April 14, 2014

1984: Late Williams TD Pass Gives Outlaws Win Over Federals

The Oklahoma Outlaws were coming off of two straight closely-fought wins as they took on the Washington Federals in a United States Football League game on April 14, 1984. One of six expansion franchises for the USFL’s second season, the Outlaws were 5-2 and a game behind the defending-champion Michigan Panthers in the Central Division. Coached by Woody Widenhofer, the offense was directed by QB Doug Williams (pictured at right), formerly of the NFL Buccaneers, and had capable receivers in WR Alphonso Williams and TE Ron Wheeler, but the running game was lacking.

Washington, just as had been in the case in 1983, was a poor team and poorly supported. The Federals were a miserable 0-7 and had undergone a coaching change from Ray Jauch to Dick Bielski after a first-week blowout. There was talent in WR Joey Walters and RB Curtis Bledsoe, and second-year QB Mike Hohensee showed potential, but overall the team had little going for it.

There were just 6075 fans in attendance at RFK Stadium. The Federals scored on their first possession, with Jeff Brockhaus kicking a 40-yard field goal that was set up by Mike Hohensee throwing to WR Greg Taylor for 12 yards on a third-and-17 play that moved the home team into range. It was the first successful field goal of the year for the Federals, with the newly-acquired Brockhaus the team’s third placekicker.

Brockhaus got another field goal before the opening period was over, this time from 25 yards that was set up by a Hohensee pass to WR Mike Fisher that picked up 54 yards to the Oklahoma 11. At just under five minutes into the second quarter, the Outlaws finally got on the board when Efren Herrera booted a 24-yard field goal and the score of 6-3 held up until halftime.

Washington put together another scoring drive in the third quarter as Hohensee completed passes to Joey Walters and RB Eric Robinson, and Curtis Bledsoe had an 18-yard carry. The series culminated in a third straight Brockhaus field goal, from 43 yards.

The Outlaws took advantage of a turnover midway through the period when Hohensee fumbled after being blindsided by blitzing DB Kelvin Middleton. The ensuing possession resulted in another Herrera field goal of 28 yards that cut Washington’s lead to 9-6.

Hohensee left the game due to a head injury and Reggie Collier came in at quarterback. The Federals extended their lead to 16-6 near the end of the third quarter when Collier ran for a two-yard touchdown and Brockhaus added the extra point.

The Outlaws came back with the help of an interception by Middleton, who returned it seven yards to give Oklahoma possession at the Washington 43. Two plays later, Doug Williams threw long to Alphonso Williams for a 43-yard touchdown. Herrera kicked the extra point to make it a three-point game.

Oklahoma had a chance to tie the score with seven minutes remaining on the clock, but a bad snap doomed a 38-yard field goal try by Herrera.

Getting the ball back with four minutes to go, the Outlaws drove 93 yards in 10 plays. Doug Williams completed six of nine passes for 71 yards along the way and, with 57 seconds to play, he connected with Ron Wheeler, who was open in the corner of the end zone, for an eight-yard touchdown. It was Oklahoma’s first lead of the game, and proved decisive as the Outlaws won by a final score of 20-16.

Oklahoma led in total yards (393 to 336) and first downs (19 to 18) while the Federals had the edge in time of possession (32:56 to 27:04) in the closely-fought contest. As usual, and especially since they were playing from behind for most of the game, the Outlaws gained far more yards through the air (333) than on the ground (60). Meanwhile, the Federals turned the ball over three times, to two by the Outlaws, and also hurt themselves with nine penalties, to six flags thrown on the visitors.

Doug Williams completed 24 of 45 passes for 333 yards and the two big fourth quarter touchdowns, as opposed to one interception. Ron Wheeler had 6 catches for 87 yards and the game-winning TD while Alphonso Williams gained 105 yards on his five receptions that also included a score. RB Sidney Thornton also caught 6 passes, for 54 yards, to go along with his 7 rushing attempts for 14 yards. RB Ted Sample led the Outlaws with 33 rushing yards on five carries.

For the Federals, Mike Hohensee was successful on 7 of 19 throws for 134 yards with no TDs and one interception before giving way to Reggie Collier, who completed 12 of 23 for 117 yards and also tossed an interception. WR Ricky Simmons pulled in 6 pass receptions for 68 yards and Mike Fisher gained 89 yards on his four catches. RB Billy Taylor led the club with 44 rushing yards on 16 carries and Curtis Bledsoe was right behind with 42 yards on 10 attempts. Jeff Brockhaus (pictured at left) was successful on all three of his field goal attempts, the first of the year for Washington.

The win for the Outlaws put them in a first-place tie with Michigan at 6-2, but it proved to be the high water mark of their season. The bottom fell out as they lost their remaining games, with the defense collapsing and Doug Williams eventually going out with an injury. They ended up with a 6-12 record and placed fourth in the Central Division. Washington eventually did break into the win column, but only three times as the Federals finished up tied with Pittsburgh in the basement of the Atlantic Division at 3-15.