Stallions draw the line to spell difference from earlier loss to Calgary Offensive dominance started up front

Grey Cup

November 20, 1995|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

REGINA, Saskatchewan -- The Baltimore Stallions who walked on to windy, Taylor Field yesterday were in many ways the same team that lost to the Calgary Stampeders, 29-15, three months ago.

Then again, no, they weren't. Baltimore was a tired, banged-up team in August. Tracy Ham could barely walk, having just suffered a sprained ankle four days earlier against Edmonton. Free safety Lester Smith had been lost for the season. Baltimore was playing its third game in nine days.

But the most telling difference coming into the Grey Cup could be found on the Stallions' offensive line. In August, center Nick Subis was still out with broken ribs. Left tackle Shar Pourdanesh was playing on two bad ankles. Left guard Mike Withycombe was playing in Subis' position. Right guard Mark Dixon had yet to be signed.

Those four, along with reliable right tackle Neal Fort, have played together in good health for the past two months, and the strength of the group was striking yesterday.

They abused a Calgary defense that led the CFL against the rush this year, and repeatedly stacked the line of scrimmage in an effort to stop Mike Pringle. He gained 137 yards on the ground yesterday. When it came time to pass, the line afforded Ham superb protection, giving him the chance to throw for 213 yards, including 130 in the second half.

"We were talking on the field before the game about how they [Calgary] don't know us," Withycombe said. "They've only seen us once on film against them, and most of us weren't there then. We had no doubts about what we were going to do tonight."

Wind no help to Calgary

The wind was expected to play a huge factor in yesterday's game, but that did not prove to be the case.

The Stampeders won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, in order to have the wind at their backs in the fourth quarter. But they were shut out in the final period. In fact, the Stampeders managed only six points with the wind on two field goals in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, Baltimore kicker Carlos Huerta hit five field goals, including a Grey Cup-record 53-yarder late in the second quarter that gave the Stallions a 23-13 halftime lead. Then, Huerta topped himself in the fourth quarter by hitting a 42-yarder into the teeth of the wind.

Speros looks ahead

Baltimore owner Jim Speros was beaming in the Stallions' locker room, and he talked about the meeting he will have with Gov. Parris Glendening tomorrow, at which they will discuss the future of the Stallions in Baltimore. With the Cleveland Browns on their way here, Speros probably will have to move the team.

"I'm bringing a good piece of hardware [the Grey Cup] to show off to the whole United States," Speros said. "I think they'll realize that keeping us is very important to the state of Maryland."

He said the Stallions are planning to kick off a season-ticket drive Dec. 4. Speros hopes 15,000 sign up as a show of support.

Warm memories

By Friday, Doug Flutie had grown tired of answering questions about his health. But Calgary's quarterback perked up when asked about his Baltimore roots.

Flutie was born in Manchester in Carroll County. His family moved to the Boston area when he was 5, although that did not cut Flutie's ties with Baltimore.

"We used to go down to Ocean City every year on vacation, and every now and then, we would pop up and catch an O's game at the old ballpark," said Flutie, who still visits two close friends in Catonsville occasionally.

"One time -- I think I was about 10 -- we went to Memorial Stadium to a Yankees game. We got there early enough for batting practice," Flutie said. "Thurman Munson hits one into the left-field bleachers. I dove into a crowd of guys and knocked the ball out of this kid's glove. It rolled down about three or four rows."

There, Flutie's younger brother Darren, a receiver for the B.C. Lions, recovered the fumble.

Delay of game

Because winds were gusting from 40 to 55 miles per hour, stadium officials delayed fan access to the 27,000 temporary seats for nearly an hour. The league announced before the game that if gusts exceeded 55, fans would be removed from the temporary stands until the wind died down. The winds diminished by the second half, after sunset.

A nice payday

The championship Stallions received a playoff share of $12,000 Canadian, about $9,000 in American money. The losing Stampeders get a share of $6,000 Canadian, or about $4,000 American.

Matte reassigned

Speros has issued layoff notices to most of his full-time staff at Memorial Stadium, pending his decision to take the Stallions out of Baltimore.

He stopped short of saying he had fired executive vice president Tom Matte. Speros said Matte will remain as one of the team's limited partners, but will be reassigned as a co-chairman of the 1997 Grey Cup committee. Baltimore is scheduled to host the game, but that obviously would change if the Stallions leave town.

A city tradition

The win made Baltimore the first city to win an NFL title (Colts, 1958, '59, '71), a USFL title (Stars, 1985) and a CFL title.

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