May 6, 2010

1984: Walker & Generals Defeat Williams & Outlaws

The Oklahoma Outlaws were one of six new franchises in the United States Football League’s second season, and they had gotten off to a good start. Coached by Woody Widenhofer, the offense featured QB Doug Williams, formerly of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with TE Ron Wheeler and WR Alphonso Williams the top receivers. However, after attaining a 6-2 record and keeping pace with the defending champion Michigan Panthers atop the Central Division, the Outlaws lost two consecutive games by big margins.

On May 6, 1984 the Outlaws took on the New Jersey Generals at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands. The Generals were 8-2 and just coming off of a win over the Panthers the previous week. They offered no relief to a team with a slumping defense, and no relief was to be had for Oklahoma.

New Jersey scored on its first four possessions, taking a 28-3 lead by halftime and winning 49-17. The Generals dominated on the ground, outgaining the Outlaws by 219 yards to 56. Star RB Herschel Walker led the way, accounting for 127 yards on 16 carries with three touchdowns on runs of 62, two, and four yards. Walker’s backfield mate, FB Maurice Carthon, gained 77 yards on 14 attempts. Carthon also scored on a 9-yard touchdown pass from QB Brian Sipe.

Sipe only threw seven passes, but made them count as he completed six for 103 yards and two TDs. TE Sam Bowers scored the first touchdown of the game on a 13-yard reception. TE Jeff Spek was the top receiver for New Jersey, catching two passes for 67 yards. Only one pass was completed to a wide receiver – a five-yard reception by Clarence Collins – but all things considered, it hardly mattered.

Behind from the start, Williams passed often, completing 31 of 51 throws for 381 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions; one of the pickoffs was returned for a 19-yard touchdown by Generals LB Bob Leopold. Alphonso Williams and RB Andrew Lazarus led the Outlaws with 7 pass receptions apiece, for 95 and 84 yards respectively. WR Jack Steptoe also had 95 yards, on five catches that included a 47-yard touchdown reception. Lazarus was also Oklahoma’s top ground gainer, with 30 yards on 9 carries.

Things never got back on track for the Outlaws. They lost the remainder of their games and finished at 6-12 and in fourth place in the Central Division. Over the course of the 10-game losing streak, they gave up 308 points. New Jersey cruised to a 14-4 tally, good enough for second place in the Atlantic Division and a wild card spot in the playoffs; they lost to the eventual champions, the Philadelphia Stars, in the first round.

Doug Williams had a disappointing year, suffering a knee injury and throwing for 3084 yards with 15 touchdowns and 21 interceptions with a passer rating of 60.5. The lack of a strong running game (they were at the bottom of the league in team rushing), and the defense’s collapse that had the Outlaws constantly playing catch-up, certainly didn’t help his cause.

Alphonso Williams had a solid season, catching 50 passes for 1087 yards (a 21.7-yard average) and seven touchdowns (Williams led the club in receiving yards, but Ron Wheeler led in receptions with 51).

The hundred-yard game for Herschel Walker was just his third of an eventual five during the ’84 season. Playing with a sore shoulder, he ranked third in the USFL with 1339 yards on 293 carries with 16 touchdowns. Maurice Carthon also crossed the thousand-yard threshold for the season, with 1042 yards on 238 attempts and 11 TDs. Not surprisingly, the team ranked second overall in rushing for the year.