Gold Miners make CFLs pay penalty


The slogan is "Living on the Edge," and the Baltimore CFLs live by it religiously.

Last night they died by it.

The final blow in the Sacramento Gold Miners' improbable 30-29 victory at Memorial Stadium was a 47-yard field goal by Roman Anderson.

But the path to ruin was littered with Baltimore penalties and misplays.

The CFLs could have sent a season-high crowd of 42,116 home happy if Donald Igwebuike -- a model of kicking consistency this season -- hadn't slipped on a 21-yard attempt with 39 seconds left. But he did, and the CFLs fell with him.

Instead of a 31-27 lead, the CFLs had to settle for a single point -- the ball sailed out of the end zone -- and a 29-27 lead.

The miss proved disastrous when quarterback David Archer drove Sacramento 35 yards to the Baltimore 40, where Anderson launched his game-winner as time expired.

"No excuses," Igwebuike said, waiting at his locker for reporters afterward. "I just slipped. It was a perfect snap, a good hold. Everything was good. I just screwed up. I guess I lost the game. I never had a day like this in my career."

He was not alone. In their most erratic performance of the year, the CFLs amassed 15 penalties for 168 yards. There were three offside penalties, two pass-interference calls, a roughing-the-kicker penalty and a roughing-the-passer penalty. There were two face-mask infractions and an objectionable conduct call. They ran the gamut.

It left Baltimore coach Don Matthews frazzled.

"I'm not sure we could have done more to help them win," he said. "I'm at a loss to understand why. This was a game we truly gave away. The penalties and things we did wrong were just ludicrous."

The loss dropped the CFLs to 6-4 and temporarily out of a first-place tie in the Eastern Division with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who play Saskatchewan today.

It also ruined the fourth-quarter rally in which Baltimore twice went in front on touchdown passes from Tracy Ham to Chris Armstrong.

An 8-yard scoring strike to Armstrong put Baltimore up 21-20 two minutes into the fourth quarter. Then, a 14-yarder, coupled with Igwebuike's extra-point kick, gave the CFLs a 28-27 lead with less than four minutes left.

Making his first start since he injured his right quadriceps Aug. 20, Ham completed 24 of 42 passes for 341 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also hit Walter Wilson for a 20-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

But in the end, it was Sacramento's night. After Igwebuike slipped, Archer needed six plays to get the Gold Miners (4-5-1) in Anderson's field-goal range.

Archer hit Myron Wise for a 16-yard pass to ignite the drive, and Rod Harris for 14 to put Sacramento into Baltimore territory.

Then came another Baltimore mistake. An offside penalty against the CFLs moved Anderson five yards closer -- from the 45 to the 40 -- for his kick.

Completing the folly, the CFLs were flagged for having too many men on the field on Anderson's kick.

Matthews did not complain about the officiating, though.

"We had chances to win the game," he said. "The officials didn't decide the outcome of the game."

Of the missed opportunity when Igwebuike slipped, Matthews said, "[You have to] make plays when you get the chance."

Baltimore also blew a first-and-goal opportunity in the third quarter and wound up taking a 16-yard Igwebuike field goal.

Free safety Michael Brooks, who had a third-quarter interception in the end zone after Mike Kerr batted an Archer pass high into the air, described the night as "real strange."

"We've got to be more disciplined," he said. "We can't make it close, we can't give the officials a chance to make a call."

The victory was the Gold Miners' first since July 30, when they beat Saskatchewan, 30-27, to go 3-1. They went 0-4-1 in their next five games. But last night's comeback kept them alive in the Western Division playoff race.

"You get yourself in a situation where you have to respond," Anderson said. "We've been talking about that as a family, as a team. We're tired of losing."

Archer completed 22 of 37 passes for 277 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

He threw scoring passes of 24 yards and 10 yards to fullback Troy Mills on Sacramento's first two possessions of the game. The first touchdown drive was assisted by a 46-yard pass-interference call against halfback Charles Anthony.

On the next play, Archer slipped a pass to Mills in the left flat. Linebacker Tracy Gravely missed a tackle and Mills beat Brooks to the corner of the end zone.

"They came up and challenged us, so we decided to come out and challenge them," Archer said.

Like Baltimore, the Gold Miners twice came from behind in the fourth quarter.

"The offensive line really bowed their backs and took the pressure," Archer said. "They were able to come off the ball a little and we could run the football . . . You throw the oats and the hay, and that gets them chomping."

The CFLs, saddled with their third loss in five home games, were looking back at squandered opportunities.

"We've got to learn how to close these out," Ham said. "We had a chance to win and we didn't. They had a chance to win and they did.

RF "We've got to protect our back yard better. We just didn't do it."

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