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Stallions' Ham picks up pace in Saturday win


The defense turned in its usual fine effort, as did the special teams. But more than anything, Baltimore's come-from-behind, 28-20 victory over the Birmingham Barracudas on Saturday showed the Stallions are still Tracy Ham's team.

Baltimore's veteran quarterback produced his best game of the season, on a night when the Stallions, without the services of star running back Mike Pringle, needed Ham to do so.

Trailing 17-11 late in the third quarter, Ham led the Stallions on two critical touchdown drives, each of which he ended with scoring passes.

"We made some mistakes early in the game," said Ham, alluding to a first half in which Baltimore produced only a 5-1 halftime lead, despite holding the ball for nearly 20 minutes.

The Stallions, hurt by the loss of right guard John Earle to a sprained ankle -- Mark Dixon played the rest of the game in his place -- punted eight times in the half, when Ham was sacked five times.

"It's so critical in our offense, for everybody to be where they're supposed to be," Ham said. "There's a lot of little things that nobody understands but us players."

What everyone understood was in the fourth quarter, Ham made the right decisions and accurate throws at key points to lead the Stallions (9-3) to their fourth consecutive victory, extending their first-place lead in the CFL's Southern Division.

His 20-yard touchdown pass to backup running back Chris Wright, who gained most of his 181 all-purpose yards with excellent kickoff returns, gave the Stallions an 18-17 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.

That drive was aided immeasurably by fullback Peter Tuipulotu. On third-and-nine, he took a short punt snap and gained 13 yards.

Then, after the Barracudas re-took the lead on a field goal by Luis Zendejas five minutes into the quarter, Ham led the Stallions on a game-winning, 69-yard march. He completed four of five passes on the drive.

"The offense slowed down a little bit, but they still put the ball in the red zone," said linebacker O. J. Brigance, who contributed four special- teams tackles and sacked Birmingham quarterback Matt Dunigan in the end zone for a safety touch in the first half. "And when the key time came, they put the ball in the end zone."

NOTES: Receiver Mike Cook, who was first activated last week, strained ligaments in his left knee and will be out four to six weeks. . . . Tuipulotu also had his most productive game of the season with 81 all-purpose yards, 67 of them coming on six pass receptions. . . . Chuck Thompson was added to the Memorial Stadium Ring of Honor at halftime. . . . The Stallions play back-to-back, home-and-home series against Shreveport and Saskatchewan over the next month.

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