On second chance, Passaglia sure-footed

November 28, 1994|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Sun Staff Writer

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- B.C. Lions coach Dave Ritchie kept quiet all week about which of his injured quarterbacks would start yesterday's Grey Cup game against the Baltimore CFLs.

But everyone knew which Lion could wind up determining the outcome with a field goal.

If veteran kicker Lui Passaglia decides not to come back next year -- retirement may beckon for the 19-year pro -- he surely went out with a bang, nailing a 38-yard field goal on the final play in B.C.'s 26-23 win over the Baltimore CFLs in the Grey Cup.

He made four field goals in all, and failed twice, including a 37-yarder late in the fourth quarter that sailed wide right.

"It doesn't get any better than this," he said. "I was about to hyperventilate."

He said he still doesn't know why his 37-yard try veered off course.

"I thought I hit it really well. I never saw one of my balls move as much. I hit it on the button, and it just moved the last 5 yards," said Passaglia, who was named Most Valuable Canadian in the game.

"Before I ran off the field, I saw there was a minute to go and saw they were on the 2 -- no use pouting about it anymore, just hope for a second chance. These guys have been giving me second chances all year."

In the end, the CFL's all-time leader in scoring and games played had given B.C. the Cup.

"All I could think of was, 'Hit it straight. You've done this all your life.' That's all I concentrated on. 'The ball's in the middle of the field. Don't make it move this time.' "

Will he be moving on to a life without football?

"I'm going to decide on that in the end of January," he said. "I'm going to sit down and talk with everybody concerned and see if I can draw it up for one more year."

Passaglia, 40, was only part of the story. B.C. needed more than just his right leg.

It also needed quarterback Danny McManus' latest rescue.

Ritchie didn't make an announcement on his starter until shortly before kickoff, but the plan seemed obvious enough. Go with Kent Austin until an injury or ineffectiveness forces him to the sideline. Then, bring on your backup, close your eyes and pray.

It worked last week in Calgary, when Austin separated his left shoulder in the third quarter and watched as McManus rallied B.C. to a 37-36 victory in the Western Division final.

And it worked again yesterday.

This time, McManus led B.C. to 13 points in its first three possessions of the second half, wiping out a 20-10 Baltimore lead. His 34-yard completion to Ray Alexander then set up Passaglia's second miss with the score tied 23-23.

McManus said he knew there would be another chance for Passaglia, only with a different result. "Lui doesn't miss two in a row," he said.

This was the second straight week that Austin had been knocked out with a left shoulder separation, and the third time since Oct. 22 in Baltimore.

Austin was 6-for-16 in the first half, and his last pass turned into his third interception.

At that moment, Ritchie turned to his safety valve.

Robert Presbury and Elfrid Payton had converged on Austin as he released the ball. Ken Watson made the interception, which Austin never saw. He was lying on the turf at B.C. Place Stadium with 46 seconds remaining before halftime.

No problem. McManus had been here before, and he knew just what to do, even with a bothersome thigh bruise that limited his mobility.

McManus completed a 42-yard pass on one drive, ran 1 yard for a touchdown on another. His 17-yard pass to Darren Flutie led to Passaglia's third field goal and a 23-20 lead with 11:51 remaining in the game.

"Danny did a great job, just fantastic, a super job," Ritchie said before ducking through a door in the B.C. locker room.

McManus had trouble getting there. He was halted at every turn by someone wanting either to congratulate him or to ask about his latest save.

"I just had to be loose and be ready to go in," he said, after completing three passes for 93 yards. "I've done it all year, and being at home made it feel a little more comfortable. I always say, if the opportunity comes up and you're not ready for it, then you've missed something."

McManus isn't sure he'll be back, either. Rumors have him leaving for another team. Certainly, his stock has risen even higher.

"I'd like to return," he said. "I enjoy the city. I have a great time here, and my wife loves it. We'll weigh things in the off-season and go from there."

B.C. fans were just glad to have him and Passaglia around yesterday.

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