CFLs give Grey barrier the boot Igwebuike kicks Baltimore, U.S. into final, 14-12

November 21, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The banner read, "No Grey in the U.S.A.," but like most things Canadian yesterday, it was a symbol of an era passed by.

Baltimore's resilient CFLs ushered in the new order with a 14-12 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Canadian Football League's Eastern Division final before 25,067 wind-swept nationalists at Winnipeg Stadium.

On the strength of Donald Igwebuike's leg and the tenacity of coach Don Matthews' defense, the CFLs became the first U.S. team to reach the Grey Cup.

They'll face the hometown B.C. Lions at B.C. Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Sunday. The third-place Lions upset the Calgary Stampeders, 37-36, in the West final.

Four weeks ago, Baltimore riddled the Lions, 48-31, at Memorial Stadium.

"We're not going to B.C. just to show up; we're going to win the ballgame," rush end Elfrid Payton said. "Without a doubt, I think we're the best team."

They were the best team at frozen Winnipeg Stadium, thanks to a thundering, 54-yard field goal by Igwebuike and a Baltimore defense that improvised the only touchdown in the game.

The touchdown came early, the field goal late. In the first quarter, Payton stripped Winnipeg's Keith Woodside in a pile, and

cornerback Karl Anthony scooted 10 yards to a touchdown to give Baltimore, after the extra point, an 8-0 lead.

The field goal came with 3:20 left in the fourth quarter, with a 35-mph wind at Igwebuike's back and the game on the line. The second of two field goals by Igwebuike enabled the CFLs (14-6) to overturn a 12-8 deficit. Igwebuike also hit a 36-yarder with 7:12 to go.

"I'm glad it was Iggy who did it," said running back Mike Pringle, who powered Baltimore's offense with 94 rushing yards on 27 carries. "In this locker room, everyone has so much faith in Iggy and his ability. It's great he was the one who put us over the top."

In between those big scoring plays, the CFLs had to overcome weather, noise and nationalism. The Blue Bombers (14-6) did not surrender their East championship easily or with particular grace.

The public address system blared loud music most of the afternoon when Baltimore's no-huddle offense had the ball, making play-calling for quarterback Tracy Ham a virtual shouting match.

"That's part of home-field advantage," Ham said. "I talked to the referee about it, but he couldn't do anything."

Fueled by a rising sense of nationalism prompted by several inflammatory stories in the local newspapers, Bombers fans pelted the Baltimore bench with snowballs throughout the game. One missile caught Pringle just below his left eye, but he escaped injury.

Not the least of all was the weather. The 30-degree temperatures were tolerable, but the gusting winds played havoc with both offenses. All the scoring was done by teams moving with the wind.

Wind conditions were so critical that Matthews called the coin toss -- won by Baltimore's backup quarterback John Congemi -- "the biggest win of the day." The CFLs deferred until the second half, ensuring they would get the wind at their backs for the fourth quarter.

"It was very difficult for the offense and the kicking game," Matthews said after earning his ninth trip to the Grey Cup, third as head coach. "We were trying to survive against the wind. It was a tough game to manage."

But Matthews managed superbly, making the right calls for the circumstances.

In the second quarter, Baltimore was backed up in its own end heading into the wind. From his 20, Matthews accepted a 5-yard time-count violation -- that's delay of game -- and had punter Josh Miller concede a safety by running out of the end zone.

"We couldn't kick them out of field-goal range," Matthews said.

He elected to give Winnipeg two points instead of three through field position.

The Bombers followed up with three field goals by Troy Westwood and a single by punter Bob Cameron to take a 12-8 lead into the fourth quarter.

The game ultimately turned on a botched fake field-goal try by Winnipeg three minutes into the final period.

Going into the wind, the Bombers lined up for a 39-yard field-goal attempt. But Westwood neglected to tell his holder, Cameron, of the fake.

Westwood ran left at the snap, and Baltimore's Stan Petry dropped a stunned Cameron for a 9-yard loss.

"I didn't know it was a fake," Petry said, "but I knew they couldn't make it if they tried it. The guy [Cameron] didn't move."

Baltimore capitalized on the gaffe to cut its deficit to 12-11. Ham engineered a 40-yard drive with three straight second-down passes. Twice, he found Joe Washington for first-down passes. Then he hit Chris Armstrong on a turn-in route that gained 18 yards to the 25.

After Pringle ran to the 19, the CFLs were hit with two time-count violations, the second as Igwebuike prepared for a 31-yard field goal.

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