May 14, 2013

1984: Reaves Tosses 4 TD Passes as Bandits Beat Outlaws

The Tampa Bay Bandits of the United States Football League were on a roll, having won five straight games prior to hosting the Oklahoma Outlaws on May 14, 1984. Head Coach Steve Spurrier’s team featured an exciting offense directed by 34-year-old QB John Reaves and a defense that was solid up front if less proficient at defending against the pass.

The Oklahoma Outlaws, one of six new clubs for the USFL’s second season, appeared to be going in the opposite direction, having lost three straight games by lopsided scores after getting off to a promising 6-2 start. Coached by Woody Widenhofer, the offense featured QB Doug Williams, who had spent five seasons with the NFL Buccaneers and was making his return to Tampa. Defense was the biggest problem for the Outlaws, who had given up an alarming 124 points in the three losses leading up to the game against the Bandits.

There were 45,116 fans in attendance for the Monday night contest at Tampa Stadium, and they lustily booed Williams when he first appeared. The game started off as a shootout as the Bandits scored the first three times they had the ball, driving 77, 78, and 79 yards respectively, and Oklahoma did so on its first two possessions.

On the first series, RB Gary Anderson tossed an option pass to TE Marvin Harvey for a 10-yard touchdown to finish it off. The Outlaws came back with a scoring drive of their own, with WR Alphonso Williams catching a pass from Doug Williams for an 11-yard TD. It was 7-7 after a period of play.

RB Greg Boone scored a touchdown for the Bandits on the first play of the second quarter, running in from a yard out, and Tampa Bay’s lead increased when John Reaves threw to WR Spencer Jackson for a 26-yard TD. Down by 21-7, the Outlaws rallied back with two quick scores. Williams tossed a 14-yard touchdown pass to WR Lonnie Turner to cap a five-play, 69-yard series. He then threw to TE Jerry Price from three yards away and, with the successful extra point, the game was tied with 2:42 left in the half.

However, the Bandits responded by going 74 yards in seven plays ending with a 10-yard Reaves scoring pass to Harvey. It was 28-21 at the midpoint. 

After a very competitive first two quarters, Tampa Bay’s defense shut down the Outlaws in the second half. Reaves tossed a pass to WR Eric Truvillion for a 35-yard touchdown in the third quarter and to Anderson for a six-yard TD in the final period. The extra point was missed after the fourth scoring pass by Reaves, but it hardly mattered, and in any event Truvillion, who normally caught passes, threw one to Harvey from 13 yards out for a TD that capped the scoring. It was the third touchdown for Harvey, each coming from a different passer. Tampa Bay ended up winning comfortably by a final score of 48-21.

The Bandits rolled up 511 total yards to Oklahoma’s 435 and had the edge in first downs by 28 to 27. However, the Outlaws turned the ball over four times, to none by Tampa Bay. Oklahoma had three possessions end with interceptions, one via a fumble, and one more in which they had to turn the ball over on downs. There was only one punt during the game, by the Bandits in the second quarter.

John Reaves had a big day as he completed 22 of 31 passes for 378 yards and four touchdowns with none intercepted. WR Willie Gillespie had 5 catches for 107 yards while Marvin Harvey contributed 5 receptions for 68 yards and the three scores. Eric Truvillion pulled in four passes for 74 yards and a touchdown while also passing for a TD. Gary Anderson rushed for 49 yards on 17 carries and had a touchdown pass as well.

For Oklahoma, Doug Williams was successful on 25 of 48 throws for 317 yards and three TDs, but also had three intercepted. In addition, Williams was flagged once for unsportsmanlike conduct after arguing a call and was also penalized for a late hit on an interception return that sparked a scuffle between the teams along the sideline as well as a shower of debris from some nearby fans. Alphonso Williams caught 6 passes for 119 yards and a TD. RB Ted Sample ran for 70 yards on 8 carries.

The sixth straight win for the Bandits put them a game behind the Birmingham Stallions in the Southern Division. They went on to finish at 14-4 and earn a Wild Card playoff spot, although they lost convincingly to the Stallions in the first round. Oklahoma’s collapse continued and the Outlaws ended up at 6-12 and fourth in the division.

John Reaves, who had been a disappointment in the NFL, ranked fifth among USFL passers as he threw for 4092 yards and 28 touchdowns with a 57.5 completion percentage. Eric Truvillion and Marvin Harvey were favorite targets, each catching 70 passes and scoring 9 touchdowns while accumulating 1044 and 938 yards, respectively.