Say this for the Baltimore Stallions. While they keep on winning, they keep things interesting.
Take Saturday's 28-26 victory over the defending Grey Cup champion British Columbia Lions, Baltimore's ninth straight win.
The Lions had lost four straight and were missing a handful of starters, beginning with quarterback Danny McManus, who played brilliantly in B.C.'s 37-34 victory over the Stallions in the season opener. The Stallions were rested after a bye week. Giulio Caravatta, McManus' replacement, was responsible for two turnovers in the first quarter, and Baltimore spent most of the first half in outstanding field position.
What should have been a recipe for a blowout turned into a pre- lude to another come-from-behind victory, something the Stallions have mastered lately. Since routing Hamilton, 41-14, on Sept. 2, the Stallions have come from behind in the fourth quarter to win four games, including their past three.
Baltimore has won two consecutive games on last-second field goals by Carlos Huerta.
"We've got that script down [coming from behind], but we're going to run out of those," said Stallions offensive coordinator Steve Burrato. He was miffed about a first half in which the Stallions took a 7-0 lead on two field goals and a single, despite starting in B.C. territory on two of their first three possessions. The Stallions had only 138 yards in the first half.
"I wasn't happy with the way we reacted to all the positive field position we had in the first half," he added. "We had three opportunities early [to score touchdowns], but we didn't cash in. We've got to do that, instead of waiting until the 11th hour. It's a concern."
The most troubling sequence occurred late in the first half. First, quarterback Tracy Ham, who got off to a shaky start, took a late shot to the head by linebacker Brian Forde during Baltimore's best drive of the half. Ham stayed in long enough to throw a 10-yard touchdown pass to slotback Chris Armstrong, giving the Stallions a 17-3 lead. But Ham had to leave the game with a mild concussion.
Then, backup Shawn Jones helped the Lions make the game more interesting. On the last play before intermission, Jones threw an ill-advised pass to Gerald Alphin, which B.C. cornerback Charles Gordon picked off and returned 51 yards for a touchdown, cutting Baltimore's halftime lead to 17-10.
"That was a terrible decision," said Baltimore coach Don Matthews, who inserted Dan Crowley, the No. 3 quarterback from Towson State, to start the second half, before Ham came back.
Ham restored order. First, he engineered a six-minute, 102-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, ending with his 21-yard strike to Armstrong. Then, after Cory Philpot's second touchdown of the fourth quarter gave B.C. a 26-25 lead with 2:22 left, Ham directed a 54-yard march to put Huerta in position for his 20-yard game-winner.
NOTES: Armstrong had six catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns, his fourth multiple-touchdown game of the season. . . . Chris Wright solidified his hold on Rookie of the Year honors with 176 return yards. He tied a CFL record with his fifth game of at least 100 return yards. He has 2,202 return yards, which ties Edmonton's Gizmo Williams for the CFL record. . . . Halfback Charles Anthony and wide receiver Robert Clark were treated for sore ribs. Neither injury is serious.