It was Taube who chose the name Invaders, certainly reminiscent of the previous Coliseum tenants. Says Ralston, "We were trying to fill a void here. We recognized we had to earn the respect of the Oakland fans." He signed many players released in the NFL's final cutdown last Sept. 6 and veterans like the former Raiders and linebackers Frank Manumaleuga ( Kansas City) and Dewey McClain ( Atlanta). "I was in the NFL; I know what happens," Ralston says. "The difference between those players cut and those kept is just that the latter can help on special teams."
"We want to expose the teams that want to make this look like a bush league," said Chester last week, "the ones who turned their back on guys with NFL experience."
The Invaders also made a 64-year, $6.4 million offer to Stanford Quarterback John Elway—and that was base pay, $100,000 a year through 2046 being the least Elway could make. Elway said no. But he adds, "I haven't counted the USFL out yet."
Being eclipsed for a time by the Elway business wasn't anything new for Besana. He had caddied for Steve Bartkowski and the late Joe Roth at the University of California—he started all of four games in college—and had been let go in consecutive years by the NFL's Buffalo Bills and New York Giants. For the last three years Besana had played for the champion Twin Cities ( Marysville and Yuba City) Cougars of the California Football League. Says Chester, "Besana's better than 70 percent of NFL quarterbacks right now."
It was a major league throw by Besana, a sideline loop over Birmingham Corner-back Emmuel Thompson to Wide Receiver Wyatt Henderson for a 22-yard touchdown, that tied the game Sunday at 14. Then Besana found Chester for that moment of d�j� vu. But Oakland's hope for a fairy-tale finish ended when Place-kicker Kevin Shea woefully missed a field-goal try from 27 yards with five seconds left. Then came OT. After the Invaders punted on their first possession, the Stallions played Raiders as backup Quarterback Bob Lane threw on third-and-one from the Oakland 26 and hit Running Back Earl Gant on a pass to the one. On the next play Lane sneaked in for the winning touchdown.
Nobody was expecting perfection, of course. "It was good. I'm just glad to have some football to see," said Raider Offensive Tackle Henry Lawrence, who was also in the stands. A new league, some old fans; a new team, some old principals. It may not be the NFL, but at least they have each other.