Stallions rally, stay ahead of pack, 28-20

September 10, 1995|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Sun Staff Writer

The Baltimore Stallions recovered from a persistent offensive slump by scoring 17 fourth-quarter points to post a come-from-behind, 28-20 victory over the Birmingham Barracudas before 29,013 at Memorial Stadium last night.

In a game that saw the lead change hands four times in the second half, Baltimore had the last word, as quarterback Tracy Ham and slotback Chris Armstrong teamed up for a 4-yard touchdown with 5:52 left to give the Stallions a 25-20 lead. Carlos Huerta sealed the victory with a 24-yard field goal with 1:26 left, his fourth of the evening.

"I think that is a classic example of finding a way to win when things aren't going right for you," Baltimore coach Don Matthews said. "Things weren't going right. We were drawing too many penalties and shooting ourselves in the foot, but the players hung in there."

The Stallions (9-3) won their third straight game and dropped Birmingham (6-5) into a second-place tie with San Antonio in the Canadian Football League's Southern Division.

The Stallions opened the game with a seven play, 58-yard drive to take a 3-0 lead.

On the drive's second play, Ham hooked up with Armstrong for a 39-yard gain down the left sideline to move the ball to the Birmingham 27. Ham perfectly executed a naked bootleg on the next play for a 14-yard gain around the right side.

Three plays later, Huerta kicked an 18-yard field goal to give Baltimore the early lead.

The Stallions then botched an onside kick attempt, although they forced a Birmingham punt quickly. The Barracudas were able to pin the Stallions back on their 3.

No problem. Baltimore, led by Ham's precise touch, converted four straight second-down opportunities to move the ball just across midfield. On the first two changes, Ham hit Armstrong for gains of 12 and 14 yards, then teamed up with fullback Peter Tuipulotu for 14 yards to the Baltimore 45.

The drive stalled shortly after that, but Josh Miller's 50-yard punt pinned the Barracudas inside their 5. On Birmingham's first play from scrimmage, Matt Dunigan dropped back in the end zone, and Baltimore linebacker O. J. Brigance charged around the right side untouched to drop Dunigan for a safety touch that put Baltimore on top, 5-0, with 4:38 left in the half.

The Barracudas didn't gain a yard until late in the first quarter, when Dunigan completed a 13-yard pass to Marcus Grant, giving Birmingham 10 yards to show for the quarter.

The Barracudas finally showed some life early in the second quarter, when Dunigan threw a swing pass to Keith Woodside, who, with the help of a great block by Fred Childress, rambled for a 39-yard gain to the Baltimore 19. Still, Birmingham couldn't cash in, as Birmingham kicker Luis Zendejas' 19-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright with 8:03 left in the half.

Birmingham finally scored on its next possession, after Jason Phillips beat Baltimore halfback Charles Anthony down the left sideline for a 54-yard completion from Dunigan. But a face mask penalty ruined that drive, leaving Scott Player to score by booming a 58-yard punt into the Stallions' end zone, where Chris Wright downed it for a Birmingham single.

With 4:33 left in the half, Baltimore led, 5-1.

The rest of the half was little more than a battle of the punters, as the ball changed hands five times, with no points to show for those possessions.

After rolling up seven first downs and 132 yards in the first quarter, the Stallions manged only three first downs and 36 yards in the second half. Ham was sacked five times in the half.

Dunigan brought Birmingham right back, hitting Woodside for 12 yards, then Phillips for 26, who shook two Baltimore tacklers with an excellent move. Zendejas' 42-yard field goal pulled the Barracudas to within 8-7 with 8:57 left in the quarter.

Wright's 60-yard return then set up a 38-yard field goal by Huerta with 7:46 left, giving the Stallions an 11-7 lead.

But Birmingham finally scored the game's first touchdown, as Dunigan opened the Barracudas' next drive with a 39-yard completion to Phillips. Two offsides penalties against Baltimore then gave Dunigan the chance to throw a perfect, 35-yard strike to Grant to give Birmingham a 14-11 lead, its first of the game, with 5:34 left in the period.

Wright fumbled away the ensuing kickoff return, setting up Zendejas' 33-yard field goal, making it 17-11 with 4:17 to go.

The Stallions then suddenly put together their best drive of the night, an 11-play, 71-yard march that was saved by a fake punt, when Tuipulotu took the short snap and gained 13 yards to the Birmingham 52.

Ham completed 16-yard passes to Armstrong and Tuipulotu, then scrambled for seven yards. Two plays later, Wright, filling for Tuipulotu, who was temporarily shaken up, took a swing pass from Ham, burst down the left sideline, broke a tackle at the five, and scored to complete a 20-yard touchdown, Baltimore's first of the night.

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