The Michigan Panthers were struggling in the early going of the United States Football League’s first season as they took on the New Jersey Generals at the Meadowlands on April 10, 1983. Coached by Jim Stanley, they had lost four straight games following an opening-week win. The Panthers had unheralded rookie QB Bobby Hebert behind center and were waiting for their better known first-year player, WR Anthony Carter, to break out. LB John Corker had become the star of the defense and, while he missed the previous week’s game, had accounted for nine sacks in the two contests before and was back for the game against New Jersey.
The Generals, under Head Coach Chuck Fairbanks, were also 1-4 and had just broken into the win column in the previous contest. Star rookie RB Herschel Walker was the center of attention and had exploded for 177 yards in the winning effort. But QB Bobby Scott, a veteran backup from the New Orleans Saints, was mediocre and the rest of the team was lacking as well.
There were just 17,648 fans in attendance at Giants Stadium with a steady rain falling. Defense dominated as neither team was able to score during the first half. It stayed that way until, with 5:19 remaining in the third quarter, a punt by Dave Jacobs of the Generals was blocked by CB Clarence Chapman following a high snap. NT Ira Albright fell on the blocked kick in the end zone to finally break the scoreless battle and put the visitors in front.
The Generals came right back and scored less than two minutes later on a one-yard run by FB Dwight Sullivan. However the holder, WR Mike Friede, bobbled the snap for the extra point and it was missed. Michigan, having successfully added its PAT, thus maintained a one-point lead. With a minute remaining in the period, the Panthers extended their margin. Bobby Hebert passed to WR Derek Holloway for a 25-yard touchdown and, with another successful extra point the score was 14-6.
That was it until, with just under a minute to play in the fourth quarter, RB Ken Lacy ran for a nine-yard TD. Michigan ended up with a 21-6 win.
The Generals outgained Michigan (347 yards to 232) and had more first downs (20 to 12). However, the Panthers recorded nine sacks, six of them by Corker, while New Jersey had none.
Bobby Hebert completed 12 of 26 passes for 122 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Ken Lacy rushed for 77 yards on 14 carries that included a TD and also had 4 catches for 39 yards. Derek Holloway gained 40 yards and had a touchdown among his three receptions, while Anthony Carter was held to just two catches for 22 yards.
For the Generals, Herschel Walker, who ran the ball sparingly in the second half as the offense tried to rally through the air, still had a very productive day with 133 yards on 26 carries and another 51 yards on 6 pass receptions. Bobby Scott was successful on 16 of 31 throws for 220 yards and gave up an interception. FB Maurice Carthon, who added another 23 yards on six runs, also pulled in four throws for 52 yards and WR Tom McConnaughey gained 80 yards on his three catches.
The win marked a turnaround for the Panthers, who won five straight games on their way to topping the Central Division with a 12-6 record and ultimately defeating the Philadelphia Stars for the league’s first championship. The offense, helped by the addition of some veteran linemen, came together as Bobby Hebert led the league in passing, Anthony Carter caught 60 passes for 1181 yards and nine touchdowns, and Ken Lacy rushed for 1180 yards.
John Corker’s six sacks gave him 15 in three games on the way to a league-leading total of 28. He received All-League honors from both the league and Sporting News and gaining Defensive Player of the Year recognition.
Meanwhile, New Jersey’s frustrations continued and the Generals finished third in the Atlantic Division at 6-12. Herschel Walker led the new league in rushing with 1812 yards, but the passing attack ranked 9th among the 12 USFL clubs and only one team, the Arizona Wranglers, gave up more than New Jersey’s 437 points.