For two seasons in a row, the Calgary Stampeders have lost in the Grey Cup Final. Neither was a problem on the D, in fact, the unit has been among the league’s best.
Yet the Stampeders will have two massive components gone from their lineup for the 2018 season. S Josh Bell will move to a coaching role, and today, Charleston Hughes was traded to Hamilton for a bag of balls.
You can’t fault for Hufnagel for making his decisions. He gets the benefit of the doubt as he’s built Championship (almost) teams consistently. He’s always made hard choices that wound up being the right ones. Plus, the CFL is a business, and Hughes makes top dollar (in a kind of defensive line in the CFL way). He had one year left and probably hoped to finish his career out here, but Huf isn’t interested in making friends. He wants to win within the cap.
Doesn’t make the move any easier for fans who simply see top talent go to a competitor. Hughes will be missed as a great ambassador in the community, but also one of the best linemen in Stamps history.
Calgary 24 – Toronto 27
Tomorrow all the talk will be about Dave Dickenson. Whether or not he will be back as a coach or whether a full house cleaning is in order. Tonight, however, the Stampeders demonstrated their inability to close the deal.
There are no real sports equivalent (that I can think of) that describes that magnitude of failure the Calgary Stampeders experienced. And this not at the hands of their opponents, rather, self-inflicted wounds. For TWO straight Championship games, the Stampeders found a way to lose in the final minute.
Despite a strong regular season that saw the team finish at the top of the league, in a tiny nine team league, nobody cares. Everyone practically gets a shot, and you have to win the big game or the season is a bust. For the Stamps, they have the makings of a dynasty, except the most critical thing–Championships.
Instead of a dynasty we’re looking at a team that comes in second place, can’t close the deal, can’t win the big game, can’t find a play call that’s right, can’t make big plays when it matters. That’s not a dynasty team, that’s a nothing team that nobody will remember.
What fans will remember, however, is the magnitude of the loss, and how it was exactly the same as last year. One bad play call, one that left everyone on the field shaking their heads, and the result, not merely a loss of a Championship, but literally HANDING the Grey Cup to the opposing team. The Stamps shot themselves in the foot, self-inflicted wounds that the Argos were happy to capitalize on. Despite controlling every single part of the game, the whole thing was won on 3 plays.
Stampeders 32 – Eskimos 28
Most agree, last night’s game was the Grey Cup, with the two top teams in the league squaring off. No offence to Toronto, who will use their underdog card as motivation for Sunday’s Grey Cup Final.
For Calgary, they re-asserted themselves as the league’s best. A tall order given the fact they hadn’t played a meaningful football game for a month after locking up first place in the West early. The tapered off at the end of the regular season posting three straight losses. Which team would show up for the win-or-go-home West Final?
Well after the first quarter it looked like a blow out–for Edmonton.
calgary 23 – winnipeg 5
The Calgary Stampeders have now lost three games in a row and look out of sorts at the worst time of the year. It’s true, those three games mattered little. They were so far ahead of the pack they locked up home field advantage a month ago. But that also meant the team lacked purpose coming down the stretch. As other teams started ramping up their success, Calgary dipped.
The elements in last night’s game didn’t help matters for starting QB Andrew Buckley. He struggled all game. His first throw was a pick-six. The Oline has struggled for a month. That means the run game non-existent, and the QB has no time to throw. The receivers are still down with injury or struggling to find their groove. The D, once dominant, is showing vulnerability against the run and the deep threat.
A lot of questions coming into the bye week for the team. Bo Mitchell sat tonight which means he’ll be playing 3 weeks rest. There should be enough healthy bodies back in the fold come November 17th .The question is, will the Stampeders bring a level of execution needed to win in the West Final? They need to find their game to secure two more wins, or it’ll be another lost and disappointing season, regardless of what the regular season record was.
Week 19 in the CFL which means one thing, Grey Cup is just around the corner. As the weather turns across Canada, the playoff picture has all but solidified. The teams have been decided, some long ago, but the placement, who gets home-field advantage, that’s up for grabs. In the West, Edmonton has found their groove along with Saskatchewan. Winnipeg is suffering injuries late, and Toronto is, well, a team out East.
The question Stamps fans are wondering–has the team regressed? After two back-to-back losses against divisional rivals, and another one next week, is this team going to disappoint in the post-season for a third straight year?
This game was a lot closer than it should’ve been. But when you look at the stakes, Calgary had nothing to lose, but the Hamilton Ti-Cats? A loss coupled with a Renegades win would spell the end to their dim playoff aspirations. What you saw on the field was Hamilton’s best effort of the season. But the difference between great teams and good ones are wins. Great teams find ways to win despite the odds. The Stampeders had an off night. The offence was non-existent, Messam rushing yards was 11, Mitchell with 279 but 1 int. The D scored the points in the first quarter. You have to forget about efforts like this. A last second field goal, after tying late, and a hail mary pass that got a PI call, was all that separated a win from a loss.
But it’s a good thing, this late in the season, that this team faces adversity. They can work on some kinks before the real deal begins, the playoffs. Doesn’t matter if you break records in regular season wins, you have to win Grey Cups if you want to claim the identity of, ‘Dynasty’.
I said in week 3 that the Montreal Alouettes weren’t good. They were getting lucky on plays and managed to win a few games, but they’re on the opposite trajectory as the Stampeders. For their part, the Stamps are seemingly unstoppable, and when the offence gets moving to match the D, you get blowouts like this one. For the second time this year the game was so out of reach, that nearly two quarters were played by backup QB Andrew Buckley.
The game ball, however, despite the team effort, is squarely in the hands of Terry Williams.
The rookie sits behind the league’s leading rusher, Jerome Messam, and rarely dresses. The team knows his talent, and Friday the fans got a taste too, in a big way. In his first pro start, Williams chewed up 156 yards in a night’s work, AND scored 3 TDs!
Congrats to him; fans should be happy to know whenever the Messam era ends in Cowtown, there’s some serious talent waiting in the wings.
Stamps enter the bye week, and will get some healthy bodies back. They’ll face Hamilton, and at this point, are the class of the league by a wide margin. But will that translate into playoff success?
What separates the Stampeders from the rest of the league? Probably execution. Stamps don’t make untimely mistakes that swing the game against them. They may not be dominating on all sides of the football, but they aren’t hurting themselves either. Then, when it counts, they’ll do enough to win.
Tonight’s post-game summary:
Calgary 27 – BC 13
An elite team like Calgary, missing almost the entire starting receiving corps, are unstoppable, even if you wanna play dirty like the BC Lions. The Lion game plan had little bite, but that didn’t stop them from trying every dirty trick in the book. Micah Awe, incredulously, took out 3 Calgary RBs with direct hits to the head. None called. Awe’s play is celebrated by the Lions clubhouse, which isn’t something you’d expect from a coach Wally Buono football club, but shows you where the team is heading.
You can point some blame to the hellacious hitting on the refs. It’s extremely rare for helmet to helmet hits to be called in the league anymore. I have a conspiracy theory that’s a league mandate, so they don’t admit too much liability for the looming concussion lawsuits. (As an aside, the CFL as a league won’t be able to afford the kind of payments the NFL is paying, the league should be worried.) Nonetheless, even in the CFL where suspensions and player fines are rare, Micah Awe should receive a fine. Someone take him back to highschool to learn fundamentals of hitting because he’s going to end careers headhunting the way he does.
Here’s the post-game summary.