Mike "Pinball" Clemons ran for two touchdowns and threw for another, leading the Toronto Argonauts to a 31-24 upset of the Baltimore CFLs last night before 41,115 at Memorial Stadium.
Clemons scored on touchdown runs of 7 and 5 yards, and threw a 12-yard scoring pass to Paul Masotti.
Baltimore (4-3) played most of the second half without quarterback Tracy Ham, who suffered a slight tear in his right quad muscle on a third-quarter scramble.
Backup John Congemi threw two touchdown passes, but couldn't bring the CFLs back from a 27-10 deficit. He hit Joe Washington for a 62-yard scoring pass and Chris Armstrong for a 32-yard strike.
The CFLs, who fell out of a first-place tie with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers with the loss, had a chance to complete a remarkable comeback late in the game.
An interception by cornerback Irvin Smith gave Baltimore possession at its own 47 with 3:34 left in the game, trailing 30-24.
But Washington dropped a first-down pass from Congemi in Toronto territory. Then linebacker Don Moen intercepted Congemi on another pass for Washington.
Toronto changed quarterbacks, subbing Reggie Slack for Mike Kerrigan, and Slack gave the Argos (3-4) a rushing dimension they didn't have before. Although Slack threw two interceptions, he rushed for 102 yards.
Clemons rushed 17 times for 120 yards.
A beleaguered Toronto defense that had given up 108 points in its last two outings held the CFLs to a lone touchdown in the first half. The Argos were opportunistic in building a 17-7 halftime lead, once intercepting Tracy Ham on the goal line.
The interception snuffed a Baltimore threat that featured a 20-yard scramble by Ham through a cavernous hole on the left side, and a 23-yard pass to Walter Wilson to the Toronto 14.
On the next play, the CFLs had triple receivers to the left side, and Ham's underthrown pass was picked off by Kevin Whitley at the 1. Whitley returned it 34 yards, and eight plays later Toronto had the first score of the night.
Clemons nearly scored on the second play of the drive when he went 32 yards on a draw. Only a tackle by linebacker Tracey Gravely at the Baltimore 30 prevented the touchdown.
Slack mixed two keepers with two passes to get to the 7.
On second down, Clemons took a toss left and ran through middle linebacker Ricky Andrews for the touchdown.
A bizarre sequence unfolded on Baltimore's next series in the second quarter. An apparent Ham interception was erased on an illegal contact penalty against the Argos. Toronto also was flagged for objectionable conduct when Mike Campbell threw Ham to the ground after the play.
The illegal contact took the interception away from safety Brian McCurdy and the 20 yards in combined penalties put the ball on the Toronto 37.
Ham threw a 19-yard completion to Robert Clark and two plays later hit Armstrong for an 18-yard touchdown pass. Armstrong beat Whitley on a post pattern, taking the ball at the 1.
It took Toronto two minutes to get the lead back. The big play in a five- play, 58-yard drive was a 35-yard pass play from Slack to Paul Masotti slicing through the Baltimore secondary. TC face-mask penalty pushed the ball to the 5.
Again, Clemons took a toss left and rambled in for the score.
Baltimore sputtered on its next two possessions and Toronto added a field goal with :52 left in the half for a 10-point lead.
Baltimore would have averted the score with a Karl Anthony interception in the end zone. But Argos receiver Eric Drage pushed Anthony and willingly took the penalty to keep the ball.
Slack got the Argos as close as the 26, where Wayne Lammle drilled a 33-yard field goal.
Ham completed 11 of 15 passes for 145 yards in the first half, and ran for 28 yards.
Slack completed 11 of 16 for 129 yards as Toronto out-gained the CFLs, 209-184.
Down 17-7, the CFLs lost Ham early in the third quarter when he pulled a quad muscle in his right leg when he rolled out on a second-down scramble. While Ham was carried off on the Toronto side of the field, Donald Igwebuike kicked a 31-yard field goal that cut the deficit to 17-10.
Ham suffered a slight tear of the quad muscle, although the team announced it was not believed a major injury.
Toronto answered with a 28-yard field goal by Lammle to go up 20-10 with 9:26 left in the third quarter.
Baltimore appeared to get a turnover with 1:40 left in the third period when Tom Fuhler's driving tackle knocked the ball loose from Clemons after a 15-yard run. The ball was recovered by Andrews, but officials reversed the initial turnover call, saying the fumble came after the whistle.
Toronto extended its lead to 27-10 in the first minute of the fourth quarter on two Masotti receptions. The first drew an objectionable conduct penalty against Irvin Smith, and the penalty gave Toronto a first down on the CFLs' 12.
On the next play, Clemons took a pitch right, pulled up and threw a touchdown pass to Masotti, covered by Anthony in the end zone.