What made it so bad, Chuck Fusina would say later, was that it came without warning.
The Baltimore Stars were trounced by the Tampa Bay Bandits, 28-14, today before 41,226 fans at Tampa Stadium. The worst defeat in franchise history is a blemish that won't soon be forgotten.
"We came in here looking for a big victory. We practiced hard and we practiced well," said Fusina, the quarterback, whose Stars dropped to 4-5-1 and into sixth place in the U.S. Football League's Eastern Conference.
"But we didn't play well," said Fusina. "We played our worst game of the year."
How did it happen? Why did it happen?
"I don't know. If I knew that, I would have done something about it," said Baltimore Coach Jim Mora. "You can start with the coach. You can start with Jim Mora. We got absolutely outplayed, outconditioned and outtechniqued . . .
"We didn't play with enthusiasm. We didn't suck it up when we had to. This team's too good to get . . . kicked, 28-14."
Tampa Bay snapped a 7-7 halftime tie with 21 points to lead, 28-7, late in the game. The Bandits (7-3, and tied for first in the Eastern Conference) last score came on a grueling, 10-minute drive culminating in Greg Boone's one-yard touchdown run.
The Stars were outgained in total yardage, 371-294. Baltimore had more first downs (23-21), but the Stars also committed two turnovers to none for the Bandits.
Tampa Bay quarterback John Reaves completed 11 of 20 passes for 196 yards and one touchdown. Tailback Gary Anderson rushed for 106 yards on 23 carries and scored his 15th touchdown of the season.
The Bandits limited the Stars' leading rusher, tailback Kelvin Bryant, to 58 yards on 20 carries, a 2.9-yard average. Fusina, who completed 19 of 33 passes for 174 yards, one touchdown and one interception, was the Stars' second-leading rusher with 47 yards.
Fusina led an early drive by scrambling 14 yards on third and 12. Three plays later, he ran for another first down to the Tampa Bay 36.
A sideline completion to Scott Fitzkee gained 12 yards, but Bryant lost two yards on a sweep right. Faced with second and 12 from the 24, Fusina threw into double coverage and was intercepted in the end zone by safety Marcus Quinn.
Tampa Bay gained only five yards in five plays and was forced to punt. The Stars powered 59 yards, recording three first downs, to take a 7-0 lead. Bryant ran the final nine yards.
But the Bandits covered 80 yards in 10 plays, ending with Anderson's two-yard scoring run, to make it 7-7.
The Stars, thanks to two Tampa Bay penalties, could have regained the lead with three seconds left before halftime. But David Trout's 40-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.
Starting the second half from their 13, the Bandits took their first lead of the game, 14-7, on a 47-yard touchdown pass from Reaves to Larry Brodsky.
Less than three minutes later, Reaves hit tight end Jerry Price with a 57-yard scoring pass.