CFLs' finale is washout

November 06, 1994|By Ken Murray Sun Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Baltimore's sprint into the CFL playoffs was slowed to a limp last night.

Playing through injury and inclement weather, the CFLs suffered a desultory 18-0 loss to the Sacramento before a rain-splattered crowd of 9,000 at Hornet Field.

The loss put a serious crimp in Baltimore's bid for the Eastern Division title and home-field advantage through the playoffs.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers can capture the division title with a victory over the Toronto Argonauts today in Manitoba.

If Winnipeg loses, the CFLs (12-6) would win the division by virtue of points differential in the season series against the Blue Bombers.

The first pro football playoff game at Memorial Stadium in 17 years could be against any of three teams -- the Argos (if Baltimore finishes second) or either the Ottawa Rough Riders or Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Hamilton must win today's game against Saskatchewan to earn the final playoff spot in the East. If the Tiger-Cats lose, Ottawa advances.

The shutout was the first in three seasons, going back to Week 10 in 1992, when Calgary blanked Toronto, 31-0.

As troubling as the punchless loss was, the CFLs were injury riddled. Quarterback Tracy Ham left the game in the fourth quarter with an injured right elbow. Befitting the night, backup quarterback John Congemi's first snap of the game from reserve center Scott Miller went over his head.

Congemi fell on the ball in the end zone for a safety. With 4:45 left, the Gold Miners had a 15-0 lead.

CFLs linebacker Malcolm Goodwin was carried off on a stretcher with 21 seconds left in the game. Baltimore also lost linebacker Matt Goodwin (thigh), guard Keith Ballard (knee) and center Nick Subis (sprained knee). In addition, punter Josh Miller suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter.

In what may have been their farewell game in Sacramento, the Gold Miners (9-8-1) salvaged a winning season and swept their two-game series with the CFLs.

The CFLs coughed up five turnovers -- to Sacramento's one -- in the steady rain. Ham and Congemi were intercepted, and Ham, Shawn Beals and Mike Pringle lost fumbles.

Ham completed six of 19 passes for 54 yards. Pringle lost his bid for 2,000 rushing yards when he was held to 71 on 12 carries.

It was a first half of diminishing returns for Baltimore. The CFLs committed two turnovers in the first quarter, and Sacramento cashed them in for eight points and an 11-0 lead.

The CFLs also lost middle linebacker Matt Goodwin to a thigh bruise in the first half, and he was replaced by Ken Benson.

Baltimore's offense was as dreary as the weather, producing 78 yards and three first downs by halftime. It was the first time this season the CFLs were held scoreless through the first half.

Ham completed one of eight passes -- and that one was fumbled by Beals. Recovered by Sacramento's Jamie Redmond at the Baltimore 50, it led to a 58-yard punt -- and a single -- by Pete Gardere.

The Gold Miners generated 159 yards with two scoring drives in the half. They went 31 yards with the opening kickoff to get a 38-yard field goal by Roman Anderson.

Their big strike came after a fumble deep in Baltimore territory by Mike Pringle. Linebacker Maurice Miller knocked the ball from Pringle's grip, and Junior Robinson recovered on the Baltimore 30.

Troy Mills carried on four of the next five plays, diving into the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown run to start the second quarter.

Baltimore's deepest penetration in the first half was to the Sacramento 48 after runs of 20 and 7 yards by Pringle. When Pringle was held to 1 yard on his next carry, Miller punted for an apparent single.

But Charles Anthony was flagged for pushing punt returner Rod Harris in the end zone, and after considerable deliberation by the officiating crew, the single was taken off the scoreboard. Sacramento had the option of taking the penalty or the single, and opted for the penalty.

As bad as the first half was, it could have been worse. But Anderson, who beat Baltimore with a 47-yard field goal on Sept. 10, missed kicks of 48, 47 and 45 yards.

Things got worse at the outset of the second half. The CFLs lost guard Keith Ballard to a right knee injury when Ham was intercepted by Maurice Miller. Ballard did not return.

Baltimore appeared to make its own break moments later when halfback Ken Watson intercepted Kerwin Bell's pass and returned it 35 yards. But the turnover was nullified by offsetting penalties, and Sacramento kept possession.

Soon after that, Sacramento pinned Baltimore on its 2 with a punt. Rather than kick it out on third down and give the Gold Miners short driving distance, Miller downed the ball in the end zone for a safety.

That made it 13-0.

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