New York Times

August 1, 1974

By Murray Chass

Stars Inure Two Shark Quarterbacks In the Dark Here and Triumph, 24-16

Emerging from the obscurity of South Gwinnett High School in Snellville, Ga.; Mars Hill College in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina; the inactive squad of the Jacksonville Sharks and the dim lights of Downing Stadium, Jeff Davis almost became a hero last night.

But the New York Stars stubbornly refused to let him and limped away with a 24-16 victory over the Sharks and a 2-2 won-lost record.

Davis, a running back who was the 441st player selected in the 442-player draft in 1973, was shoved into the game as the Sharks' quarterback in the fourth quarter after their two legitimate quarterbacks were injured in the space of three plays.

The 24 year-old rookie moved the Sharks first to the Stars 9-yard line, then to their 23, but he just missed on several passes that could've pulled Jacksonville into position for a tie.

He thought he had a touchdown on a pass to Tony Lomax in the end zone, but the officials ruled Lomax caught the ball out of bounds.

"He was in," Davis insisted. "He dragged his foot across the line. That's all it takes - one foot."

The officials, though said no feet, so the Stars wound up the winners on Tom Sherman's 1-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter that snapped a 16-16 tie both teams built in the first half when they traded 7 point touchdowns and extra points.

All the excitement was saved for the last quarter when Davis brought a dull game alive with his courageous effort before 15,648 spectators.

The path for his entry into the game was begun when Gerry Philbin crushingly tackled Kay Stephenson on the last play of the third quarter. The quarterback was helped off the field with cartilage damage in his left knee and bruised ribs.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Kim Hammond, Stephenson's replacement, was sacked by James Sims. Then on the second play he was hit by John Elliott and topped into Jerry Ellison's knee. After receiving treatment on the field for several minutes, he departed with a slight concussion and a case of the dizzies.

Bud Asher, the Jacksonville coach, wanted to dress John Stofa, an inactive quarterback, but if he had, it would've resulted in a forfeit. So he plucked Davis off the bench.

"He's the only kid we had left," Asher said.

"We just didn't have anybody else," said Davis, who was activated this week and was playing his first game as a pro (he was cut by the Washington Redskins in training camp last year). "I knew the offense. There wasn't much choice. Somebody had to do it. But it's a hard way to make the team."

Primarily using quarterback sweeps right and left, Davis, whose only previous quarterback experience was a brief stint as a reserve in his freshman year at South Gwinnett, got the ball to the Stars' 9 on his second series directing the Sharks.

On third down, he threw the disputed pass to Lomax; on the fourth he again threw into the end zone, but the ball was intercepted by Lou Angelo.

"We were driving on the ground," Davis said, "but sooner or later I knew I had to put the ball in the air. I just wanted to throw it into the end zone, have two or three receivers around and hope one of them could catch it."

The Sharks got the ball again after a New York punt and Davis completed a 12-yard pass to Lomax to the Stars' 23 with 50 seconds remaining. But four more passes were knocked down, two in the end zone by Steve Dennis and Jeff Woodcock.

"He's a different type quarterback," explained Elliott, the Stars' experienced tackle. "We weren't mentally prepared for that sort of thing. It's hard to change in the middle of the game."

It was hard, too, for the fans to see the game once again because the stadium lights weren't changed from the opener two weeks ago. The Stars blamed it on bureaucratic bumbling among various city employees.