March 21, 2014

1983: Bryant Runs for 177 Yards as Stars Defeat Stallions

The Philadelphia Stars were off to a 2-0 start in the inaugural United States Football League season as they took on the Birmingham Stallions on March 21, 1983. Rookie RB Kelvin Bryant had quickly established himself as the key player in the ball control offense that was directed by QB Chuck Fusina while the defense was proving to be very tough and was coming off a shutout of the New Jersey Generals.

The Stallions were 1-1, having won the USFL’s first overtime game the previous week. Coached by Rollie Dotsch, formerly an assistant with the NFL Steelers and used to winning, Birmingham invested heavily in young players, most notably QB Reggie Collier, a mobile rookie out of Southern Mississippi who had signed a big contract to start right away in the new league.  

There was a disappointing crowd of 12,850 fans in attendance at Legion Field on a cold and damp Monday night in Birmingham, with temperatures near freezing; a brief snow shower arrived just prior to the kickoff

The Stars took the early lead by driving 73 yards in 10 plays on their first possession. RB Allen Harvin ran around left end for the final two yards and a touchdown and David Trout added the extra point.

The teams traded interceptions, following which Birmingham came back with a score later in the opening period. The big play was a pass from Reggie Collier to WR Sylvester Moy that covered 45 yards to the Philadelphia 13. Collier carried for a four-yard TD to cap the five-play, 58-yard series and Scott Norwood tied the game with the extra point.

Less than two minutes into the second quarter, Trout put the Stars back in front with a 23-yard field goal, finishing off a 51-yard possession that took seven plays. The 10-7 lead held up through the remainder of the half.

Philadelphia started the third quarter with Harvin returning the second half kickoff 67 yards to the Birmingham 21. Five plays later, and on his fifth straight carry, Kelvin Bryant scored a touchdown from a yard out and Trout added the PAT to make it a ten-point margin.

To make matters worse for the Stallions, a hip pointer knocked Collier out of the game for the second half. Still, with backup QB Bob Lane behind center, the home team responded by driving from their 41 to the Philadelphia two. The Stars held at that point but Norwood made it a seven-point game with a 19-yard field goal.

Philadelphia was unable to build on its lead and Lane nearly led the Stallions to a potential tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Birmingham had a first down at the Philadelphia 12, but three straight passes fell incomplete to end the threat and seal the 17-10 win for the Stars.

The Stallions had the edge in total yards (312 to 227) and first downs (20 to 13), with 200 of Philadelphia’s total coming on the ground. However, Birmingham also turned the ball over three times, to one suffered by the Stars.

Kelvin Bryant had his biggest game yet, rushing for 177 yards on 27 carries that included a touchdown. Chuck Fusina had a rough outing, completing 8 of 15 passes for just 56 yards and being picked off once. WR Willie Collier was the team’s most productive receiver with 28 yards on two catches. FS Mike Lush intercepted two passes on defense.

For the Stallions, Reggie Collier was successful on 7 of 14 throws for 95 yards and tossed two interceptions before having to leave the contest. Bob Lane was 15 of 24 for 134 yards and had one pass intercepted. Sylvester Moy had 8 catches for 115 yards (he had just three more catches and 88 more yards over the remainder of the season). RB Ken Talton led the rushers with 37 yards on 8 attempts and RB Billy White contributed 31 yards on his 14 carries.

“I’m glad to get out of here with a win,” said a relieved Philadelphia Head Coach Jim Mora. “It wasn’t a great game on our part but our guys played hard and we won.”

The win over the Stallions set the Stars up for a battle of unbeaten against the Tampa Bay Bandits the next week, which they lost, but they recovered to go 15-3, top the Atlantic Division, and advance to the USFL Championship game, where they fell to the Michigan Panthers by two points. The defense continued to be a key to the team’s success as well as Kelvin Bryant, who rushed for 1442 yards and was named MVP by the league. Birmingham finished at the bottom of the Central Division with a 9-9 record.