CFLs cash in Vegas miscues

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

Sputtering on offense, the Baltimore CFLs cashed in their few opportunities for a 22-16 victory over the Las Vegas Posse before a crowd of 34,186 at Memorial Stadium.

Defense carried the night as Baltimore (10-4) clinched a home-field playoff game in the Canadian Football League's Eastern Division.

The victory moved the CFLs ahead of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who can tie with a win at Shreveport tonight.

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

The CFLs' defense was relentless throughout the game, and it stonewalled the Posse (5-9) after allowing its only touchdown.

Leading by six, Baltimore snuffed a Posse threat inside the 40 when middle linebacker Malcolm Goodwin forced a fumble by Jon Volpe and Robert Presbury recovered at the Baltimore 41 with 1:13 left in the game.

"I was just trying to hit him," Goodwin said of his second-down stop. "I think my helmet hit the ball. I was really just trying to knock him down."

Baltimore took a 15-9 lead into halftime on the strength of two turnovers, one on the opening kickoff.

Lester Smith forced a fumble on Donald Igwebuike's first kickoff since returning to the team last week. Smith drilled returner James Bullock and Goodwin recovered at the Posse 23.

After a 5-yard run by Mike Pringle, quarterback Tracy Ham threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Chris Armstrong in the left corner of the end zone, beating Don Robinson. It was the 14th touchdown catch of the year for Armstrong.

Ham closed the half with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Pringle (133 yards on 22 carries) in the flat after he fumbled the snap. Eric Geter was the only Las Vegas player with a shot at Pringle and he missed a diving attempted tackle.

In between those touchdown passes, Ham threw two interceptions and the CFLs mounted little offense. Ham completed 10 of 19 passes for 155 yards in the first half.

That left it up to the defense, which had to withstand Anthony Calvillo's deep passing game.

Calvillo completed nine of 18 for 226 yards, including passes of 51 yards to Curtis Mayfield and 41 to Prince Wimbley III.

But Las Vegas' only meaningful first-half offense was three field goals by Carlos Huerta, who hit from 24, 42 and 52 yards. The 52-yarder was Huerta's 18th consecutive field goal success. Late in the half, he went on the field to attempt a 53-yarder, then went to the sideline and Las Vegas punted.

Huerta should have had another chip shot field goal in the second quarter, but the snap hit holder Robbie Keen in the chest and Huerta was tackled for a loss of 12 on the play.

Baltimore's biggest defensive play of the first half was an interception by cornerback Irvin Smith and a 54-yard return.

On a play from the Baltimore 30, Calvillo eluded the pass rush of Elfrid Payton and Scott Miller, reversed his field and threw for Robert Claiborne at the goal line. Calvillo's pass was under-thrown, though, and Smith made the interception at the 2. His return carried to the Las Vegas 54.

Five plays later, Ham threw the touchdown pass to Pringle to give Baltimore a 15-9 lead.

The CFLs stretched the lead to 18-9 on the first series of the second half, but they should have had a touchdown.

The big play in a 50-yard drive was a 35-yard pass to Armstrong to the Las Vegas 23.

From the 11, Ham threw a touchdown pass to a wide-open Peter Tuipulotu, but a holding penalty against guard Guy Earle erased the TD.

Backed to the 21, Ham threw out of bounds on first down. On second down, he ran left and threw right to wide-out Walter Wilson. But Wilson, also wide open, dropped the ball at the 7, and Igwebuike came on for a 28-yard field goal.

Las Vegas answered with its first touchdown of the night, on a 75-yard drive that started with a 38-yard pass to Michael Stephens.

Calvillo threw for 21 yards to Mayfield, then drew a pass interference call from halfback Charles Anthony on a pass for Stephens in the end zone. Anthony and Stephens were pushing each other.

That gave Las Vegas first-and-goal. Baltimore linebacker Tracey Gravely made two big plays on the goal line before Baltimore surrendered the touchdown.

Gravely stopped running back Volpe for no gain on first down, then deflected a second-down pass. On third down, Volpe dragged Goodwin across the goal line to cut Baltimore's lead to 18-16.

The CFLs' next offensive series featured two more holding penalties -- another against Guy Earle and the second against tackle Neal Fort. Fort had to be restrained by his teammates from going after the official after the second flag.

Baltimore increased its lead to 19-16 on punter Josh Miller's second single of the night, a 54-yard punt that was downed in the end zone by the Posse.

The CFLs added a 33-yard Igwebuike field goal early in the fourth quarter to open a 22-16 lead.

Ham threw first-down passes to Robert Clark (15 yards) and Armstrong (9 yards) to reach the Baltimore 53. Then Pringle bolted 15 yards to go over 100 for the game. It was his fifth 100-yard rushing game in the last six, and his sixth of the season.

An 11-yard pass to Armstrong carried to the Las Vegas 31. After a 5-yard run by Pringle and an incompleted pass over the middle for Shawn Beals, Igwebuike hit his second kick of the night.

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