CFLs go better with Ham

August 28, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

HAMILTON, Ontario -- Quarterback Tracy Ham was willing and the Baltimore CFLs' defense found a way last night to pull victory out of seeming chaos.

Baltimore's 28-17 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats before 15,227 at Ivor Wynne Stadium was drenched in adversity.

Ham, who suffered a tear in his right quadriceps muscle last week, was forced to play nearly three quarters when starter John Congemi was knocked out of the game with bruised ribs.

With his mobility reduced by a groin wrap that kept him from extending his right leg, Ham still completed 11 of 21 passes for 176 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

The touchdown was a 20-yarder to running back Mike Pringle with five minutes left that opened a 10-point lead.

It capped a second-half rally that saw Baltimore (5-3) come back from a 17-12 halftime deficit.

"I don't think Tracy was hurting as bad as he was limited in what he could do," said coach Don Matthews. "He didn't want to take off -- he was more of a sitting duck."

"I'm paid to play football," Ham said. "It's going to hurt, but I didn't pull it any worse."

Ham and the CFLs (5-3) survived on a night of diminishing returns. Baltimore lost Congemi after the second of two punishing hits by rush end Tim Cofield early in the second quarter.

By the end of the first half, they had lost slotback Chris Armstrong, too. He was ejected for pushing Hamilton defender Eric Carter into the wall out of bounds after an interception. And ++ in the second half, they lost right guard Keith Ballard to a serious lower leg injury.

The first-half deficit was built largely on nine penalties and three turnovers.

It took a revived pass rush -- yes, it finally arrived with a reconfigured front line -- and a series of big plays on both defense and special teams.

"That's what I was pleased about -- we had more pressure," Matthews said after a two-sack performance that kept Hamilton quarterbacks Timm Rosenbach and Todd Dillon on the run.

With the addition of Elfrid Payton at rush end, Matthews inserted Scott Miller at defensive tackle to team with Jearld Baylis in the middle. Robert Presbury or O. J. Brigance would man the other rush end spot.

"We had heavier, stronger guys in there and I thought they collapsed the pocket," said Matthews, who also moved Alvin Walton to middle linebacker for Ricky Andrews in the nickel defense.

The result was a five-turnover bonanza for the defense. Charles Anthony, Irvin Smith, Matt Goodwin and Michael Brooks had interceptions. Payton contributed a fourth-quarter strip and fumble recovery against Dillon.

The defense shut out Hamilton (2-6) in the second half when Baltimore scored 16 unanswered points.

Goodwin came up big on special teams, too, where he blocked a second-quarter Hamilton punt. Sheldon Canley recovered it in the end zone for a Baltimore touchdown.

Then there was punter Josh Miller, who nailed four kicks over 50 yards and averaged 50.2 for 11 kicks. Twice, kicks went out of the end zone for single points.

"I saw seven punters got cut last week in the NFL," Miller said. "They were only seven numbers away from being in Baltimore."

When Baltimore needed it, the CFLs got a key offensive drive, too. Ham drove the team 62 yards to get the clinching touchdown pass to Pringle.

He hit Reggie Perry for a 22-yard gain and Walter Wilson for a spectacular 15-yard pass play to set up the score.

Pringle made a diving catch in the right corner of the end zone.

"Tracy put the ball in a spot where it would either go out of bounds or I would catch it," said Pringle.

"He is a tough quarterback. He was in some pain, but tried not to show it in the huddle. He did an excellent job."

Matthews said he expects Ham to play next week, and said Congemi might also be ready. In the second half last night, third quarterback Shawn Jones said he was told to stay ready.

"It's too early to say, but obviously I'll try to play [against Shreveport]," Ham said. "With John down, it puts a different light on the situation. Shawn's got to be ready to grow up quicker than he anticipated."

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