USFL Playoff Preview: Three Things To Know About The Philadelphia Stars

By: Brendan Heffernan

The Philadelphia Stars finished the USFL’s inaugural season 6-4, ending on 4-1 run over the final five weeks. With that finish, the Stars earned a rematch with the New Jersey Generals in the USFL semifinals June 25 at 3 p.m. inside Canton’s Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.

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Here’s everything you need to know about Philadelphia ahead of Saturday’s playoff matchup.



Takeaway Machines

The Stars forced a league-best 22 turnovers during the regular season.

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Cornerback Channing Stribling led that effort by intercepting seven passes, two more than any other USFL defender. Stribling, a veteran of multiple NFL Practice squads, the CFL, XFL and the AAF, has shown unparalleled savvy while reading routes and baiting quarterbacks to throw his way. 


Stribling’s performance for Philadelphia this season inspired several media outlets to lobby for him to get another NFL contract. Stars corner Amani Dennis has also picked off two passes and the team has recovered nine fumbles.


Let Case Cook(us)

After watching from the sidelines for Philadelphia’s first few games, Case Cookus has been electric. 

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Northern Arizona’s all-time leader in passing yards, touchdowns and total offense first saw action when the Stars’ first round pick Bryan Scott went down with an injury. Since then, Cookus has thrown for 1,334 passing yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions with a passer rating of 130.6.

Cookus’ finest game came in week eight against the Michigan Panthers. Cookus went 20/26 for 247 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 119 yards and another score. 


Cookus will look to keep rolling against New Jersey’s league worst pass defense in the semifinals.


NFL Connections


The Stars have several contributors with regular-season NFL experience. Safety Ahmad Dixon appeared in 11 games in 2014 for the Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s had a strong season for the Stars, recording 40 tackles and an interception this year. Defensive End Freedom Akinmoladun spent two seasons with the Bengals and one with the New York Jets, appearing in five regular season games during that span. Akinmoladun’s 3.5 sacks this season are good for tenth best in the USFL.

After a stellar career at South Florida, Tampa native Mazzi Wilkins earned a spot on the Buccaneers’ roster in 2019 and 2020 where he won a Super Bowl ring with his hometown team. After appearing in one game in 2021 for the Baltimore Ravens, Wilkins has found a home in the Stars’ defensive backfield, recording 27 tackles in 2022.

The margins are thin this weekend for the Stars as Philadelphia has already lost two one-score games to New Jersey this season. With one more opportunity, the Stars look to right the ship and secure their place in the USFL’s inaugural championship game.