Two World Football League teams with 3-3 records met in Philadelphia on August 21, 1974. The visiting Southern California Sun were in first place in the Western Division, just ahead of the Houston Texans, while the host Philadelphia Bell were third in the Eastern Division and trying to keep pace with the Florida Blazers and New York Stars.
The Sun, coached by Tom Fears, had an all-rookie starting backfield of QB Tony Adams, FB James McAlister, and HB Kermit Johnson. Adams was playing well, but while Johnson ranked second in the league with 407 rushing yards, he had been injured the previous week and was unavailable for the game against the Bell.
Philadelphia had taken heat for inflating early home attendance figures with free and heavily-discounted tickets and the local media was thus making far more of missteps by the front office than the team’s play on the field. With Head Coach Ron Waller utilizing a creative offense, eccentric QB Jim “King” Corcoran had passed for 1168 yards and 12 touchdowns in six games and the running back combination of John Land and Claude Watts was a productive one.
There were 14,600 fans in attendance at JFK Stadium on a pleasant Wednesday night. The Bell broke out to the early lead in the first quarter when RB John Land caught a pass from “King” Corcoran for a nine-yard touchdown. Corcoran tossed another TD pass later in the opening period, this time connecting with WR Paul Dunn from 34 yards out. In both instances the action point attempts failed and the score was 14-0 (in the WFL, touchdowns counted for seven points and were followed by an action point attempt that could not be kicked).
The Sun got on the board when RB Alonzo Emery (pictured at top) ran for a one-yard touchdown and the tally was 14-8 after Tony Adams threw to James McAlister for the action point. In the second quarter, the visitors took the lead when Emery again scored from a yard out and Adams successfully ran for the action point and a 16-14 margin.
Philadelphia moved back in front at 21-16 on a one-yard TD carry by RB Alan Thompson, but the pass attempt for the action point was unsuccessful. Before the half was over, Adams threw to WR Dave Williams for an 11-yard touchdown and RB Ralph Nelson ran for the action point. The Sun took a 24-21 lead into halftime.
In the third quarter, Corcoran again rallied the Bell on a series highlighted by two passes to TE Mike Carter, one of 12 yards and the next for a 27-yard TD. They failed once more at adding the action point, but led by 28-24.
The game had been highlighted by passing and long kick returns during the first three quarters, but the teams slugged it out in the final period. The Southern California offense remained stymied until late in the contest when they advanced 80 yards in 11 plays, helped along by two 15-yard penalties called on the defense. Adams threw to WR Greg Moses for a 29-yard gain to the Philadelphia one and, with 52 seconds remaining, Alonzo Emery scored his third touchdown to move the Sun back in front.
The attempt to add the action point was unsuccessful and so there was still an opportunity for Philadelphia, down by three points, to tie the score. A sweep by Land put the Bell at the Southern California 40 and Land then caught a pass from Corcoran at the 31. However, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved the ball back 15 yards (and drew the furor of Coach Waller) and, while two sideline passes moved the ball into field goal range, a 36-yard field goal attempt by Jerry Warren was blocked. Southern California came away with a dramatic 31-28 win.
The Sun had the edge in total yards (430 to 399) and first downs (23 to 17). Philadelphia turned the ball over four times, to one suffered by Southern California, and drew 11 penalties to five flags thrown on the Sun, although Ron Waller blamed “jaded officiating” for several of the infractions called on his team.
Tony Adams completed 21 of 40 passes for 318 yards and a touchdown while giving up no interceptions. Ralph Nelson rushed for 49 yards on 17 carries and James McAlister (pictured below) added 35 yards on six attempts, while Alonzo Emery scored the three short TDs as part of his 9 yards on 7 carries. McAlister also led the receivers with 6 catches for 140 yards.
For the Bell, Jim Corcoran was successful on 18 of 33 throws for 241 yards and three TDs, although he was picked off twice. John Land ran for 51 yards on 10 attempts and Claude Watts carried 11 times for 44 yards. Claude Watts topped the receivers with 5 catches for 50 yards while Paul Dunn and Mike Carter had four pass receptions apiece, for 79 and 71 yards, respectively. CB Marv Pettaway had kickoff returns of 73 and 47 yards that set up scores.
The Sun moved a game over .500 and Philadelphia a game under. Southern California pulled away to top the Western Division with a 13-7 record and the Bell went 9-11 to place third in the Eastern Division. Both teams made it into the constantly-revamped playoffs and lost in the first round.
Alonzo Emery scored a total of seven touchdowns. Utilized in short-yardage situations, he ran for just 67 yards on 40 carries in his only pro season.