The United States Football League Semifinal playoff game in
Memphis on July 6, 1985
featured the Oakland Invaders against the host Memphis Showboats. While the
Invaders had been in the USFL for both of the previous seasons, they had
combined with the Michigan Panthers for ’85. The result was a stronger team,
benefiting from the influx of talent from the Panthers, the league’s first
championship club in 1983 and a playoff club again in ’84. QB Bobby Hebert, running
backs John Williams and Albert Bentley, and wide receivers Anthony Carter (pictured at right) and
Derek Holloway all moved into Oakland’s
starting lineup with good results. Oakland
topped the Western Conference with the league’s best record (13-4-1) and got
past in the Quarterfinal round of the
postseason. Tampa Bay
There were 37,796 in attendance on a hot day at the Liberty Bowl.
scored first with a long, 91-yard drive that extended into the first play of
the second quarter when John Williams took a pitchout from Hebert and ran
around right end for a seven-yard touchdown.
A promising second quarter drive by the Showboats finally was stopped by the
defense and they had to settle for a 34-yard field goal by Alan Duncan. However,
with 1:43 left in the half Memphis
took the lead thanks to a 73-yard drive that culminated in a 23-yard scoring
run on a draw play by RB Anthony Parker.
Thanks to Reggie White’s domination of the middle of the line, the normally proficient
running game had yielded only 47 yards in the first half. In addition, White
had caused Hebert to toss a pair of poorly-thrown passes that were intercepted,
including one with 19 seconds remaining in the half that preserved the
Memphis lead was extended
to 13-7 early in the third quarter thanks to a 47-yard field goal by Duncan. But the tide
began to turn as Hebert adjusted, dropping back more quickly and completing
passes to Anthony Carter, who could not be adequately contained by the Showboat
secondary. The Invaders came back with a six-play drive that went 66 yards and
resulted in a 24-yard touchdown pass play from Hebert to Carter, who caught the
ball on the eight and sped into the end zone untouched. The successful extra
point put Oakland
ahead by 14-13. Later in the third quarter, Hebert again connected with Carter
on a TD pass play that covered 19 yards.
Midway through the fourth quarter it looked as though the Invaders, leading by eight points, would be pinned back deep in their own territory, facing a third-and-ten situation from their own eight yard line. A completion to Carter for an apparent first down was wiped out by a penalty, but Hebert again threw to Carter for a 15-yard gain that counted and provided
Oakland with the
necessary first down. Eight plays later, Carter caught a pass at the Memphis one that set up a
quarterback keeper by Hebert for a touchdown. The 92-yard drive for all intents
put the game away for the Invaders.
The Showboats put together a 66-yard scoring drive in the last five minutes as Parker again scored on a draw play with 4:19 on the clock. The crucial two-point conversion attempt failed due to an offensive penalty, however, and that was it for the home team. The Invaders won by a score of 28-19.
Anthony Carter was the offensive star for the Invaders, catching 9 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Bobby Hebert completed 18 of 33 throws for 287 yards with the two TDs and two intercepted. John Williams (pictured below) led the running attack with 70 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
Mike Kelley went the distance at quarterback and was successful on 13 of 25
passes for 202 yards and had one intercepted. Thanks to the two scoring
carries, Anthony Parker rushed for 68 yards on just eight attempts while Tim
Spencer ran the ball 12 times for 46 yards. Greg Moser was the team’s top
receiver as he pulled in 5 passes for 103 yards.
“We find ways to make them exciting,” said a victorious Coach Charlie Sumner. “I felt we were in good shape at the half. We were down by only three points and we knew what we had to do.”
“They’ve got one of the most impressive passing games I’ve seen,” said Pepper Rodgers regarding
“Hebert is a tremendous passer and we did everything we knew of to stop Anthony
Carter and we never could come up with the right kind of coverage. He’s just a
tremendous pass catcher.”
The win at Memphis advanced the Invaders to the USFL Championship game, which they lost to the Baltimore Stars. But while it was the end of the line for the spring league, several players for the Invaders and Showboats became stars in the NFL, including Anthony Carter, Bobby Hebert, and Reggie White.