Panthers kick Renegades to the curb, win 28-27

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A week after kicker Jake Bates missed his first two field goals of the UFL season, he more than made up for it on Sunday against the Arlington Renegades.

Bates went 5-for-5 on field goals including a 60-yarder right before halftime and the game-winning 42-yarder as time expired. This is the second time this season that the Panthers relied on Bates to deliver in the clutch as he kicked a 63-yard field goal in Week 1 to defeat the St. Louis Battlehawks.

This one was a bit closer and helped move Michigan to 4-2 on the season and tied for third in the entire UFL.

“He takes his job seriously, and he’s really in a good groove right now, he really is, and I believe he’s in a very good place,” head coach Mike Nolan said in a postgame press conference. “He’s a special player, and I hope it continues for him.”

“I want to make every kick I go out there for, it doesn’t change whether the scenario is whatever it is, I want to make (it) every time I’m on the field,” Bates said. “That’s my job, is to make kicks, and I try to do that to the best of my abilities.”

It did look like the Panthers might become the first team to lose to the Renegades after Arlington took a 27-15 lead with under a minute left in the game. But wide receiver Marcus Simms received the next kick, bobbled it a bit, and then ran through the middle of the field and onto the other side of the 50-yard line.

After a few plays to get it back into field goal range, Bates lined it up and sent the ball through the uprights as time expired.

“He’s been amazing, and it’s amazing to have him, and the whole team rallies around him because he’s such an incredible player. Yeah, pretty lucky to have him on our team,” quarterback Danny Etling said in a postgame interview.

Etling and the rest of the Panthers played well in front of the crowd at Ford Field, but it was up and down. The team started out with a 10-3 lead before watching it fade into a 17-10 hole just before halftime.

But the offense was able to get into “Bates Range,” and their kicker nailed a 60-yard field goal going into halftime. Renegades defensive back Jamal Carter couldn’t hide his expression after and even gave Bates some love on the field after that made kick.

The second half started off much better as Michigan was able to drive down the field and cut into the lead with another Bates kick. But Arlington responded with a touchdown to extend the lead to eight.

Then with just under eight minutes left in the game, the Panthers decided to kick another field goal to make it 24-19. But a fourth down stop by the defense on the next Renegades possession set the Panthers up with a chance to take the lead and they did so with a Wes Hills rushing touchdown, his fourth in the past two games.

Now up 25-24, the Panthers forced the Renegades into a tough spot, but Arlington was able to wipe off nearly three minutes of game time before kicking a 48-yard field goal of their own to take back the lead with 54 seconds left.

But thanks to the heroics of Simms and Bates, that was more than enough time, and Michigan escaped with a win.

Etling was solid once again completing 16 of 28 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown to Siaosi Mariner. He also had 55 yards rushing thanks to a 40-yard scamper.

The Panthers now head back on the road to take on the DC Defenders on Sunday at noon. This is the first-ever matchup between the franchises.

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