Crossbar, crossed signals cross up Blue Bombers

November 21, 1994|By Dave Supleve | Dave Supleve,Special to The Sun

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Quarterback Matt Dunigan couldn't remember the last time a goal post should have been called for pass interference.

Punter and holder Bob Cameron was at a loss to explain how a series of weird occurrences kept him from filling in his teammates at a time when communication was essential.

But strange as they may be for an exacting team such as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, both incidents proved to be turning points in a 14-12 loss to the Baltimore CFLs that was full of them.

The first came in the third period, when Dunigan's pass for a wide-open Gerald Wilcox in the end zone deflected off the crossbar of the uprights.

Eight minutes later, with Winnipeg lined up for a 39-yard &L field-goal try by Troy Westwood, the message was sent out to attempt a fake. The message, given by Winnipeg head coach Cal Murphy to Westwood, never made it to Cameron, Westwood's holder and the man who calls the signals on the special teams unit. Cameron was left holding the ball with no one to kick it.

"It's difficult to swallow," said Dunigan. "I haven't hit a crossbar in I don't know how many years, if I ever have."

Dunigan had Wilcox, his favorite target, open on a crossing pattern. Wilcox's eyes and expectations grew big as Dunigan released the throw.

"It's like Matt saw it before it happened," Wilcox said of the play. "He said in the huddle the safety would disappear, and he did. I had my man beat; it was a touchdown. It doesn't get any easier. Then, bang, it hits the crossbar."

Winnipeg got a Westwood field goal on that drive, but the four points they lost were decisive. So, for that matter, were the three they lost three minutes into the final quarter.

Westwood was setting his tee down on the Baltimore 39 when Cameron was calling the blocking. Unknown to Westwood, Cameron hadn't been told of the plan.

"I was down at the other end of the bench punting when Cal told Troy," said Cameron, the Bombers' 40-year-old punter. "I make the call. Nobody knew on the team except Troy."

"That's my fault for not telling Bob," said Murphy.

Along with their own missed opportunities, the Bombers said the officiating crew also missed a few.

The chief spokesman was running back Keith Woodside, whose first-quarter fumble resulted in the game's only touchdown -- a 10-yard return by Baltimore cornerback Karl Anthony.

A livid Woodside maintained his knees were on the Winnipeg Stadium turf when the ball popped free.

"I was down on both knees, and they call a fumble," said Woodside. "Even the chain crew on the sidelines said the TV announcers said they blew the call. You're not supposed to lose a game that way."

There also was a possible fourth-quarter fumble by the CFLs' Mike Pringle, who was ruled down despite replays that showed otherwise.

But regardless of the calls, the Bombers didn't do what they've become experts at, using the Winnipeg wind to their advantage. In the third quarter, Dunigan completed just one of 10 passes with the wind at his back, and the net offensive yardage total was 2 yards.

Yesterday's loss hit harder than the 57-10 rout by Baltimore Oct. 29.

"It's tougher than getting blown out," said Winnipeg linebacker Paul Randolph. "When you've got a chance to win it and you don't, it hurts a little more.

"I've decided both these teams are crazy. We were hitting each other with everything we had. On this given day, they were the best team in the Eastern Division."

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