A record setting crowd of 40,317 attended the UFL’s primetime main event on Saturday night at The Dome in St. Louis.

Accordingly, the Battlehawks and Renegades put on a heavyweight fight full of haymakers and counterpunches. Andre Szmyt delivered the final blow with a 22-yard field goal as time expired and St. Louis beat Arlington 27-24 to avoid an 0-2 start.

“That’s a real divisional game right there,” head coach Anthony Becht said afterwards. “Defending champions, (Arlington) played like it. There was a lot of ups and downs in this game.”

“When it matters at the end – that’s a good finish by us. Proud of what our guys did. There’s a lot to clean up, but when you get a W, it’s a lot better.”

The Renegades (0-2) had St. Louis on the ropes several times but the Battlehawks (1-1) punched back with the combination of Marcell Ateman (4 catches, 114 yards, 2 TDs) on offense and Pita Taumopenu (5 tackes, 3 for loss, 2 sacks) on defense.

Aided by a controversial pass interference penalty, Arlington found paydirt with 0:28 left in the third quarter to grab a 17-14 lead. Ateman and A.J. McCarron (19-of-29, 248 yards, 2 TDs) quickly answered the bell.

Ateman faked an out-route to the sideline then went vertical. McCarron hung in the pocket through pressure and lofted a beautiful ball that found his favorite target streaking for a 53-yard touchdown.

“Lucky. I just barely saw (Ateman) – they brought a pretty good blitz and ended up with two (defenders) on the back. I just had to stand in there and try to make it happen, and he made a hell of a catch,” McCarron said.

“We called (the play) on the sideline,” Ateman said. “In the first half we ran a lot of those out routes and they were jumping on them, so we said let’s dial it up and see what we can do. A.J. made a great play. Touchdown.”

Cue Nelly on speakers. STL 21, ARL 17.

The eruption from the largest crowd in spring football history – an attendance figure that bested Saturday’s crowd at Busch Stadium and City SC’s sellout – could be felt all the way to California.

But the Renegades still had fight left.

Quarterback Luis Perez (21-of-29, 233 yards, 1 TD) engineered an 82-yard touchdown drive capped by De’Veon Smith’s bruising 3-yard plunge. Lindsey Scott made a nifty play on the 1-point conversion attempt and the Renegades led 24-21 with 10:44 remaining.

St. Louis dinked and dunked into Arlington territory on the next drive. Faced with fourth-and-inches at the Renegades’ 33-yard line, Becht opted to give Szmyt a 47-yard field goal try that sailed through the uprights to tie the game.

Arlington moved into field goal range on their next drive too, but Taylor Russolino’s 46-yard attempt fell short, and St. Louis took possession with 1:55 to play.

Running back Mataeo Durant (14 carries, 104 yards, 1 TD) – inactive for the Battlehawks’ Week 1 loss at Michigan – sparked the Battlehawks’ ground game. On first-and-10 from the STL 48 on the ‘Hawks final drive, Durant dashed 41 yards to the Renegades 11-yard line –  an explosive play that set up Szmyt’s game winning chip shot.

“(Durant) didn’t dress last week, he gets his chance this week and dresses. What a finish by him,” Becht said.

St. Louis held a 14-8 lead at halftime that could easily have been a deficit but for the defensive play of the Battlehawks’ one-man wrecking crew.

Arlington marched to the Battlehawks’ 35-yard line on their first possession, but the drive was stopped cold when Taumoepenu sacked Perez for an 11-yard loss on third-and-short.

Early in the second quarter, Taumoepenu snuffed another Renegades drive with another sack on third down, and this time momentum did carry over to the ‘Hawks offense.

On second down near midfield, Durant cut back at the line of scrimmage and sprinted 16 yards, aided by a block downfield by McCarron. Darrius Shepherd nabbed a 14-yard reception that moved STL deep into Arlington territory, then Ateman finished the 72-yard touchdown drive on the next play.

UFL’s Week 2 attendance standings were a blowout – as expected. St. Louis’ crowd of 40,000 plus crushed D.C. (15,052), Memphis (8,791) and Michigan (7,475) and it wasn’t due to lack of options.

“To come out here with the soccer game, the Cardinals’ game today – this is awesome. I’m just glad we were able to get the W for them,” Becht said.

“They got to showcase themselves on national TV – really proud of that.”

Andy Carroll

Andy Carroll

Andy Carroll is a freelance sports writer living in the Ozarks with his wife and four great kids. He loves St. Louis, toasted ravioli and minor league baseball. You can follow him on Twitter @carroll_sgf and Instagram @andycarroll505