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Liberty Bowl's crowded CFL configuration leaves less room to score

MEMPHIS. TENN. — MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Baltimore Stallions and the Memphis Mad Dogs faced off at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium last night, on a field that features perhaps the most unusual field in the Canadian Football League.

The end zones are 14 yards deep, instead of the CFL-regulation 20 yards, and that only accounts for the deepest part of them.

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They are shaped like half-pentagons, not rectangles, thanks to a field that cannot accommodate the CFL. The sidelines extend just six yards into the end zone, before the lines veer diagonally to the zone's deepest point. There are also a mere three yards separating the end lines from the stands.

Did somebody say Arena Football League?

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"I would rather have a 100-yard field with 20-yard end zones," Memphis coach Pepper Rodgers said. "To me, having bigger end zones is a lot more important than having a 110-yard field. But they [the league] said we have to preserve the integrity of the records that have been set on a regular CFL field. Doesn't make sense to me."

Then there's the new artificial turf that has been installed along the sidelines, where the field was widened to CFL regulations, creating an unusual two-tone look.

Igwebuike gone

Kicker Donald Igwebuike's days officially are over in Memphis. A month after Igwebuike joined the Mad Dogs and beat Ottawa with a last-second field goal, he has been released.

Work visa problems and inconsistent kicking combined to finish Igwebuike, a native of Nigeria who was Baltimore's most popular player last season.

Memphis placed Igwebuike on the suspended list 10 days ago, when problems with his visa arose. But just as important in the decision to release him was that he had missed four of his last five field goals, and had made just two of six since winning the Ottawa game. For the season, four Memphis kickers have combined to make only 12 of 28 field-goal attempts.

For now, Igwebuike's job has been taken by Nick Mystrom, the guy whom Iggy originally replaced. Mystrom kicked three field goals and had one blocked in last week's 25-15 victory over the Stallions.

All-around player

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Mystrom, a rookie who played four positions at Colorado College and whose father is the mayor of Anchorage, Alaska, is a classic CFL player.

He is officially listed as the team's place kicker, although last week Mystrom practiced at four different positions. He has played at wide receiver, he served last night as the team's third-string quarterback, and he worked out at defensive back last week in practice.

Bryant gets shot

Do you think Baltimore rookie linebacker Jason Bryant was starving for this moment? Last night, Bryant started in place of outside linebacker Matt Goodwin, whose right shoulder injury knocked him onto the injured reserve list.

Bryant knows plenty about getting hurt. After an injury-free career at Morehouse College, he broke his left ring finger while covering on special teams in the Stallions' home opener, then missed a game. Then, he sprained an ankle, then re-injured it severely against Birmingham three weeks ago, forcing him to miss two more games.

Remembering 'Little Joe'

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There's a connection between Baltimore and Memphis, and it has nothing to do with the players.

Memphis media relations director Travis Lawrence and Joe Washington, who does color TV and radio commentary for the Stallions, go back a few years. In the mid-1970s, when Washington was a star running back for the Oklahoma Sooners, Lawrence worked for Oklahoma's sports information staff.

"Little Joe is still the best college back I've ever seen," Lawrence said.

Birmingham bounces back

When Baltimore plays host to Birmingham on Sept. 9 in a rematch of last month's 36-8 Stallions victory, Baltimore should expect a tough battle.

The Barracudas, behind former Winnipeg quarterback Matt Dunigan, upset previously unbeaten Calgary, 31-28 on Friday night, ending the Stampeders' regular-season home winning streak at 27 games. Dunigan was 37-for-58 for 433 yards and three touchdowns.


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