Bombers' danger is Dunigan

October 25, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

The man who has ruled the Canadian Football League's Eastern Division for the past seven years as coach or general manager, or both, of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers was in a playful mood.

"Tell Matthews we're starting Porras," Cal Murphy said yesterday.

That's Tom Porras, 36, Winnipeg's third-string quarterback, signed out of the Arena Football League this year when the Bombers' first two quarterbacks went down with injuries.

Baltimore CFLs coach Don Matthews chuckled at the thought, two days after the B.C. Lions did him a favor by starting reserve quarterback Danny McManus instead of Kent Austin.

But he knows better.

When Winnipeg tangles with Baltimore at Memorial Stadium on Saturday for Eastern Division supremacy, the CFLs will have to withstand the prolific passing game of quarterback Matt Dunigan.

The last time they saw him, he brought Winnipeg back from a 25-10 deficit to beat Baltimore, 39-32. Dunigan threw for 312 yards in the second half, and 435 overall, on that sultry July night in Winnipeg.

In a season when Dunigan has thrown for 713 yards in one game, he authored yet another improbable victory Saturday. Trailing by 27 points against Hamilton in the third quarter, the Bombers scored 29 points in a frenetic 13-minute stretch. Still, it took a field goal in the final 27 seconds to pull out a 46-44 win.

Where did the season's biggest comeback rank with Murphy, the coach/general manager? "Up there with the transplant," he said.

That's heart transplant, which Murphy had two years ago, interrupting his 12-year reign in Winnipeg.

Murphy can afford to be in a playful mood. Life is a dream. The Bombers (12-4) have been to the Eastern playoff final each of the past seven years since they moved from the West to fill a vacancy created when Montreal folded. They've gone to the Grey Cup four times, and won twice. Last year, Winnipeg lost the Cup to Edmonton.

Now Murphy is trying to take the Bombers back, only this year the road runs through Baltimore.

Winnipeg takes a one-game lead -- and a seven-point cushion -- into Saturday's game. To gain the division title and home-field advantage through the playoffs, Baltimore (11-5) must beat Winnipeg by eight points or more, then beat Sacramento in the regular-season finale (assuming Winnipeg wins its finale against Toronto).

Murphy says he's not leaning on the seven-point cushion, though.

"I don't deal with it at all," he said. "We're hoping to win, then there's no chance for them to come back. If we lose, we have a chance [to win the division] the following week and points won't matter.

"Worrying about points is not the point. If it came down to it at the end, and we have to go for two points, then it might be a factor. I look at it as 0-0 going in. That's the only way I can look at it."

Matthews and Murphy go way back -- back to Edmonton's Grey Cup dynasty in the 1970s, when both served as assistants under Hugh Campbell. Matthews was the defensive coordinator and Murphy the offensive coordinator. They would often sit and talk about defensive theory and offensive strategy.

"I have real respect for Don," Murphy said. "He knew how to do it. Baltimore did a good job in hiring him."

That Matthews has his expansion team challenging for Murphy's 1993 division title is the proof. It also adds to the flavor of the occasion.

"It does not get better than this," Matthews said. "The fact we're a first-year team adds to the beauty of being in this position."

* NOTES: Winnipeg lost guard David Black Saturday to a broken leg, and lists defensive end Kelly Rush (shoulder) as questionable for Saturday's game in Baltimore. The CFLs list nose tackle Jearld Baylis (calf) as doubtful. . . . The starting time for Baltimore's East semifinal playoff game Nov. 12 has been changed to 4 p.m. for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. . . . With his 246-yard game against B.C., quarterback Tracy Ham went over 4,000 yards (4,008) for the third time in his eight CFL seasons.

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