The Memphis Mad Dogs think they have problems on offense?
Meet the Baltimore Stallions, who remain in first place in the Canadian Football League's Southern Division but look pretty vulnerable after a paltry display of offense in last night's 25-15 loss to the Mad Dogs at Memorial Stadium, before an announced crowd of 31,221.
The Stallions (5-3) lost their second straight game by continuing a disturbing trend. In its last three games, Baltimore's offense has produced just one touchdown. After last night, the Stallions might want to buy new shoulder pads for kicker Carlos Huerta, who carried the offense by accounting for all 15 points on five field goals.
The expansion Mad Dogs were supposed to be the team that couldn't score. They came into the game averaging just under 15 points, and in the second quarter, they lost starting quarterback Damon Allen to a knee injury with Memphis leading, 6-3.
No problem. Backup Rickey Foggie stepped in calmly to lead Memphis to 17 more points, while the Mad Dogs' defense -- which played as well as advertised -- chipped in a second-half safety. Memphis tied a franchise record with its 25 points.
It was a disastrous night all around for Baltimore. It turned the ball over five times and gave up five sacks, thanks partly to an offensive line that appeared to be out of sync. Center Nick Subis returned after missing five weeks with broken ribs; right guard Guy Earle replaced his brother, John, who is out with a torn biceps muscle.
The Memphis pass rush supplied the rest of the problems. Led by rush end Tim Cofield, it had Ham running for his life all night, while the Mad Dogs' defensive backfield took away the Stallions' deep routes consistently. Cofield had two sacks, and his last sack with three minutes left shook up Ham, who did not finish the game.
"It was a very disappointing loss. By far, this is the worst football game we've played since we've been here," said Baltimore coach Don Matthews, who alluded to the Stallions' recent three-game, nine-day road trip as a possible cause of the team's slump.
"I'd like to find a reason for this," he said. "Are we still tired from the trip? I don't know. Whatever it is, it's unacceptable for our football team, especially on defense, where we were a step slow all night."
Even the coach slumped a bit during a critical point last night. Early in the fourth quarter, with the Stallions trailing, 15-12, Baltimore took the ball near midfield and found itself in a third-and-1 at the Memphis 31-yard line.
The situation seemed ideal for an attempt at a first down, yet Matthews sent Huerta out to attempt a 38-yard field goal, much to the displeasure of the crowd. Then, Huerta hit the left upright, his only miss of the night.
The Mad Dogs, helped by a controversial pass interference call against Baltimore cornerback Courtney Griffin, then marched 85 yards for a critical touchdown. Fullback Bruce Perkins (10 carries, 58 yards) finished the drive with a 23-yard run up the middle that put Memphis on top, 22-12, midway through the quarter.
Asked about his decision to go for a field goal, Matthews said, "I felt that if we could get the lead at that point, our defense was playing good. It was 15-13, and we wanted the lead."
When told the score was 15-12 at the time, Matthews offered no more comment.
Memphis wide receiver Nick Mystrom, the team's emergency kicker -- he replaced Donald Igwebuike, who was detained in Memphis by work visa problems -- then kicked his third field goal of the night with six minutes left to give Memphis a 25-12 lead.
Memphis (4-4) surprised the Stallions from the outset, as Perkins and running backs Al Shipman (59 yards, 9.8 average) and Charles Miles (33 yards, 4.7 average) sliced through the middle of the Baltimore defense. The Stallions missed defensive tackle Robert Presbury, who is out with a hamstring injury.
Foggie stepped in to complete 11 of 22 passes for 159 yards in directing Memphis to two touchdowns.
"The draw hurt us really bad," said linebacker O. J. Brigance. "They have a good running back and he found the creases inside. Before we could stop the bleeding, it was too late. We're all going to go back and regroup. It hurts losing two in a row, especially one in front of our home fans."
Memphis coach Pepper Rodgers was ecstatic with the Mad Dogs' offense, and saluted Foggie.
"This one was big for us," Rodgers said. "To beat a real good team like Baltimore in their back yard, and with us losing our No. 1 quarterback, it was a tremendous win for our football team. He [Foggie] came in there and played very well. No mistakes. And he hit crucial passes when he had to."
It was a humbling and costly night for the Stallions' defense. Baltimore gave up 375 yards, recorded only one tackle for a loss, did not register a sack, and lost linebacker Matt Goodwin to a shoulder injury in the first half. His status will be determined today.