Nick Truesdell fumbled a completion deep in his territory where it was scooped up and returned by Jamar Summers for a 21-yard touchdown.

Tampa Bay had four trips in total to the Guardians’ red zone and came away with no touchdowns — a tough pill to swallow for a team that outgained the hosts by almost 200 yards on the afternoon.

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