March 18, 2010

1984: Kelvin Bryant Leads Stars Past Invaders in 28-Point Second Half

At halftime of the March 18, 1984 USFL game between the host Philadelphia Stars and visiting Oakland Invaders at Veterans Stadium, it appeared that a significant upset was in the making. The Invaders, 0-3 coming into the contest and having failed to score in the previous 12 consecutive quarters, held a 7-0 lead on the 2-1 Stars, who had come within two points of the league championship in ’83.

The second half proved to be a different story as Philadelphia’s offense pulled out of its funk and scored touchdowns the first three times they had the ball. Star RB Kelvin Bryant, who had been held to 40 yards on 10 carries in the first half, scored touchdowns of four and two yards on his way to a 133-yard second half rushing total. QB Chuck Fusina threw for the last two scores, on passes of 25 yards to WR Scott Fitzkee and 35 yards to WR Tom Donovan. In the end, it was a comfortable 28-7 win for Head Coach Jim Mora’s team.

Philadelphia rolled up 234 rushing yards, 173 of that total accounted for by Bryant. Fusina completed 19 of 31 passes for 260 yards with the two touchdowns and an interception. WR Willie Collier led the Stars in receiving, with 6 catches for 95 yards. The defense held the Invaders to nine first downs, with 76 rushing and 140 net passing yards. LB George Cooper recorded a sack, while CB Garcia Lane picked off a pass.

For Oakland, QB Fred Besana completed 13 of 28 passes for 153 yards and an interception. RB Arthur Whittington was the top runner with 62 yards on 16 carries. WR Gordon Banks was the standout among the receivers with 5 catches for 99 yards.

The Stars had quickly emerged in the USFL’s first season as one of the best-balanced clubs, and after barely losing in the title game to the Michigan Panthers it was anticipated that they would again be strong contenders. They more than fulfilled expectations in 1984, going 16-2 over the course of the season to win the Atlantic Division and cruising through the postseason to win the league championship.

Kelvin Bryant, achieving All-League honors for the second season, ranked second in the USFL with 1406 rushing yards. Chuck Fusina might not have been the most highly regarded quarterback in the league, but he nevertheless led the circuit in passing in ’84 with a 104.7 rating that included a 64.9 completion percentage, 3837 yards, 31 TD passes, and just 9 interceptions. They operated behind a solid offensive line that featured OT Irv Eatman and the Oates brothers – center Bart and tackle Brad. Defensively, they had All-League performers in DT Pete Kugler, LB Sam Mills, safety Mike Lush, and Lane at cornerback.

In a roller coaster ride of a year, Oakland endured nine straight losses to open the season, turned around and won seven consecutive games to pull into playoff contention in the mediocre Pacific Divison, but dropped the final two contests to drop back into last place at 7-11. Fred Besana suffered through an injury-riddled year, and couldn’t duplicate his solid 1983 performance. Gordon Banks was a standout at wide receiver (61 catches, 937 yards), but the offensive line play was inconsistent, allowing the immobile Besana to be sacked too many times, and the defense was especially poor against the run.