End of the line for the B Bucs
When quarterback Jim Zorn was asked to choose two words to describe what might be his only game as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, he didn't take long to think it over. ``Satisfying,`` said Zorn, who joined the non-union replacement Bucs four days before the game. And then, after another pause of a second or two, ``Weird.``
It was satisfying because the B Bucs finished their tour of duty Sunday with an emotional 20-10 victory over the B Minnesota Vikings, giving them a 2-1 record and raising Tampa Bay to 3-2 in the NFL's combined A/B standings. Many of the B Bucs were playing their last game, because the regular Bucs who have been on strike will report today to prepare for next Sunday's home game against the Chicago Bears.
The Bears game is a sellout. The B finale was attended by only 20,850, the smallest crowd ever for a pro football game at Tampa Stadium - NFL or USFL. It was weird for a lot of reasons. There were 21 penalties and nine fumbles, and the B Bucs won handily even though their offense failed to score a touchdown and gained 30 or more yards on only two of its possessions.
It was so weird that Tampa Bay head coach Ray Perkins, who doesn't ordinarily see a lot of humor in these things, was laughing during his post-game press conference. ``This was a hilarious game to me,`` Perkins said. ``It was real exciting to call plays - real good plays - and you get the guy open and throw him the ball and he drops it. We must have had 15 drops.`` That was a slight exaggeration, since Zorn completed 20 of 36 passes for 199 yards and two of his passes were intercepted.
Perkins said, still chuckling, that he had told the B Bucs to have fun and not worry about mistakes. ``I think that's what they did,`` he concluded. ``They just took me at my word. `Oh, I dropped the ball. So what?' ``
At least when the B Bucs dropped the ball, it usually produced nothing more damaging than an incompletion. Minnesota punter Bucky Scribner wasn't so lucky when he broke a 3-3 halftime tie with something that looked like a re-enactment of the infamous Garo Yepremian passing attempt in Super Bowl VII. On fourth-and-18 from the Viking 19-yard line, Scribner decided that his punt was about to be blocked and started running to his left. ``The coaches from upstairs said that the middle was clear, but I thought I saw pressure or felt pressure coming from the outside,`` Scribner said.
So he ran, briefly. He was hit by B Bucs outside linebacker Miles Turpin - who had seven tackles, including two sacks - and the ball rolled into the end zone. Tight end Arthur Wells fell on it for a B Bucs touchdown. Minnesota came right back to tie the game at 10-10, scoring from 23 yards out on a screen pass from Tony Adams to Jeff Womack.
But the B Vikings offense couldn't outscore the B Bucs defense. On the next Minnesota series, Tampa Bay cornerback Kevin Walker made a diving interception of an Adams pass, got up and ran 30 yards for the touchdown that put the B Bucs ahead to stay. Walker lost the ball after crossing the goal line, but strong safety Marcus Quinn grabbed it and brought it back so Walker could spike it. ``It was his reward,`` Quinn reasoned. ``It wouldn't have been right for me to spike it.``
The game was a long way from over, with the B Bucs leading by seven points and six minutes left in the third quarter. But the only B Vikings threat after that dissolved into comedy.
They had a first down at the Tampa Bay 31 late in the third quarter, but Turpin sacked Adams for a 4-yard loss. After a 7-yard completion set up a third-and-7, the B Vikings were called for holding twice in a row. On third-and-27 from the 48, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Adams threw a pass that was intercepted by B Bucs free safety Paul Tripoli. That led to a 37-yard Van Tiffin field goal that completed the scoring.
Tripoli also recovered a fumble. He almost made the regular Bucs squad in training camp, and he has had a hand in seven turnovers during the three-week replacement season, leading some to suspect that he might still be around after the regulars return. ``I hope so,`` he said. ``I'm not going to get much sleep tonight.``
Adams, who is 37 years old and hadn't played in five years before the strike, was intercepted four times and sacked seven times. Asked about his future, he said: ``I'll try to heal. Years from now I'll look back on this and it will be a footnote in my life.``
Vikings head coach Jerry Burns only wishes he could feel the same way. He has to live with a season that may have been ruined by the strike. Although the regular Minnesota team is undefeated, the replacements lost three straight. The Vikings are now in fourth place in the NFC Central Division, two games behind the Bears and one behind the second-place Bucs. ``I can't say I'm happy about anything right now,`` Burns said. ``We're going to have to regroup and get together with the A club and lay down the problems in front of us. We'll try to get back on track and make a run at the wild cards.``
By contrast, the B Bucs took over with Tampa Bay one game behind the Bears and will turn things back over to the regulars with the same situation. For 16 former Tampa Bay Bandits on the team, this was also a chance to close out their careers on a happier note. The 1985 and final edition of the USFL's Bandits lost six of its last seven games and finished with a playoff game lost on a last-second field goal. ``A good win, a good crowd and a nice day,`` said nose tackle Fred Nordgren. ``All of those things, and helping out the A team.``
The St.Petersburg Times 18 October 1987