There will be some gnashing of teeth and whining back in Toronto over the offsetting pass interference call that cost the Argonauts an apparent touchdown late in the third quarter.
But Toronto coach Bob O'Billovich issued only a mild protest. In the end, O'Billovich and his Argonauts knew they were simply whipped by the Baltimore CFLs in yesterday's Eastern Division semifinal game at Memorial Stadium.
"I don't know how they could have called interference on [wideout] Dave Irwin on that play," said O'Billovich. "He had the defensive back [Karl Anthony] beat all the way.
"But that alone didn't cost us this game. We just didn't play well enough on offense. We had no consistency. In the second half, we always seemed to be backed up on our end, and it was hard for us getting out of the shadow of our goal posts."
But it was his kicking team's breakdown early in the second quarter that O'Billovich said was pivotal.
At the time, Toronto led 10-3, and linebacker Keith Castello had picked off a Tracy Ham pass on the Argos' 53. But after rookie quarterback Marvin Graves' two incompletions, Wayne Lammle was called on to punt.
Rookie linebacker Matt Goodwin broke through to block the punt, his fourth this year.
"I've always said that there is no play in football that can cause more of an emotional swing than blocking a kick," said O'Billovich. "If your team does it, it provides a tremendous lift. But when it happens to you, it's devastating."
Linebacker Joe Sardo, working on the kicking unit, compounded the mistake by illegally picking up the bouncing ball, drawing a 15-yard penalty to move the ball to the Toronto 43.
Nine plays later, Robert Drummond scored from a yard to tie the game and begin the rout. Baltimore scored 17 more points before Toronto scored again.
Although Graves, who became the starter six games ago, could not mount a drive after the first quarter, O'Billovich said he never thought of turning over his offense to Mike Kerrigan, a nine-year veteran and Grey Cup winner with Hamilton in 1986.
"I kept waiting for Marvin to make things happen," said O'Billovich. "He was just doing enough to keep himself out there. But his inexperience showed. He was rushing his passes most of the day. He's got to be more patient."
Graves didn't argue.
"I wasn't setting my feet," said the former Syracuse star. "I'd see a receiver come open, and I'd hurry my pass, throwing a lot of them low. It was mostly mechanics, not nerves."
Still, Irwin said things might have been different if his third-quarter touchdown catch had been allowed.
"That was a critical play for us," said the rookie slotback. "If it counted, it would have made it 27-17 with a whole quarter to play.
"There's no question in my mind Anthony was at fault. I was running in stride and the ball was in front of me when I got bumped. It was really a strange call."
But most of the Argonauts admitted that the CFLs simply wore them down physically.
"It seemed our defense was on the field all day," said defensive tackle Rodney Harding, credited with two sacks. "We just didn't force enough turnovers, and Drummond made a lot of big plays to keep their drives alive."
Mike "Pinball" Clemons had tormented the Baltimore defense in the teams' two regular-season games. In the season opener in Toronto, he had 199 all-purpose yards. On Aug. 20 at Memorial Stadium, he rushed for 120 yards.
But yesterday, the 5-foot-6, 170-pound back was kept under control. He managed only 9 yards on four carries, and was limited to 17 yards on three punt returns.
"The turf was a little slippery out there, and it was hard making cuts," said Clemons. "But give Baltimore credit. They had a great defensive scheme. It seemed most of the game, we were two plays and out. It put too much of a burden on our defense."
O'Billovich, who doubles as general manager, already was looking ahead to 1995.
"I have no doubt that we'll be a more competitive team coming out of the gate next season," he said. "We're already light years ahead of where we started this season. Like Charlie Dressen, the old Brooklyn Dodgers' manager, used to say, 'Wait till next year.' "