If Job had possessed a better sense of humor, he might have laughed like Berl Bernhard did today--hoarsely, joylessly.
"When they told me before the game that (starting quarterback) Mike Hohensee was sick and couldn't play, I thought what else could happen to us?" said the Washington Federals owner after his team's 31-3 loss to Chicago. "I feel like Job. I'd rather be the phoenix rising from the ashes, but the ashes keep piling up."
The loss was the Federals' sixth in a row and ninth in 10 games.
After Birmingham routed the Federals, 35-3, last week, Bernhard fumed and called for a reassessment of the team's play. One of Coach Ray Jauch's resolves was to be more patient with Hohensee before turning to Kim McQuilken or Joe Gilliam. But 45 minutes before game time, the team physician, Tony Rankin, examined Hohensee, who was coughing and complaining of pains in his right side. The prognosis was poor.
"Mike's been coughing for several weeks and had tenderness in his side," Rankin said. "We didn't want to take the chance of a ruptured appendix." Hohensee stood on the sidelines and watched as McQuilken played the whole game, completing nine of 22 passes for 102 yards and two interceptions. The defense fared little better, rarely containing Chicago (7-3).
Chicago running backs Tim Spencer and Kevin Long scored two touchdowns each, and quarterback Greg Landry was 10 of 18 for 145 yards. Apparently the Chicago crowd anticipated the lopsided score. Only 11,300 attended, and 8,169 ticketholders stayed home.
"I was really hopeful about this one," Bernhard said. "I had a sense of revitalization. I went to practice a couple of times and I saw more verve."
And again, Bernhard laughed: "What do I know? I don't know. It's a nightmare."
Allen said that with McQuilken at quarterback, the defensive line did not have to worry about Hohensee's running. How soon Hohensee would return to the lineup no one could say. Rankin said Hohensee would fly home with the team and be examined for an inflamed appendix.
Although the Federals team as a whole played with more spirit than it did last week, Chicago's offense was consistent and its fine defense never allowed Washington to finish off its drives.
"It was the old story with us," said McQuilken. "We couldn't hammer that nail into the coffin." Only Craig James' best performance of the year, 75 yards on 22 carries, was cheering news to the Washington coaches.
"Chicago's as good as any team in this league," Jauch said. "The only thing I can do now is think about the next game."
On opening day, the Blitz routed the Federals, 28-7, at RFK Stadium. Today, Coach George Allen of the Blitz said, "I was very worried about today's game, more than any game this year, because it's difficult to beat a team twice. With all the turmoil after this last game, I knew they'd be fired up. I knew we'd have to start fast."
And so they did.
On Chicago's first drive, Landry tested the Washington secondary and found it wanting for speed and direction. On the second play from scrimmage, Landry spotted tight end Paul Ricker alone 20 yards downfield and the pass was good for 43 yards. Three runs and a procedure penalty brought the ball from the 17 to the two-yard line, and from there Kevin Long carried around left end for the touchdown with 9:58 remaining in the first quarter.
For the second straight time, the Federals punted the ball without gaining a first down and, for the second straight time, the Blitz scored.
Running backs Long, Spencer and Doug Dennison helped move the ball from the Chicago 49 to the Washington 29, and then Landry completed a 20-yard pass to Lenny Willis.
Two plays later, Spencer scored on a four-yard run off right tackle with 3:17 and, though the sun was still high and bright, the afternoon appeared to be at a familiar, dark end for the Federals.
Although James ran well, the Federals' offense was ineffectual. From his 11-yard line, McQuilken tried a pass with less than three minutes left in the half, but the ball bounced off Billy Taylor's hands and Eddie Brown, formerly a defensive back with the Washington Redskins, intercepted at the 39; he returned the ball to the Federals four.
On third down on the three, Spencer carried for his second touchdown and a 21-0 lead with 2:17 left in the half.
On their first drive in third quarter, the Federals appeared to promise a bit of excitement but betrayed the promise soon. McQuilken threw a 55-yard pass to Billy Taylor, the Federals' longest pass play of the year, and the biggest play the Chicago defense has yielded. But with first and goal from the eight, the Federals had to settle for Dale Castro's 21-yard field goal with 9:51 left in the quarter.
As if the Federals' three points were a threat, the Blitz opened the fourth quarter with a 13-play, 96-yard drive. Long's five-yard scoring run with 9:59 left in the fourth period made the score 28-3.
A final drive by the Blitz, led by backup quarterback Tim Koegel, ended with Frank Corral's 36-yard field goal with 2:38 left.