HAMILTON, Ontario -- The Baltimore Stallions flashed all of their familiar weapons last night, but their 41-14 dismantling of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats before a season-high 23,120 fans at Ivor Wynne Stadium mainly will be remembered as the Mike Pringle show.
Pringle has been a focal point of Baltimore's offense since he arrived last year and broke the Canadian Football League rushing record.
He entered last night's game as the league's rushing leader again, and against a wounded Hamilton defense that was missing end Marcus Cotton and linebackers Tony Bailey and Mike O'Shea -- the CFL's second-leading tackler -- the Stallions' strategy was simple.
Pound them with Pringle.
And behind a bruising offensive line, Pringle left Tiger-Cats in his wake from the opening series. When he was finished, Pringle had carried 31 times for 201 yards and four touchdowns.
It was his first 200-yard effort of the season, the first four-touchdown game of his career, and it put him on a pace to become the first 2,000-yard rusher in the league's history.
Pringle also helped deliver the third consecutive victory for the Stallions (8-3), who maintained their hold on first place in the Southern Division. Hamilton (6-4) saw its four-game winning streak end.
"If I get 2,000 yards, so be it. My goal is to get back to the Grey Cup," said Pringle, who leads the CFL with 1,232 yards.
"We went out there with a purpose tonight, to prove some things. We wanted to do a little extra, to show that our running game was for real, no matter who lines up against us. The offensive line is not a glory position. My yards are my offensive line's yards."
The line produced an impressive display of power football on a night when Baltimore quarterback Tracy Ham suffered a bruised quadriceps and sat out the second half after throwing two first-quarter interceptions.
Of Baltimore's 437 yards, 268 came via the ground. Most of those came on bursts up the middle by Pringle, who ran over his share of Hamilton tacklers.
"They [Hamilton] had a lot of changes, and it made things very difficult on their defense," Baltimore coach Don Matthews said. "So, when Tracy went lame a little bit and couldn't do the things he normally does, we just went more to the run.
"We knew we had a good offensive line, and we knew what Pringle could do."
And nothing warms a lineman's heart more than good, old-fashioned run blocking, even in a passing league like the CFL. The Stallions held the ball for almost 38 minutes.
"During the course of the game, you get tired," right guard John Earle said. "Then, you see him [Pringle] getting 8 and 9 yards a pop, and I honestly get more fire in me. It just makes you want to knock somebody off and get Mike an extra yard or two. When you run the ball like we did tonight, it's the greatest feeling of domination."
Baltimore's defense, the league's steadiest and toughest this year, set the tone by not allowing a first down in the first quarter.
When Hamilton running back Kalin Hall went down with cartilage damage in his left knee in the first quarter, the Tiger-Cats' ground game was done. They rushed for 18 yards.
Quarterback Anthony Calvillo completed 15 of 28 passes for 172 yards, but by the time he found the Stallions' end zone late in the first half, Baltimore was leading 31-0.
Hamilton crossed midfield only once in the first half, while the Stallions often started around midfield, thanks to the defense and the exciting punt returns of rookie Chris Wright.
Baltimore's offense slipped a few gears early, as Ham (7-for-10, 75 yards) was picked off twice in the first quarter, including once on the Hamilton goal line. But Pringle was there as the stabilizer, scoring the game's first three touchdowns, and the Tiger-Cats had no answer.
His first touchdown, a 3-yard run, gave Baltimore a 7-0 lead with 4:50 left in the first period.
His second score, a 24-yarder with nearly five minutes gone in the second quarter, made it 14-0 and put Pringle over the 100-yard mark. On Baltimore's next drive, a six-play, 56-yard march, Pringle powered up the middle for gains of 13 and 12 yards, before finishing the march with a nice fake on a 2-yard run.
The Stallions then padded the lead on a 38-yard field goal by Carlos Huerta and an unusual play by its special teams.
After the Tiger-Cats botched a punt snap that Hamilton punter Paul Osbaldiston tried to push out of the end zone, Baltimore's Matt Goodwin barely kept the ball in bounds by deflecting it to Ken Watson for the score and a 31-0 lead.
Shawn Jones came on to relieve Ham in the second half, and after a shaky third quarter that produced only a 43-yard field goal by Huerta, Jones settled down, and the Stallions put the finishing touches on the blowout, with Pringle supplying the exclamation point.
Pringle made it 41-7 midway through the fourth quarter with a 10-yard touchdown run, in which he plowed over a Hamilton tackler on the 5-yard line.
STALLIONS NEXT GAME
Opponent: Birmingham (6-4)
Where: Memorial Stadium
6* Radio: WJFK (1300 AM), WGRX (100.7 FM)