May 20, 2010

1984: Gary Anderson Scores 3 TDs as Bandits Defeat Breakers

The Tampa Bay Bandits had started slowly in the United States Football League’s second season, but after a 3-3 beginning they won six straight contests. Coached by the offensive-minded Steve Spurrier, the team was adept at both passing and running.

On May 20, 1984 the Bandits (9-3) hosted the New Orleans Breakers (8-4) in a key Southern Division matchup before a crowd of 42,592 at Tampa Stadium. The Breakers had gotten off to the better start, going 7-2 before losing two of the prior three contests.

Tampa Bay scored first, thanks to a three-yard touchdown pass from the 34-year-old veteran QB John Reaves to WR Eric Truvillion. 20-year-old rookie RB Marcus Dupree tied the score for the Breakers near the end of the opening period on a one-yard run. The lead changed hands twice in the second quarter as Tim Mazzetti put New Orleans ahead 10-7 with a 31-yard field goal, followed by a two-yard TD run by Tampa Bay’s multi-talented RB Gary Anderson (pictured above), which was in turn followed by another Dupree one-yard touchdown carry that gave the Breakers a 17-14 advantage at halftime.

New Orleans turnovers in the third quarter proved crucial. The first was recovered by Tampa Bay LB Kelly Kirchbaum at the Breakers 20 yard line and resulted in a game-tying field goal by Zenon Andrusyshyn. On the very next New Orleans possession, it was DB Dwayne Anderson recovering a fumble for the Bandits, again deep in Breakers territory at the 30. This time it resulted in a touchdown as Gary Anderson ran for a three-yard score and 24-17 lead.

Mazzetti kicked a 19-yard field goal just over four minutes into the fourth quarter to narrow the margin, but Anderson’s third touchdown of the day, on a two-yard run with just under two minutes left to play, capped Tampa Bay’s 31-20 win.

Marcus Dupree was the game’s leading rusher, with 104 yards on 18 carries, while RB Buford Jordan contributed another 53 yards on 12 attempts as the Breakers outran the Bandits, 160 yards to 137. FB Greg Boone led Tampa Bay with 61 yards on 14 rushes while Gary Anderson, who scored all three of his TDs on the ground, had 57 yards on 16 carries. However, as an outstanding receiver out of the backfield as well as runner, Anderson gained 74 yards on 6 catches.

John Reaves had a typically solid passing performance, completing 23 of 32 throws for 276 yards with a TD and an interception. Eric Truvillion led the Bandits with 7 catches for 80 yards and a score. Meanwhile, John Walton connected on 19 of 32 passes for 258 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. WR Frank Lockett had an outstanding game with 5 pass receptions for 127 yards.

Neither team dominated the statistics, with Tampa Bay enjoying slight advantages in first downs (22 to 20) and time of possession (30:09 to 29:51). Both squads fumbled the ball away three times, but the Bandits better capitalized on their opportunities. Neither quarterback was sacked (not a surprise in the case of the Breakers, who allowed Walton to be sacked only 13 times all season).

Tampa Bay ended up with a 14-4 record, placing second in the Southern Division to Birmingham due to tiebreakers but losing to the Stallions in the first playoff round. New Orleans limped to an 8-10 mark to finish third in the division. Having moved from Boston after the ’83 season, the Breakers relocated to Portland, Oregon for 1985.

Gary Anderson gained 1008 yards rushing on 268 carries (3.8 average) with 19 touchdowns; he also caught 66 passes for another 682 yards and two more TDs. A sore hamstring ultimately hobbled Marcus Dupree, who compiled 684 yards on 145 carries (4.7 average) with 9 touchdowns.

John Reaves, who had been a disappointment in the NFL but a prolific USFL passer, ranked fourth in passing, including second in yards (4092) and completions (313) and third in TD passes (28). John Walton, a 36-year-old veteran of the Continental, World, and National Football Leagues, finished out his career with 3554 yards passing and 17 TDs to 19 interceptions.

Eric Truvillion had a second strong season as he caught 70 passes for 1044 yards (14.9 average) with 9 touchdowns. Frank Lockett snagged fewer passes (56) but for more yards (1199) and a 21.4 average with 8 TDs.