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Cornelius shows growing pains in XFL debut


Bushland graduate Taylor Cornelius made his XFL debut for the Tampa Bay Vipers on Saturday. [Photo courtesy Tampa Bay Vipers Twitter account]

For a second straight week the Tampa Bay Vipers offense was inconsistent, and tough to watch.

That mixture lead to the Vipers second consecutive loss, this time on the road at the Seattle Dragons, 17-9, in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 30,000 at CenturyLink Field.

In eight quarters to start the year, the Vipers have yet to find the endzone on the offensive side of the ball. Tampa Bay’s lone TD Saturday came on a pick-six by cornerback Tarvarus McFadden in the third quarter.

With last week’s opening day starting quarterback Aaron Murray ruled inactive, head coach Marc Trestman turned to Bushland graduate and former Oklahoma State standout Taylor Cornelius to make his first start for the Vipers. It was Cornelius’ first start, along with his most meaningful snaps since beating his Cowboys team beat Missouri, 38-33, in the Liberty Bowl in 2018.

Cornelius definitely showed rust. Especially in the first half.

He missed his first two passes on his opening drive. On his second drive, Cornelius soured his first career professional completion when he was intercepted by Dragons defender Jeremy Clark after being hit while trying to make a pass down the sideline.

Trestman did go to backup and South Florida star Quinton Flowers for a spark, but never gave up on Cornelius.

In the second half, the 6-foot-6 gunslinger did show signs of growth. Cornelius took Tampa Bay out of the shadows of its own end on a crucial fourth quarter drive before taking a sack on a 4th and 8.

Trailing 17-9, and under a minute to play, Cornelius showed composure taking the Vipers inside Seattle’s 25-yard line with 15 seconds to play. He even threw what looked to be his first career professional touchdown, instead Tampa Bay was called for offensive pass interference. On the final play of the game, Cornelius was intercepted in the endzone to end the game.

Cornelius finished his afternoon going 16-of-27 for 154 yards to go with his two picks, and a passer rating of 44.4 percent.

”I think it’s about finishing drives,” Cornelius told Tampa Bay‘s social media reporter. ”When we’re in the redzone, that’s been are hardest thing. We have to put the ball in the endzone. Our defense has played great.”


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