How bad was yesterday's game between the Baltimore Stars and the Arizona Outlaws? It was so bad . . . .
It was so bad the game was called off with 25 seconds left, giving the Stars a largely undeserved 24-19 victory at College Park. It was so bad the Stars (5-5-1) got a safety with 35 seconds left, Arizona was called for interference on the kickoff, and two fights broke out at midfield when the Stars tried to fall on the ball, causing exasperated officials to whistle the game dead in what could best be described as a mercy killing.
It was a hectic, silly ending to a parody of a game, which included a missed extra point and blocked field goal for Arizona, a Baltimore field goal called back for tripping, passes flying around with no one in the vicinity, and enough penalty flags for a parade.
The Stars were penalized six times for 60 yards and the Outlaws 17 times for 166 yards. Only Kelvin Bryant supplied a little sanity. He ran for a 15-yard touchdown with 4:44 remaining to give the Stars a 22-19 lead. That effectively ended the Outlaws' chances of reversing the outcome of their last meeting -- a 23-3 Stars' victory in last season's U.S. Football League championship game.
The Stars also scored on Chuck Fusina's two 15-yard touchdown passes in the first quarter to Scott Fitzkee. Fusina completed 11 of 21 passes for 163 yards. Bryant rushed for 96 yards on 21 carries.
"Frankly, I'm pleased," Stars Coach Jim Mora said. "I knew it was going to be a dogfight. We came back. We got behind, but we pulled it out."
Arizona had led, 16-14, at the half on a touchdown pass from Rick Johnson to Ron Wheeler in the first quarter, Reggie Brown's 10-yard touchdown run in the second, and two field goals by Luis Zendejas. In losing their fifth straight, the Outlaws (4-7), however, did provide most of the quality play, outgaining the Stars, 419-265.
Bryant's touchdown was the only scoring the Stars did in the second half except for the safety. That came with the Outlaws backed up on their four after a Baltimore punt. Defensive end John Walker snuck in the end zone on first down and nailed Johnson, who was starting in place of injured Doug Williams.
"It was another inadequate, inconsistent performance," said Arizona Coach Frank Kush.
Not even a chance at a free trip to Cancun, Mexico, offered by the Stars could lure more than 14,432 fans to College Park. Those who came booed lustily, first at Kush, who returned to Maryland for the first time since his days as coach of the Baltimore Colts, and then at the Stars, for punting from the Arizona 35 in the second quarter.
Johnson, a second-year quarterback who hadn't thrown a pass all season, completed 13 of 26 for 164 yards. Brown, who had rushed for over 100 yards only once this season, carried 27 times for 178 yards.
Zendejas' field goals of 43 yards in the second quarter and 47 yards in the third gave Arizona a 19-14 lead. It held up until Bryant's run.
Bryant had fumbled on second down and three at the Arizona seven with 8:08 left in the third quarter. Strong safety Kelvin Middleton recovered at the eight, and the Outlaws went all the way to the Stars' 26, where they stalled and Zendejas kicked his second field goal.
Arizona's 16-14 halftime lead came on two long drives that led to Wheeler's and Brown's touchdowns, and Zendejas' first field goal. But a 27-yard field goal attempt by Zendejas was blocked by Buddy Moor as time ran out in the half.
Johnson's 12-yard touchdown pass to Wheeler came on the first series of the game to finish a 67-yard drive, but Fitzkee's two quick touchdowns put the Stars up, 14-7.
Fitzkee's first reception was over the middle on the second series of the game to cap a 62-yard drive that took just four plays and 2:31. Fusina had connected with David Riley on a 43-yard bomb two plays earlier. It was Fitzkee's first touchdown of the season. Brown's 10-yard touchdown came on a student body left sweep on the next series to finish off an 87-yard drive.