As the B.C. Lions turn: Switching QBs is flop

October 23, 1994|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Sun Staff Writer

Their leading rusher had been benched because of poor work habits, then left behind for yesterday's game in Baltimore.

Their No. 1 quarterback accompanied the team but stood on the sidelines for most of the first half while his backup completed two of 12 passes and had one intercepted.

The B.C. Lions are playoff-bound, but they're also burdened.

Reports of dissention continue to circulate, which shouldn't happen to a 10-5-1 team that, until recently, was challenging for first place in the Western Division.

Then again, the Lions may no longer remember what constitutes a normal season. Some strange maneuvering by coach Dave Ritchie yesterday was just the latest source of controversy.

What followed was another B.C. loss, 48-31, to the Baltimore CFLs, and another round of questioning.

How serious is the injury to Cory Philpot -- the CFL's second-leading rusher behind Baltimore's Mike Pringle with 1,266 yards -- that he stayed in Vancouver?

Earlier last week, Ritchie said Philpot was "beat up pretty good." But yesterday, he had downgraded it to "nicked up a little bit" and wouldn't comment further.

All the more reason, it would seem, to start quarterback Kent Austin, who had thrown for more than 4,000 yards and 21 touchdowns.

The Lions had lost three of their past five games, though, and Ritchie thought a change was in order. He then watched Danny McManus sail passes and throw behind his receivers during a stint that ended with 5:45 left in the half, then resumed when Austin left with a separated left shoulder late in the third quarter.

A nine-year pro and the league's fifth all-time leading passer in yardage, Austin could do nothing in the beginning except watch and wonder.

He wasn't given a reason for his demotion, he said, and later added: "Of course, I'm upset. I'm 10-4-1 as a starter. And they handed [the job] to him."

Ritchie said, "I wanted [McManus] to start a game under pressure, so if something were to happen to [Austin], I could play him."

Philpot and Austin (11 of 14, 184 yards, three touchdowns) weren't all that was missing from B.C at kickoff. As usual, so was its discipline.

The Lions enhanced their status as the most penalized team in the league. They committed two infractions on their first series (one was declined) and were flagged for violating the 5-yard rule on the ensuing punt.

In all, they had 77 yards in penalties, leaving them 132 shy of the league's single-season record. To top it off, slotback Mike Trevathan was thrown out for objectionable conduct, costing the Lions 25 yards and stalling a fourth-quarter drive.

Just another long day for Team Turmoil in a year that has included several incidents of player misconduct. And it could get worse, with Philpot's status still uncertain and Austin expected to miss at least four weeks.

Can this team regroup in time to make a serious run at the Grey Cup, or are all these distractions dragging it down?

"It's been a different thing every week, but I think we're coming together," said receiver Darren Flutie. "For the individuals involved, maybe some of the things that have happened are a distraction, but we're pros. We can handle it. We've seen it before."

Said McManus: "We had a team meeting, and the 37 guys in this locker room, and other 10 or 12 who are back home, are all together. There are people outside the walls of our facility that are trying to generate things that aren't there. But us guys, we know where we want to go."

But will they ever get there?

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