The 1983 Philadelphia Stars were as talented as they were confident.
So a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit was a mountain the Stars believed they could still climb in the inaugural USFL championship game in 1983, recalls Philadelphia quarterback Chuck Fusina in the second installment of his “5 Games” podcast with the Talk of Fame Network. After all, the Stars had rallied from a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit the previous week in the USFL semifinals to defeat the Chicago Blitz, 44-38.
“We were sky high after that Blitz game,” Fusina said. “Our confidence level was extremely high. We practiced well all week and couldn’t wait for the game. We felt really good about ourselves. We had a good gameplan and watched the (Blitz) film of what we and I did wrong a lot of that first half and thought we learned from it. But we knew we had a really good opponent and couldn’t rest on our laurels the week prior. We had to play well.”
But play well is something the USFL’s best team did not do in the opening three quarters of that title game against the Michigan Panthers. After putting up 44 points in that victory over the Blitz, the Stars could manage only three points in the opening three quarters against the Panthers.
“I think we learned a lot in that previous game,” Fusina said. “Even when things weren’t going well in that third quarter, you don’t give up. You keep playing. That’s why there’s a clock. On the sidelines, we remained confident. We thought we could still do it. Our confidence was in our defense the whole year. They seemed to always be able to get us the ball back when we needed it most and make those stops. They started to make those stops at that point.”
The Stars quickly cut the deficit to 17-14 on two passes from Fusina to Willie Collier – one for a touchdown, the other for a two-point conversion -- with almost nine minutes left in regulation. But the Panthers closed out the Stars on a stunning 48-yard touchdown pass from Bobby Hebert to Anthony Carter with three minutes left.
“I remember standing on the sideline,” Fusina said. “We were ready to get back in. We had full confidence that our defense was going either to get a turnover or make a stop and we were getting ready. (After the Michigan touchdown) I remember saying to myself, `Man, those two guys are good.’
“When they made that play, we gathered our guys together and said, `Hey, one’s not going to be enough. We have to get two (scores).’ But we had relatively too long of a drive. We finally scored but we just didn’t have enough time left. They deserved it. Unfortunately, it was a game that we got beat by a better team.”
The Stars fell, 24-22 – only the fourth loss in 20 games Philadelphia suffered in its debut season.
“Sometimes you learn more about yourself, your teammates and everyone around the organization after a loss,” Fusina said. “I think we really did that day. We knew we had a great season, a fun season, but we still had to get better. We still had to work harder. So we remained confident that offseason and dedicated ourselves to getting there again but this time, hopefully walking away with the championship.”
You can listen to the first three games of the Chuck Fusina “5 Games” podcasts – plus other Talk of Fame Network “5 Games” podcasts featuring Hall of Famers Jerry Kramer, as Charles Haley, Jam Ham, Mike Haynes, Willie Lanier and more – at VokalNow.com or by subscribing to our podcasts at iTunes. Click the links below.