The Los Angeles Express were atop the United States Football League’s Pacific Division with a 9-7 record coming into their June 15, 1984 contest against the Oakland Invaders. Head Coach John Hadl’s team had started off slowly but benefited from the arrival of heralded rookie QB Steve Young (pictured above). The mobile lefthander out of Brigham Young brought a jolt to an offense that averaged just 10.7 points per game in the first five outings. He was further helped by the offensive line play of G Gary Zimmerman and C Mike Ruether. While not well supported by the LA fans and with unstable ownership, the Express was playing well and had won four straight games coming into Week 17.
Attendance was typically sparse at 14,794 for the Friday night showdown at the Memorial Coliseum.
started off impressively, going 71 yards in 16 plays in its opening possession.
Besana completed five of six passes and the result was a 26-yard field goal by
Kevin Shea, who was coming off a poor performance the previous week against Michigan in which he
missed all three of his field goal attempts.
It was still 3-0 at the end of the opening period, but on the first play of the second quarter, Young tossed a short pass to RB Mel Gray, who ran 76 yards untouched down the left sideline for a touchdown that gave LA the lead.
The Invaders responded by going from their 23 to the LA 14 in six plays. However, a holding penalty followed by a sack of Besana by DT Lee Williams that cost an additional 12 yards forced them to settle for a field goal, with Shea connecting from 47 yards to make it a one-point game.
was leading in time of possession, the Express again struck quickly on their
next series. On the fourth play, Young kept the ball and dashed 47 yards up the
middle for a TD that resulted in a 14-6 score. That remained the tally at the
LA failed in an opportunity to increase its margin on an ensuing series when RB Kevin Mack was stopped for no gain on a fourth-and-one play. But the Express got the ball back and came through with yet another big play, this time when Young passed to WR Malcolm Moore for a 44-yard gain to the
Oakland 32. A
few plays later, Young was stopped three yards short of a first down at the Oakland 14 but LB Gary
Plummer was penalized for unnecessary roughness. With the ball moved to the 7,
Gray ran in for a touchdown on the next play and the score was 21-12 with 9:37
remaining in the game.
The Invaders were far from done and came back with a five-play, 74-yard drive that resulted in a 30-yard TD pass from Besana to TE Brian Williams. They were again just two points down, but the Express put together a drive that was extended twice by fourth down conversions on runs by Mack. With less than two minutes to play, Tony Zendejas kicked a 37-yard field goal for the Express that extended the lead to what would prove to be a vital five points.
Now down to 1:35 in the contest,
Oakland regained possession and nearly pulled
the game out. The Invaders, starting from their own ten yard line, reached the
LA nine with the clock down to seven seconds, but two passes by Besana were
batted down to preserve the 24-19 win for the Express.
Oakland outgained the Express (370 yards to 334), had more first downs (25 to 14), ran off 18 more plays, and dominated time of possession (33:18 to 26:42), but LA won with big plays in a game in which there were no turnovers.
Steve Young was highly efficient throwing the ball, completing 14 of 16 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown - he also ran the ball 8 times for 82 yards and the long TD. Mel Gray rushed for 44 yards on five carries and led the receivers with 82 yards on four catches, scoring a total of two TDs. Malcolm Moore also caught four passes, for 70 yards.
Fred Besana was successful on 23 of 35 throws for 256 yards and a touchdown.
Eric Jordan (pictured at left) gained 88 yards on 13 carries and scored once. Brian Williams had 8
pass receptions for 91 yards and a TD.
Appearing in 12 games, Steve Young completed a healthy 57.7 percent of his passes for 2361 yards with 10 touchdowns against 9 interceptions. He also ran the ball 79 times for 515 yards (6.5 avg.) and seven TDs.
Eric Jordan, who was such a key performer during
Oakland’s winning streak,
ended up rushing for 744 yards on 135 carries (5.5 avg.) and scored six
touchdowns. He also caught 19 passes for 140 yards.