XFL: LA Wildcats drop home opener against Dallas Renegades to fall to 0-2

CARSON, Calif. (KABC) -- The Los Angeles Wildcats dropped to a disappointing 0-2 on the season after losing their home opener Sunday against the Dallas Renegades 25-18.

The Renegades' Landry Jones threw the first interception of the game with 3 minutes left in the first quarter, picked off by defensive back Harlan Miller at L.A.'s 20 yard line.

The turnovers continued for L.A., with defensive tackle Reggie Howard recovering a fumble near midfield with 12 minutes to go in the second quarter.

Wildcats kicker Nick Novak scored the first point of the game with a 47-yard field goal.

The Renegades responded with a field goal before the half, tying the game at 3-3.

Dallas scored another field goal before a high-scoring fourth quarter, sparked by a Wildcats touchdown. Quarterback Josh Johnson, who missed the 37-17 loss to the Houston Roughnecks because of a thigh injury suffered in training camp, threaded the needle between two defenders for a 13-yard pass to wide receiver Nelson Spruce.

The 33-year-old Johnson started three games for the Washington Redskins in 2018. He played in three preseason games with the Detroit Lions in 2019 and remained with the team through two regular season games, but did not play in either one.

Johnson was a fifth-round choice of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2008 NFL draft out of the University of San Diego. He played 29 NFL games with the Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals between 2009 and 2013, starting five, completing 96 of 177 passes for 1,042 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The Renegades put up 19 unanswered points until Johnson hit Spruce again for a touchdown, followed by the XFL's first three-point conversion according to ESPN, cutting Dallas' lead to 19-18.

With 1:15 minutes left to play, Renegades running back Cameron Artis-Payne scored a 17-yard touchdown, putting Dallas up 25-18.

The Wildcats take on the D.C. Defenders in Carson on Feb. 23 at 6 p.m.

L.A. Rams running back Todd Gurley and L.A. Chargers running back Melvin Gordon made sidelines appearances, where Gurley praised his friend Spruce.

"I'm proud of my little brother. Miss this guy," Gurley said of Spruce, who is actually older than the Rams star and signed as an undrafted free agent with the Rams before suffering a knee injury in 2016.

The XFL is hoping the combination of affordability, unique experiences and rules intended to create a faster-paced game will draw fans to XFL games.

Lower-level single-game seats at Dignity Health Sports Park start at $24, with standing-only tickets available for $15. A season ticket for the Wildcats five home games starts at $100, and includes exclusive game day access and VIP experiences throughout the season.

The Wildcats tailgate included live music, games, activities for children and food trucks and happy hour beverages.

Fans donning jerseys and team colors flocked to the tailgate, where music filled the air as some fans enjoyed food while others played cornhole.

"We are here to stay. The L.A. Wildcats are gonna be here for a long time to come," Karatz said. "We've embraced the community, we've embraced our fans and this is only the first (home) game. So we can't wait to continue to build it with our fans week after week."

Eyewitness News meteorologist Dallas Raines, former Florida State quarterback, made an impromptu appearance at the Fan Fest during Karatz's interview.

"I'm ready to play," Raines said. "I might be a little bit too old, I think."

The actual Wildcats players walked through the Fan Fest en route to the stadium, Karatz said.

"We want to make sure that our players are up close and personal with our fans," Karatz said.
Karatz added that during games, there will be on-field moments that incorporate fans into cheers.

Families had opportunities to get autographs from players and photographs with them after the game, Karatz said.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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