VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Replays were inconclusive, but B.C. Lions receiver Ray Alexander didn't need a second look.
Alexander insisted that he held on to a 34-yard pass from Danny McManus with 1:36 left in last night's Grey Cup, even though the ball popped free as he and Baltimore CFLs cornerback Irvin Smith hit the turf at B.C. Place.
The controversial play didn't lead directly to a score -- kicker Lui Passaglia missed wide right from 37 yards -- but when Charles Anthony was tackled at the Baltimore 2 on his return, B.C. was in business.
Two plays later, Baltimore had to punt. The Lions took over on the CFLs' 34, and after two short runs, Passaglia won the game with a 38-yard kick.
Baltimore players argued that the pass to Alexander, who took advantage of his 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame, should have been ruled incomplete, but he disagreed.
"We both had our hands on it when we went down," he said. "He had one hand in there, I got two on it. I had it when I went down and hit the ground."
Alexander, a 10-year pro out of Florida A&M;, had a game-high five catches for 119 yards.
In a confusing awards announcement, Passaglia was named Most Valuable Player on post-game television by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., but the Football Reporters of Canada checked the ballots and concluded that Baltimore's Karl Anthony had won. Passaglia was voted the game's top Canadian.
League officials said Anthony won even though Passaglia was presented with the keys to a truck on television.
"All I know is that without Lui, we've got nothing," B.C. coach Dave Ritchie said.
On the defensive
After the Lions' 48-31 loss to Baltimore last month, Ritchie said the Lions could beat the CFLs "as long as they have 3 and 33," referring to cornerback Karl Anthony and halfback Ken Watson.
Each of the Baltimore defensive backs had a first-half interception yesterday, but the CFLs lost anyway.
The CFLs' Alvin Walton and B.C.'s Barry Wilburn were teammates when the Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl in 1988. Yesterday, Walton outdid his friend, intercepting a pass and lateraling to Karl Anthony for a touchdown. Wilburn was called for pass interference in the end zone to keep alive a Baltimore scoring drive.
End of the line for 3 Lions
At least three Lions played their last game yesterday. Cornerback Less Browne, offensive tackle Rob Smith and safety Sean Foudy each announced his retirement this season.
Browne leaves as the CFL's all-time leader in interceptions with 87, 21 more than runner-up Larry Highbaugh. He had 11 this year.
Smith was voted the league's Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman in 1992 while with the Ottawa Rough Riders.
Foudy has been limited to 13 regular-season games in the past two years because of injuries, including seven shoulder dislocations.
Drummond in familiar role
Just a couple of months ago, Robert Drummond was out of a job. Yesterday, he reinforced his image as the CFLs' super sub, filling in at fullback for ailing Peter Tuipulotu.
Drummond was signed by Baltimore as a free agent on Sept. 4 and appeared in seven regular-season games, catching nine passes for 149 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown against B.C. on Oct. 22.
Yesterday wasn't the first time he has bailed out the CFLs. In the Eastern Division semifinal Nov. 12 against the Toronto Argonauts at Memorial Stadium, Drummond stepped in for injured tailback Mike Pringle and rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns.
He was back at his more familiar, receiving-oriented position yesterday, though it was his first start there. He had two catches for 38 yards and carried once for 12 yards.
John Congemi and Jearld Baylis served as Baltimore's captains for the coin toss, which B.C. won. . . Neither team had a sack in the first half, but B.C.'s Henry Newby, Doug Petersen, Angelo Snipes and Andrew Stewart had one each in the second. So did Baltimore's O. J. Brigance. . . Much-maligned B.C. running back Cory Philpot ran for 109 yards, and backfield mate Sean Millington had 85. . . . Tickets that normally sold for $100 were going at half-price yesterday morning. . . . Jan Carinci, a Toronto native and a member of B.C.'s radio broadcast crew, is a former Maryland Terrapin who was a three-year starter for Jerry Claiborne. Carinci played wingback at Maryland from 1977 to 1980.