When things were the worst for the Baltimore Stars, there always was this ace in the hole, Kelvin Bryant. He was there again tonight in the Stars' best moment.
Bryant ran for so many touchdowns tonight he couldn't keep them straight. "I don't remember them all, to tell you the truth," he said in a crowded hallway after the Stars' 28-24 victory over the Oakland Invaders. "I know I wasn't touched on a couple of them."
There actually were three, and they were enough to give Bryant the most valuable player award, a goal he said he had privately set before the game. He rushed for 103 yards on 23 carries, the sixth time in eight playoff games that he had exceeded 100 yards for the Stars.
The Stars, primarily a running team all season, invariably have gone to Bryant for their tough yards. He rushed for 1,207 yards on 238 carries in the regular season. When it counted the most, he responded in typical fashion, and also has to be counted the most effective back in USFL postseason games.
A list of his other accomplishments tonight: He set the record for most touchdowns rushing in a USFL championship game, set the championship game record for most points scored with 18, and took over the lead for career scoring in championship games with 24 in three years.
In eight playoff games he has rushed for 910 yards and has scored 13 touchdowns for 78 points. In this year's three postseason games, he rushed for 295 yards and scored five touchdowns.
"Kelvin is a great, great back," Stars Coach Jim Mora said. "He's got it all -- the physical ability, he works hard and he's tough. And he's at his best when it means the most. That's why he's got umpteen playoff records."
The first touchdown came in the opening minute of the second period, a seven-yard tip-toe run around end.
"We thought we could get the ball outside on them," Bryant said. "That one worked real good. All the plays were working pretty good."
The one he couldn't remember was the second one, a 17-yard, untouched affair with 9:00 left in the second quarter that gave the Stars a 21-14 lead.
The last and most important was a seven-yard pitch, almost identical to his first touchdown. It was a regular sweep that fullback David Riley turned into a work of art with a spectacular block that turned strong safety David Greenwood inside. Bryant slipped around him and went seven yards for the final touchdown and the victory.
"It was an outside sweep," he said. "Riley and (right guard) Chuck Commiskey made great blocks. Nobody was there and I just went to the corner."
Bryant's performance can only further impress the Redskins, who own his rights in the National Football League and took him in a middle round of the 1983 draft out of North Carolina. The future of the USFL is uncertain as it goes into a 15-month hiatus to prepare for a move to a fall season in 1986. There is the distinct possibility that the league won't return from its vacation.
Bryant said he will stay with the league as long as it survives.
"I'm going to take it one day at a time," he said. "If the league is around I'll be in it. I just want to play wherever I can."