Baltimore cashes in Vegas errors, 22-16

October 08, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

The offense sputtered and the defense gasped, but in the end, the Baltimore CFLs did what they do best.

Find a way to win.

In another walk on the wild side, the CFLs overcame myriad mistakes to beat the Las Vegas Posse, 22-16, before 34,186 at Memorial Stadium last night and assure themselves of a home playoff game in November.

That playoff game -- scheduled for Nov. 12 at 3 p.m. -- will be the first postseason game in Baltimore since the Colts played in the 1977 playoffs.

That was hardly a look of euphoria on coach Don Matthews' face after the CFLs improved to 10-4 and momentarily took a first-place lead over Winnipeg in the Canadian Football League's Eastern Division.

"Our goals are not to clinch just a home-field playoff spot," Matthews said. "We need to play to get first place. First place and home-field advantage in the playoffs are what we want."

Baltimore got another big game from running back Mike Pringle, who rang up 133 rushing yards and a touchdown on a 22-yard pass play.

It got two big second-half field goals from rejuvenated Donald Igwebuike.

And it got a steady flow of clutch defensive plays, the last of which was a forced fumble by middle linebacker Malcolm Goodwin with 1:13 left.

The CFLs were protecting a six-point lead and Las Vegas (5-9) was driving toward an upset. On a second-down rush from the Baltimore 38, Goodwin knocked the ball loose from Jon Volpe and defensive tackle Robert Presbury recovered.

"I was just trying to hit him," Goodwin said. "I think my helmet hit the ball. I was just trying to knock him down."

The CFLs needed all of the big plays they could muster on a night when they were flagged for 12 penalties and when quarterback Tracy Ham was intercepted twice.

One of the biggest came in the second quarter when cornerback Irvin Smith picked off an Anthony Calvillo pass at the 2 and returned it 54 yards. That set up the scoring pass to Pringle that put the CFLs ahead at halftime, 15-9.

Calvillo had eluded pass rushers Elfrid Payton and Scott Miller and reversed his field when he uncorked an off-balance pass for Robert Claiborne at the goal line.

But the pass came up short and Smith fielded it at the 2, then raced into Las Vegas' territory.

"A dumb throw," Smith said of the pass. "I'm sure he wished he had that ball back."

It was a typical play on a night of pitch and catch. Calvillo hit 14 of 32 passes for 333 yards, going deep most of the game.

"That was nothing but a track meet," Smith said. "They didn't throw anything under 10 yards. It was like 110-yard sprints out there."

Ham, meanwhile, was 18 of 35 for 283 yards and two touchdowns. He found Chris Armstrong for an 18-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter after Lester Smith forced a fumble on the game's opening kickoff. Goodwin recovered the fumble and two plays later the CFLs had a touchdown.

What the CFLs lacked in the passing game, though, they found '' in the running game. Pringle picked up his sixth 100-yard rushing game, and his fifth in six games. The CFLs are 6-0 when he runs for 100.

He had 53 receiving yards and 59 in kickoff returns to total 245 all-purpose yards on the night.

"As long as we've got veteran receivers and a veteran quarterback, we're not one-dimensional at all," Pringle said.

rTC "We're just sticking with something that works. If it falls off, we'll go elsewhere.

"If teams concentrate on stopping Mike Pringle and forget Tracy Ham, they're going to get hurt."

The Posse managed only three field goals by Carlos Huerta in the first half. He hit from 24, 42 and 52 yards to run his streak of consecutive successes to 18. Yet, at the end of the half, when he had lined up for a 53-yard field goal try, the Posse called off the play and punted.

In the second half, Las Vegas produced its only touchdown of the night, a 1-yard run by Jon Volpe after a goal-line stand by the CFLs.

A pass interference penalty against halfback Charles Anthony in the end zone gave Las Vegas first-and-goal. Linebacker Tracey Gravely stopped Volpe on first down, then deflected Calvillo's pass on second down.

On third down, Volpe powered over left guard, dragging Goodwin into the end zone with him.

"I lost my footing," Goodwin said, "and he kept driving. That's a credit to him."

It was just another loss for the Posse, though, in a season that continues to go downhill.

"We've been playing well for a long time and this is a very bitter pill to swallow," coach Ron Meyer said.

"We started and ended the game with a fumble. Those errors are very costly against a good football team and Baltimore is a very good football team."

At 5-9, the Posse is virtually eliminated from playoff contention in the Western Division.

"I don't know," Meyer said of his team's chances. "We're lucky if we can survive."

The CFLs are playoff-bound, with a home game to boot.

"It's very meaningful," Goodwin said. "Not so much for us, but for the fans. They stuck behind us. For us to bring the first-ever CFL playoff game here is special. We'll try hard and see if we can't bring the whole thing home."

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