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Evans (335 Yards) Brings Back Raiders' Passing Game of Old

October 23, 1995|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

OAKLAND — Vince Evans never had a day like this. Not with the Chicago Bears. Not with the Chicago Blitz. Not with the Denver Gold. Not with the Los Angeles Raiders. Not with the Oakland Raiders.

But with the Raiders in need of a physical lift, with starting quarterback Jeff Hostetler out with an injury, and an emotional lift, following an embarrassing loss to the Denver Broncos last Monday night, Evans, the Raiders' 40-year-old perennial backup quarterback, came off the bench Sunday to complete 23 of 35 passes for a career-high 335 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

Imagine what might happen once this guy gets some experience.

"The competitive juices are just as intense as when I was a 22-year-old," Evans said. "I was really excited. It doesn't always come out visually, but there is definitely a fire still burning inside."

There are fires burning in Raiders at the other end of the age spectrum as well, and a couple of those players also got a chance to show what they can do on a day of big plays against a Colt team that had amassed a three-game winning streak by beating St. Louis, Miami and San Francisco.

While Evans has been patiently waiting to show what he can do with his arm, receiver Rocket Ismail and kick returner Napoleon Kaufman have been waiting to show what they can do with their legs.

Ismail, a third-year veteran, had his best day in the NFL in terms of yardage by catching three passes for a career-high 125 yards. Two of those catches resulted in touchdowns, one on a 46-yard play and the other on a 73-yarder.

Kaufman, the Raiders' top pick in the 1995 draft, electrified the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum crowd of 53,543 by returning a kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown.

After Indianapolis kicker Cary Blanchard opened the scoring with a 25-yard field goal, Kaufman took the ensuing kickoff, started going left to right, spotted a hole at his 30-yard line, cut back, shook off a would-be tackle by Devon McDonald, the only Colt to put a hand on him, and was gone, enjoying a 20-yard lead on the nearest defender by the time he cruised into the end zone.

"I just hit it at full speed," Kaufman said. "A nice crease opened up for me and I was running for my life."

Still, Indianapolis was hardly done. Taking advantage of a beat-up Raider defense, the Colts came back to retake the lead on the first of Marshall Faulk's two touchdowns, this one a seven-yard run off left tackle.

The Raiders began the game with cornerback James Trapp out because of a knee injury and fellow cornerback Albert Lewis slowed by a thigh injury. During the game, safety Eddie Anderson left because of a pulled hamstring and fellow safety Derrick Hoskins because of a groin pull.

At times, the Oakland secondary consisted of starter Terry McDaniel and backups Joe King, Najee Mustafaa and Dan Land.

But an overpowering front line kept pressure on Colt quarterback Jim Harbaugh all day, sacking him four times, and holding Indianapolis to 85 yards rushing, including only 41 for Faulk.

The Raiders didn't run much either, getting a total of only 74 yards.

But the way Evans was throwing, it didn't really matter. After Jeff Jaeger tied the game at 10-10 before intermission with a 28-yard field goal, Evans put the vertical back in the Raiders' passing game in the second half with his two bombs to Ismail. Jaeger added two more field goals, from 24 and 35 yards. The only Colt touchdown of the second half came on a nine-yard run by Faulk.

The victory, coming after a 27-0 loss to the Broncos, improves Oakland's record to 6-2 with a bye week ahead.

That is expected to give Hostetler, who suffered a fracture in the cartilage around the larynx against Denver, the chance to heal sufficiently to return.

And Evans will return to where he has spent so much of his career--on the bench.

Not a problem. Having survived a long and winding career path that included seven years with the Bears, two years in the now-defunct U.S. Football League and the backup role with the Raiders since he joined them during the 1987 strike, Evans, who still has the best arm on the team, is not about to quit now.

Asked if he's thinking of challenging the longevity mark of George Blanda, who played for the Raiders until he was 48, Evans smiled and replied, "I'm just taking it one year at a time."

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