Zebras fumble ball on bad 'Gades call

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:01 AM ET

TORONTO -- It was a little safer to be in Greg Marshall's large shadow yesterday morning.

He was no longer screaming or spitting or swinging his arms. The steam you could see coming from his ears as he stomped through the visitors' dressing room at Rogers Centre a few hours earlier had pretty much disappeared.

Of all the angry Renegades on Wednesday night, the defensive co-ordinator appeared to be the angriest. He looked like he wanted to slug somebody.

And really, who would have blamed him?

"We probably need a minimum three (wins) out of four to have a chance now," Marshall said quietly as he waited to board a train back to Ottawa. "But we can't look at it that way. We play Hamilton next week and we have to win that game."

SIX STRAIGHT LOSSES

Listen, there's no denying the Renegades are responsible for this mess they find themselves in. They have totally choked after a 5-3 start and now -- with six straight losses -- they have been all but mathematically eliminated from the CFL playoffs for a fourth straight season.

Time and again they have made poor decisions. Their special teams have been horrendous. They have allowed a struggling American left tackle to keep his job. They have taken numerous stupid penalties. Their sack total is last in the league. And their quarterback has obvious trouble both holding on to the ball and knowing when to throw it away.

Kerry Joseph has put up some terrific rushing numbers. Another 43 yards on Wednesday give him 836 on the season, fourth most in the league and just 260 shy of Tracy Ham's CFL record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in one season.

But Joseph has generally stunk when it comes to throwing the ball. He is sixth in the league in touchdown passes and has also heaved a CFL-leading 20 interceptions -- just 10 short of the Ottawa franchise record of 30 coughed up by Damon Allen in 1991 and 14 from the CFL record of 34 tossed by Toronto's Tom Dublinski in 1955.

With four more games left, Joseph could have all the records to himself by the time the Nov. 5 season finale against the Argos is over.

Yes, the Renegades have been their own worst enemies in 2005, but in a devastating 29-18 loss to the Argos, they at least had some help.

A 67-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Greg Moss in the third quarter put the Renegades in a 17-17 tie and they were just lining up for the go-ahead convert when the damnedest thing happened -- the hometown crowd erupted.

The reaction was to the replay on the huge Jumbotron behind the end zone that had just been the stage for the Renegades TD celebration. From their various angles, the fans gave the impression they could tell that running back John Avery was down when he released the ball.

Suddenly, the officials decided to huddle. Now, nobody knows for sure if one of them had glanced up at the replay -- which is not allowed -- but most would wager money on that being the case.

A minute or so later, the Ottawa score was waved off. The ball was brought back to the scene of dispute and the Argos retained control. They would never look back -- and the Renegades would never again catch up.

"It sure looked like they did," Marshall said when asked if he thought the officials referred to the videoboard before making the most controversial decision in this CFL season. "And I'm not sure when we instated instant replay in this league.

'DISCOURAGING'

"No one blew a whistle. No one spotted the ball. To me, that makes it pretty clear the play was still going on," he said. "Obviously, it was pretty discouraging. Instead of being in the lead, we were still behind, and we ended up with bad field position out of it. That call changed the course of the game."

That call was crap, for reasons stated above, and some reporters might have called the league yesterday and ask what's going to be done about it. But this one knows that would be fruitless -- both because this regime takes no action on any wrongdoings nor does it speak straight.

Meanwhile, the fumble that was waved off may have been morally damaging to the Renegades, but an earlier fumble cost them significant points on the board. Leading 11-10 with halftime near, Joseph coughed up the ball while being sacked. Toronto lineman Jonathon Brown recovered but fumbled 18 yards downfield, where teammate Mike O'Shea took it the Ottawa 19. A couple of plays later, the Argos scored the go-ahead touchdown.

Just another example of the Argo Bounce.

EXTRA POINT: Renegades WR Jason Armstead set a franchise record for most catches in a game when he pulled in nine for 143 yards Wednesday.


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