Monday, May 4, 2009

Bandits v. Federals, 4/28/84

On paper, the April 28, 1984, showdown between the Tampa Bay Bandits and Washington Federals seemed like a sure mismatch. The Federals, one of the worst teams in the USFL at 1-8, came to town for a Saturday night ESPN tilt against the surging Bandits, winners of three straight. While the 6-3 Bandits were jockeying for playoff position in the competitive Southern Division, the Federals merely hoped to be competitive.

Although Washington captured their first victory just a week prior against the winless Oakland Invaders, Tampa Bay refused to look past the downtrodden Federals. Quarterback John Reaves knew the stakes were too high for a letdown.

“We’re in a position where we have to go out every week and win,” Reaves said. “Washington looks good on film. They’ll be all fired up after their first win last week.”

Tampa Bay head coach Steve Spurrier acknowledged the threat of his team becoming complacent as well, particularly given their short week of practice following a Monday night road win over the defending USFL champion Michigan Panthers.

“There’s a definite chance to get complacent if you don’t watch for it,” Spurrier said. “If you go out there and play lazy, they can give you a hard time. We’re planning on this being a tough game.”

On “Tax Relief Night” at Tampa Stadium, the Bandits offered to pay up to $25,000 in taxes for 15 lucky fans. On the field, however, the Bandits would show no such leniency to their guests from Washington, D.C.

The Bandits, a 16.5-point favorite in the game, had little chance of becoming complacent early on as the Federals committed three turnovers on their first three offensive possessions. Tampa Bay boasted one of the hottest defensive units in the league since switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme in Week 9, and their stellar play continued against Washington.

Tampa Bay’s defense capitalized early on a Washington miscue, recovering a botched center-snap at the Federals 27 yard line. It took just six plays for Tampa Bay to take advantage. Running back Gary Anderson scored the first of his two touchdowns on the game, leaping into the end zone from one yard out to give the Bandits the early lead.

On the ensuing possession, cornerback Jeff George intercepted Washington quarterback Mike Hohensee in Tampa Bay territory and returned the ball 31 yards to the Washington 43. The Bandits would need only five plays to score this time, the drive capped by a one-yard pass from Reaves to fullback Greg Boone.

Following two turnovers and trailing 14-0, the Federals coughed up the football once again, this time on the ensuing kickoff. The Bandits recovered the ball at the Washington 30 yard line, and would only need four plays to set the rout in motion. Gary Anderson notched his second touchdown of the quarter, this time a 17-yard run, to give Tampa Bay a commanding lead.

The Bandits had run only 15 plays and controlled the ball for just 5:32, but were already up by three touchdowns. The 21 first quarter points tied a team record set during a 45-17 victory over the Birmingham Stallions in 1983.

After surrendering a 51-yard field goal to the Federals on the first play of the second quarter, the Bandits answered with an eight-play, 80-yard drive. Reaves tossed his second touchdown pass of the night, a 20-yard strike to tight end Marvin Harvey, to extend Tampa Bay’s lead. In one Tampa Bay’s few miscues, placekicker Zenon Andrusyshyn botched the extra point leaving his team with a 27-3 lead.

Leading 27-6 after one half, Tampa Bay had been virtually assured of victory. The Bandits were historically 11-0 to that point in games they led at the half and this game would prove no different.

John Reaves tossed his third touchdown pass of the game in the third quarter, an 18-yard strike to receiver Larry Brodsky, and Andrusyshyn added a 44-yard field goal to account for the rest of Tampa Bay’s scoring output. Late meaningless touchdowns by Washington, long after the game had been decided, made the final score of 37-19.

While Reaves’ passing numbers were mostly pedestrian (12 of 24 for 172 yards), his three touchdowns and command of the offense were all Tampa Bay needed to win the game. With the victory, Reaves improved to 12-3 as a starter in a Tampa Bay uniform.

“John had them guessing all night,” said wide receiver Eric Truvillion. “He was on target.”

The victory propelled the 7-3 Bandits into a tie for second place in the Southern Division with the New Orleans Breakers. The Bandits would travel to Jacksonville in Week 11 before returning to Tampa Stadium on May 14 for a game of special interest to the local football watching populace.

The Monday night showdown against the Oklahoma Outlaws, who were quarterbacked by Doug Williams, would mark his first appearance at Tampa Stadium since being released by the Buccaneers following the 1982 season.

No comments:

Post a Comment