The game came down to the final 49 seconds and one of those strange plays in which practically everyone involved fouls up. The Generals faced fourth-and-12 at the Express' 14-yard line. Walker was out of the game. But what was the formation New Jersey used in this situation? An I, with two tight ends and only one wide receiver, Larry Brodsky, who was split out right. "We wanted backside protection and outside containment for blitz coverage," was Fairbanks' explanation.
But not to be outcoached, Campbell assigned only one man, reserve Corner-back Tyrone Justin, a San Diego castoff, to Brodsky.
"We were fooled," Campbell said. "We were not strategically prepared for that formation."
Brodsky ran a corner pattern and gave Justin a healthy shove. No flag. Scott laid the ball in perfectly and Brodsky caught it at the three. All he had to do was fall forward and the Generals would win the game. Instead he juggled the ball and stepped out of bounds inches short of a first down. End of contest.
The best player in the game was a 5'11", 195-pound L.A. halfback named Tony Boddie, who ran 13 times for 77 yards and caught five passes for 49 more and the TD that put L.A. ahead to stay. If the USFL is to establish an identity this year, its strength will be its homegrown talent, unknowns like Boddie, a terrific little back on the style of Kansas City's Joe Delaney. He caught 50 passes for Montana State last fall and said that until Sunday he'd never played before a home crowd larger than 15,000.
Someone asked him how it felt to outplay Walker. "Doesn't mean anything," he said. "Herschel's a great runner. Tony Boddie can run and block and catch passes. Herschel does his thing, I do mine."
Campbell said his scouting books in Edmonton, where he coached the CFL's Eskimos last year, had Boddie rated as the sixth-best American college back. So how come he waited until the 12th round to draft him?
"Frankly, I didn't think we'd be able to sign him," Campbell said.
Boddie laughed at that news. He had signed a one-year contract for roughly $30,000. "I could have made more in the NFL," he said, "but no one was interested in me. I got feelers from Dallas and Seattle, but nothing very serious. I sacrificed money to get the one-year contract. After I've shown what I can do, I'll have some bargaining leverage."
And maybe in that little capsule we can see the grievous error the NFL made in not shortstopping some of this talent, not devoting some early attention to the decent college players, say a phone call to let them know there's a place for them in the big league, that they are wanted and would get a long, healthy look.