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Raiders Warm Up to Evans : Quarterback Totals 311 Yards in 35-17 Victory Over Chiefs

October 05, 1987|MARK HEISLER | Times Staff Writer

These guys wanted their day in the sun? They got it, 106 degrees worth, before 80,000 empty seats, while pickets circled the Coliseum and vendors hawked Masqueraiders' T-shirts in the parking lot.

Welcome to the big time, hopefuls. You wanted exposure, this is it.

That was the situation that Vince Evans found and surmounted. At 32, out of the game for two years and turned down flat by everyone he'd called since, he finally got his tryout Sunday. He passed for 248 yards and 2 touchdowns in only 18 attempts, ran for 63 in only 4 rushes and led the "Raiders" to a 35-17 rout of the "Kansas City Chiefs" before an announced crowd of 10,708 in the Coliseum.

Could he have just won a Raider job after the strike?

"Good possibility," Coach Tom Flores said.

Was he tested? Did you happen to see the TV clip last week where a Raider striker yells through the fence, "They finally found a helmet to fit you, Buckethead?"

The man yelling was Rod Martin.

The man he was yelling at was his old USC teammate, Evans.

"I played with Rod in junior college, at SC," Evans said. "But those guys are under pressure out there. I'm sure he didn't mean the things he said to me, personally. I just didn't have a chance to talk to him, privately, so he didn't know what my personal situation was. I didn't really take it to heart."

But didn't it hurt, anyway?

"Oh yeah!" Evans said. " 'I said, 'Rod, we go way back!' But I've got a lot of respect for him. I just hope I get a chance to explain my situation.

"I think mine was an individual situation. . . . I felt I'd exhausted myself, calling teams, writing teams, flying different places.

"I called the Raiders numerous times. I tried to become a Raider even back when I was playing for the Chicago Bears. I've written them numerous letters, I've flown out here to try to sit down and talk with them, but the timing just wasn't right.

"When this opportunity presented itself, I said, 'Hey, I'm going for it.' The question was asked, what do I feel about the guys who are striking? I just feel if most of those guys were in the same set of circumstances I was in, I think they'd probably do exactly what I did.

"I understand their plight. I understand the situation they're in. I respect them. I just hope they respect what I'm standing for."

His teammates were similarly taunted all week until Sunday, when all they had to deal with was an earthquake (about 12 members of the squad gathered in the lobby of their hotel at 4 a.m. and spent the rest of the night there), the heat and their Chief counterparts.

The last part was the easiest, starting on the opening kickoff when a kick returner named Kevin Wyatt fumbled and a linebacker named Mike Noble (Stanford class of 1987, undrafted, cut in camp by the Raiders) recovered at the KC 31.

Two plays later, Evans threw a 27-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Carl Aikens (Northern Illinois '87, cut in camp by the Raiders), who had either been forgotten or had beaten his defender by five yards.

On the next possession, Evans marched his unit 65 yards in seven plays, including a 21-yard pass to Aikens and a 33-yarder to wide receiver Greg Lathan (University of Cincinnati '87, cut in camp by Seattle).

On the first possession of the second period, Evans marched his team 82 yards to score, including a 33-yard pass to Lathan off a scramble, a 20-yard run scrambling and a 4-yard bootleg for the touchdown.

Early in the third period, Evans came up with his masterpiece. He rolled right, ducked an onrushing Chief, did a jackrabbit turn back in the other direction to duck another one, stepped up and hit Ethan Horton deep. Horton caught the ball at the KC 10 and ran into the end zone to complete a 32-yard play. By then, the Raiders were ahead, 28-7, and cruising.

The Chiefs never looked like they had a great chance, but if they had, the two fumbles they lost at the Raider one in the second period took care of that. Both were by a replacement named Ken Lacy. Don't look for him in the December rematch in Kansas City.

"I'm awfully tired," Evans said later. "I've taken a lot of criticism, a lot of verbal abuse. It's not a good feeling, being called a scab or a second-class citizen, particularly when you look at yourself with higher esteem than those kinds of words."

It was a bizarre day all around but whatever this was, it counted in the standings, which suddenly show the rebuilding Raiders atop the AFC West at 3-0, a game ahead of the Seattle Seahawks, 1 1/2 up on the Denver Broncos.

"It's been a long, emotional week-and-a-half for all of us," Flores said. "I'm very proud of this bunch today. I knew they were going to play hard. They've been practicing hard under some pretty tough circumstances.

"They wore the uniform and although you can say what you want about it, they played hard and they played to win."

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