L.A. beats S.F. in inaugural Million Dollar Game
Updated: Sunday April 22, 2001 10:18 AM
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Tommy Maddox, out of football and running an insurance agency two years ago, beamed and held the XFL championship trophy high over his head as he trotted first to the stands on one side, then across the field to the other.
The fans remaining in the Coliseum cheered Maddox after he led the Los Angeles Xtreme to a 38-6 victory against the San Francisco Demons in the XFL's first title game Saturday night.
"I'm going to enjoy this for a long time," Maddox, an NFL backup from 1992-96, said after throwing for two touchdowns. "To be the first XFL team to win a championship, it's just so exciting I don't even know what to say.
"Mr. [Vince] McMahon gave us a chance to play in Los Angeles. I was with UCLA then the Rams, so to be able to play a championship game in the historic Coliseum, I wouldn't have it any other way."
The "Million Dollar Game" drew a crowd of 24,153 to the 90,000-seat Coliseum. Attendance was some 10,000 fewer than the Xtreme's inaugural game at home, but almost double the gate of 13,081 for Los Angeles' semifinal victory against Chicago a week earlier.
The Xtreme's defense, led by Ron Carpenter's two interceptions, shut out the Demons until the final 25 seconds after earlier blanking San Francisco in the regular-season finale.
"Our defense played great; they made some huge plays," Maddox said. "We thought it was going to be a dogfight, that the last game was kind of a fluke.
"You never imagine a championship being 38-6, so it was a great feeling."
Jose Cortez, who had been working as a roofer in Oregon before the new league started, kicked four field goals, including a 50-yarder that put the Xtreme up 21-0 as time expired in the first half.
San Francisco head coach Jim Skipper was frustrated.
"It seemed like we could never get anything going," he said. "It was the same old thing, whatever could go wrong, went wrong. It was one of those nights.
"We couldn't catch the ball. We fumbled it. They intercepted it, they squibbed the ball, we can't field it. We tried a quick kick, they fumbled it and we're all running to it and 'Zoom,' they're out the back door."
That "out the back door" was Reggie Durden's 71-yard punt return for a TD as Los Angeles took control in the first two quarters.
The Xtreme, who finished 9-3, will split the $1 million bonus 45 ways because the 38 players on the regular roster voted to include the seven players on their practice squad. That works out to $22,222 per man, about half what each earned for the entire 10-game regular season.
Maddox, taken by Denver in the first round of the 1992 NFL Draft, completed 16 of 28 for 210 yards and was intercepted once in the championship win.
Cortez, who finished the inaugural XFL season by making 24 of his last 26 field-goal attempts, connected from 37, 34 and 50 yards. He added a 22-yarder in the third quarter.
Saladin McCullough rushed for 109 yards on 20 carries for Los Angeles.
"I don't think if we went out and wrote a script, we could have played better. It was a dominating effort," said Xtreme head coach Al Luginbill, whose background includes time as the San Diego State head coach and more recently as head coach of NFL Europe's Amsterdam team.
The Demons, who finished 6-6, were unable to generate any offense against the Xtreme, who had beaten them 24-0 in the final regular-season game after losing 15-13 in the season opener at San Francisco.
In the rematch for the title, the Demons' Mike Pawlawkski threw for just 74 yards, completing 8 of 20, with two interceptions. The Xtreme so dominated that their first punt of the game came early in the fourth quarter.
Until third-string quarterback Oteman Sampson ran 21 yards for a TD in the final minute, the closest the Demons had come to scoring was when Mike Panasuk's 44-yard field goal try that fell short in the second quarter.
Durden's return came off Pawlawski's quick kick. Two Xtreme players collided and fell as they went for the ball downfield, the ball bounced free, and Durden picked it up and ran untouched down the left sideline.
While small, the crowd was lively and vocal. Some fans wore Xtreme jerseys, a few sported Demons jerseys, but even more wore Raiders silver and black.
McMahon, whose World Wrestling Federation and NBC jointly own the XFL, presented the championship trophy, giving fans handslaps as he worked his way down the stands and onto the field.
Although the XFL's TV ratings were poor this year and NBC likely won't continue to televise games, McMahon says the league will be back for a second season, telling the fans at the Coliseum, "See you next year."