The Baltimore Stars have at least half a step on the Portland Breakers. Kelvin Bryant will be back today. Buford Jordan won't.
Bryant, the Stars' leading rusher before he was injured, is scheduled to start against the Breakers at Byrd Stadium in College Park this afternoon (2:30 p.m.) after missing three straight games with a pulled hamstring. Jordan, the Breakers' leading ball-carrier, will miss his fifth successive game with the same injury.
"He looked real good," Stars Coach Jim Mora said of Bryant, one of the U.S. Football League's brightest stars of 1983 and '84. "He had a good week of practice."
"He didn't look too good," Breakers Coach Dick Coury said of Jordan. "He ran, but not well."
Other than the situation at running back, the Breakers and the Stars have a lot in common right now. Both are seeking to awake from offensive comas and they have similar records: the Stars are 3-4-1 after last week's 13-10 loss to Memphis and the Breakers are 3-5 after their 34-7 loss to the New Jersey Generals.
If nothing else, Bryant's return might shake the Stars out of their seemingly terminal state of torpor. They have been going with a nickel-and-dime passing offense that has produced just that, small change. They are averaging just 17 points a game. With Bryant's replacement, Allen Harvin, running for 118 and 111 yards in victories over Houston and Los Angeles, they were able at least to move the ball well, but they didn't even manage that against a troubled Memphis team.
It's hard to be any more troubled, however, than the Breakers. They have been in three cities in three years, starting in Boston and spending last year in New Orleans before landing in Oregon. Things looked better when they acquired quarterback Matt Robinson and running back Marcus Dupree in trades in the offseason. But Dupree was lost to a possibly career-ending knee injury in the second game of the season. Then came Jordan's injury.
"I guess the only difference is, they've got a lot more talent to go with their problems," Coury said. "But I never feel good about anybody else's problems. I'm too busy trying to straighten out my own."
The Breakers' backup running backs, Vince Williams and Dwight Beverly, have been journeymanlike. Beverly has 259 yards and Williams 202 this season.
Robinson, left to his own devices in the backfield, has run hot and cold. He has completed 61 of 117 passes for 762 yards and six touchdowns, but has given up 11 interceptions, and was ineffective in the New Jersey game last week. Coury briefly considered going with backup Doug Woodward in an effort to get something going against the Stars, but said Robinson will start.
"I wouldn't hesitate to put Doug in there if things started going bad," Coury said. "But I'd like to see Matt have a good game. You can't blame what's wrong with us on the quarterback. We've had a lot of other problems."
It seems the Stars are continually blessing their defense, which is about the only thing keeping them in this strangely listless season. They are allowing opponents 13.6 points a game, fewest in the league.
Against the Showboats, they made two interceptions and five quarterback sacks. But they had season lows in total offense, with 236 yards gained, and in rushing, 69 yards. Harvin had just 37 yards. All this seems bound to wear a team out, but Mora is giving the Stars no quarter right now.
"The defense has got to continue to play well," Mora said. "They're doing what they're supposed to be doing. I don't care if they're tired or not."