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Chicago 18 at Michigan 20

1984 Week 1 - Monday, February 27, 1984
Attendance: 22,428, TV: ESPN

Novo Bojovic wins it on the final play.

Pontiac, MI (AP) - The Michigan Panthers looked rusty, but in the end they did the things that champions have to do and Coach Jim Stanley likes that.

"Overall, this early in the year, you've got to think the offense did a great job," Stanley said after watching Novo Bojovic's 20-yard field goal sail between the uprights as time ran out Monday night, giving the Panthers a 20-18 United States Football League victory over the Chicago Blitz. "A lot fo good things happened."

The defeat - in the season-opener for both teams - was hard for the Blitz to swallow.

"I'm disappointed and so are the players," Chicago Coach Marv Levy said. "But I think we are definitely stronger this year. I believe we are headed in a positive direction."

In fact, the Blitz led the Panthers four times, but each time Michigan quarterback Bobby Hebert managed to rally his troops.

Hebert looked rusty after missing most of camp in a contract dispute, but his numbers were bright and shiny as he completed 20 of 34 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns without any interceptions.

"Sometimes I didn't feel right out there, and sometimes I felt 100 percent as good as I did last year," Hebert said. "My lack of practice time hurt. My timing wasn't always right and I threw some bad passes."

Hebert's favorite target was Anthony Carter, who caught seven passes for 107 yards and one TD.

The Blitz opened the scoring 3:11 into the game with a 41-yard field goal by Kevin Seibel. The Panthers answered three plays later with Hebert and Derek Holloway hooking up on a 49-yard TD pass play. But Chicago went ahead 10-7 on its next possession as quarterback Vince Evans plunged over from 1 yard out.

Hebert flipped a 16-yard strike to Carter five seconds into the second quarter but the Blitz regained the lead on a 2-yard run by Larry Canada. Bojovic licked a 39-yard field goal as time ran out in the first half to send the Panthers off with a 17-16 lead.

The third quarter was scoreless, but Chicago took an 18-17 lead when Jim Stone blocked David Greenwood's punt out of the end zone at 6:42 of the fourth quarter. The Panthers started their winning drive from their own 33 with 2:32 remaining and were on the Chicago 2-yard line with only five seconds left when the ball was snapped for Bojovic's climactic field goal.

"I feel like I'm a pressure kicker. I think I proved last year in the championship games," said Bojovic, who missed from 33 yards early in the third quarter. "Because we are the defending USFL champions, people are expecting more from me than when I was a rookie. I want to show them that I am a good kicker under pressure."

Evans, playing his first USFL game after spending seven years with the Chicago Bears of the National Football League, completed 16 of 32 for 134 yards with one interception.

"It took me a while to get untracked tonight," Evans said. "But, we have a real positive attitude after this game. We feel we had opportunities to win this game.

"I am optimistic about our chances for the rest of the season. I thought we played well against the defending champions and we are going to get better as the season goes on."

Stanley had to agree with the opposing quarterback.

"I thought we were fortunate to win," Stanley said. "I feel like we dodged a bullet tonight."

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