B.C. coach's bad decision is tough to explain away

ON THE CFL

September 11, 1994|By KEN MURRARY

There was no defense for the monumental blunder committed by British Columbia Lions coach Dave Ritchie a week ago.

Brain lock was the only explanation.

The Lions had first-and-goal at the Sacramento 1-yard line with a minute to go and the score 15-15. Two straight runs went nowhere.

On third-and-goal, Ritchie incredibly called for another run, rather than a game-winning field goal.

What he wound up with was an overtime tie that went down worse than a loss, a fall in the standings, and an earful of criticism. Not all of the critics were in the press box, either.

"That's the worst call I've ever heard," B.C. lineman Rob Smith yelled at Ritchie as he came off the field after Sean Millington was stopped at the 1 on third down. "You cost us this game."

Ritchie invited the second-guessing with an odd rationale. He said he didn't want to give Sacramento quarterback David Archer a chance to drive the field for the winning touchdown.

Archer would have had to take his misfiring Gold Miners offense 75 yards in some 40 seconds to do the trick after a field goal, though. And he hadn't had much success against the B.C. defense all game.

"Not kicking the field goal was stupid," Ritchie said. "It was my mistake. I thought we could punch the ball in for a touchdown and put the game away. I didn't want them getting the ball back with time left."

Sacramento's goal-line stand stonewalled the Lions on three successive runs from the 1. Tailback Cory Philpot, the league's leading rusher, was stopped on a first-down dive. Then Sacramento linebacker Mark Ledbetter dropped Millington on the next two plays.

The Gold Miners returned the favor in a scoreless overtime when Archer fumbled attempting to pass at the B.C. 19.

The tie was costly to the Lions (7-1-1), who dropped out of a first-place tie in the Western Division and a point behind the Calgary Stampeders.

Ritchie said later he was "90 percent stressed out" from the ensuing fallout of getting one point instead of two in the division race.

"Maybe that one point won't help us in the end, but it's better than no points," he said.

Remember the Alamo?

Add Calgary to the CFL's crisis list this season. Stampeders owner Larry Ryckman is expected to sign a lease agreement this week to move his team to San Antonio's Alamodome for next season.

There are some contingencies, though. A clause in the proposed lease will allow him to remain in Calgary if the McMahon Stadium Society -- the organization that operates the stadium -- can meet his lease demands by the end of this season.

Ryckman insists he is losing between $500,000 and $1 million with the existing lease. He is seeking $735,000 a year in rent abatements at McMahon Stadium, which is owned by the University of Calgary.

Nevertheless, the Stampeders drew a sellout crowd of 37,317 to a Labor Day matchup with Edmonton, and they're averaging 27,400 a game.

There are two timing elements to his deal.

First, Ryckman wants to sign the lease to protect the territory, which he has declined to identify. But he has talked openly of his interest in San Antonio in the past. And he has been seen recently in the city.

Second, the 1995 season will be the final year of quarterback Doug Flutie's Calgary contract. With Flutie, Ryckman has a marquee name to shop. Without Flutie to dangle a year from now, Ryckman and his Stampeders are not as attractive.

Moving up

B.C.'s Philpot wouldn't mind moving south, himself. With 1,073 rushing yards, the 5-foot-9, 186-pound tailback is on a pace to shatter the league's single-season record of 1,896, set in 1975 by Calgary's Willie Burden.

A second-year pro out of Mississippi, Philpot is keeping his CFL options open while contemplating his NFL alternative.

"I don't want to price myself out of this market, but I do expect to be fairly compensated," he said. "I took a pay cut this season just like everybody else. It's hard to say at this point whether they want me to stay. [But] I do have NFL ambitions."

He also has a $59,000 contract -- Canadian currency -- that should be no problem if an NFL team wants to take a shot at him.

Is anybody home?

Here's the latest sorry line from Las Vegas:

When the lame-duck Posse held its weekly boosters luncheon last Wednesday, a mere 24 people showed up. This is down from the crowd of 250 that attended the first luncheon, down from the 60-to-70 brave souls who ventured out in recent weeks.

Following deposed chairman Nick Mileti out the door were the team's cheerleaders and the horse patrol that romped across the Sam Boyd Stadium carpet on game nights.

Glenn Golenberg, who moved in as chairman after ousting Mileti, wants crowds of 20,000 at the remaining games or he's `f threatening to move the team.

Judging from current events, Las Vegas may not even notice when the Posse leaves.

Putting 'O' in the 'D'

How's this for defense? The Saskatchewan Roughriders have scored four touchdowns of more than 55 yards in the first half of the season -- all by the defense.

There was a 69-yard fumble return by Ray Bernard, a 65-yard interception return by Aaron Ruffin, a combined 62-yard fumble return by Dale Joseph and Richard Glover, and a 58-yard interception return by Dan Rashovich.

The offense's longest scoring play was a 51-yard pass from Warren Jones to Ray Elgaard.

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