Here at Ball On The 25 football truly never stop. One of the great things about football (and great for the degree I’m earning) is that there are so many great games of the past. Whether it be Super Bowl I or lesser known games. Starting this week I am starting a weekly recap of classic games from the past in honor of it being Throwback Thursday.
With that being said, Spring and Spring Football are in the air. It’s a beautiful thing to have in our lives once again. Many football fans don’t remember or weren’t alive (like myself) the last time a league played football in the spring. That league was the legendary United States Football League. So this Thursday we look back at the last USFL game played, the 1985 USFL Championship Game.
July 14th, 1985. It was a rainy Sunday evening at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. It was the final game of the USFL season, but what the fans in the stands didn’t know was that it would be the final game in league history. The home team was the Oakland Invaders, named appropriately to resemble the “Raiders” who had moved from Oakland to LA in 1982. The visitors were the Baltimore Stars. The Stars were the USFL’s dynasty, being in the championship game in both 1983 and 1984. Lead by head coach Jim Mora, QB Chuck Fusina and running back Melvin Bryant the Stars were looking to repeat following their 1984 Championship victory.
Nearly 50,000 fans were in East Rutherford that night. Little did they know what they were about to see the last spring football game played until the USFL. Actually that is wrong. Fans knew by that point the USFL was going to play in the fall the next season, but that messes with my narrative.
The Oakland Invaders were led offensively by Bobby Hebert and Anthony Carter, with All-USFL DB David Greenwood on the defense. While the Invaders had one of the best offenses in football, it was still rather bitter sweet as Carter and Hebert were expected to make the jump to the NFL the up coming fall.
While the Stars were the Baltimore Stars, they did not play their games in Baltimore proper. The plan originally was for the Stars to play in Memorial Stadium, however Orioles owner Edwards Bennett Williams blocked this move until 1986 and the Stars were forced to play in College Park on the University of Maryland campus. After starting the season 6-6-1 the Stars won 4 of their last 5 making the playoffs.
With the rain battering the stadium Oakland’s air raid of a passing offense could not get off the ground. This allowed the Stars’ ground and pound offense to take control with the Stars leading 21-14 at half. While the rain continued to pour down, Hebert would finally connect with Carter on a 7 yard TD pass to make the score 24-21 going into the 4th.
The Invaders would not get the chance to score again and Melvin Bryant would finish off the Oakland defense with a 7-yard touchdown run with 8:15 left in the game with the Stars defense holding strong.
The Stars had won their 2nd straight title and things were looking incredibly bright for Baltimore football. Sadly the USFL would not make it to fall of 1986. Following the ruling of USFL v. NFL, in which the USFL sought $567 million in damages from the NFL’s monopoly. Thanks to antitrust laws the sum would have become $1.7 billion. Ultimately the USFL won the case, but the jury only awarded $1 to the league. The league would fold and spring football wouldn’t be played again till the XFL kicked off in 2001.
Join me next week for another classic game in the history of football when I cover the 1971 “Game of the Century” between #1 Nebraska and #2 Oklahoma.
You can watch the game here:
All stats are from usflsite.com.