CFLs tame league's top defense, 48-31 Lions yield 216 yards to Pringle, 4 TDs to Ham

October 23, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Whatever they lost in Edmonton last week, the Baltimore CFLs reclaimed yesterday at Memorial Stadium.

The running game? It resurfaced with striking force, as Mike Pringle rumbled for 216 yards.

The passing game? Tracy Ham didn't put up big numbers, but he was efficient with a season-high four touchdown passes.

Self-esteem? Baltimore carried the look of a Grey Cup contender when it shredded the Canadian Football League's top defense in a 48-31 victory over the B.C. Lions before 35,416.

"We're right where we want to be," Ham said after the CFLs (11-5) set the table for Saturday's Eastern Division showdown here against the first-place Winnipeg Blue Bombers (12-4).

"Winnipeg still has to come through here. We felt like we should have beaten them the last time."

Winnipeg held a one-game lead in the East by outlasting Hamilton, 46-44, yesterday. Baltimore can win the division, by virtue of a tie-breaking edge, if it beats the Bombers by eight points or more and Sacramento by any number in the regular-season finale.

A 31-24 loss in Edmonton last week dropped the CFLs into the chase position.

"Last week . . . that left a real bad taste in my mouth," said Pringle, held to 32 yards in Edmonton. "I was ready to play Monday.

"We don't like to lose. When your backs are to the wall, there are two things you can do. You can curl up or you can come out fighting. We chose to come out fighting."

Pringle came out as if possessed. He scored on a 15-yard swing pass in the first quarter, broke two tackles on a determined 26-yard touchdown run in the third, and went 58 yards on another breakaway later to set up a 1-yard touchdown dive by Sheldon Canley.

The 216-yard effort was Pringle's second best of the year and seventh game over 100 yards. Not surprisingly, the CFLs are 7-0 in those games.

"Mike was the key in the game today," Ham said. "Any time we get the running game to complement the passing game that much, we're going to be tough. They [the Lions] take a lot of chances [on defense]."

Ham took enough chances against B.C.'s aggressive defense to throw for four touchdowns, and he could have had more were it not for a drop or a penalty.

As it was, he spread the wealth around. His touchdown throws went to four receivers -- Pringle, Robert Drummond on a quick screen covering 41 yards, Chris Armstrong on a 23-yard post pattern and Walter Wilson on a 26-yard streak.

Ham completed 11 of 24 for 246 yards.

If Baltimore rediscovered its offense, the fading Lions -- losers in four of their past six games -- were shrouding theirs in mystery.

B.C. coach Dave Ritchie yesterday benched quarterback Kent Austin, who won 10 games and threw for 4,009 yards in the first 15 games, in favor of veteran reserve Danny McManus.

Ritchie said he wanted to get McManus some experience down the stretch "so if something happened to our quarterback, we would've played him a little bit."

It was a game of double jeopardy for the Lions (10-5-1), who saw the worst on both ends of the switch.

Missing badly, McManus hit two of his first 12 passes in the first half. He was pulled after seven series with the Lions trailing 10-0.

Austin came on to throw for three touchdowns -- two to Ray Alexander, the third to Tony Jackson -- before his left shoulder was separated on a blind-side hit by linebacker Malcolm Goodwin.

Goodwin saw his knockout punch all the way.

"You expect to see something like that [an injured quarterback] if they give you a clean shot like that," Goodwin said. "I hit him in the head, and his head rolled up his neck."

At the time of the hit, Austin had maneuvered the Lions within 31-21. They got as close as 31-24 when they converted a fumbled kickoff by Pringle into a 23-yard Lui Passaglia field goal.

But touchdowns by Canley -- after Pringle's long run -- and Wilson -- after a 41-yard interception return by ex-Lion Tracey Gravely -- stretched the lead to 45-24.

The loss of Austin figures to be costly. He will miss four weeks, turning the offense over to McManus for the playoffs.

zTC Baltimore coach Don Matthews was quick to concede there's a major difference.

"[Austin] creates a different attitude when he's in the game," said Matthews, who coached Austin in Saskatchewan. "His tempo is different."

The tempo of this game was different from the start, when Baltimore used field position to open a 24-7 lead. B.C. had seven first-half possessions start inside its 30, and Baltimore started six times in B.C. territory.

While Austin was turning the game competitive again, the CFLs were suffering from attrition. They lost nose tackle Jearld Baylis in the first half with a torn calf muscle. Free safety Michael Brooks broke his right hand in the game, and Gravely suffered an eye injury.

"Injuries changed a lot of things we could do on defense," Matthews said, "but we answered [with scores] every time they scored."

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