It wasn’t pretty, but it worked. Two points is two points and you need all you can in a 9-team league. The Calgary Stampeders opened their fresh 2018 season at home versus the Hamilton Ti-Cats. There are a lot of question marks coming into this season with some of the highest veteran turnover in recent memory. Key pieces from defensive line, running back, and the secondary, have been replaced with younger, cheaper, and just as talented versions.
Calgary is the team to beat once again this season, despite what pundits may try to tell you. The CFL is dominated by the West, and the Stamps will lead the charge. Of course, in the CFL all of that doesn’t matter since any crap team can play 3 good games and win the Grey Cup. See Toronto from last year. That’s the nature of a league that’s so small.
For the Stampeders, it’s the same story. Exciting dominant football, and the team being their own worst enemy. The first game rust was evident. Look no further than the opener storyline–red-zone production.
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.
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.
OK, this one didn’t start off exciting, but in true CFL fashion it ended with a nail biting finish. It all came down to 3 and 5 on the Edmonton 5. Mitchell, who was struggling all game, found the only sure thing in the receiving corps, Marquay McDaniel, and the rest is history.
Summing up the second instalment of the home-at-home Battle of Alberta as follows:
- Defence ruled for the first half. Calgary gave up long plays, but managed to keep Edmonton out of the endzone when it counted. That was the difference in the battle of the D.
- Calgary’s offence has now lost 3 starting receivers. Essentially, the Stamps beat a good team with their second tier receivers. That’s how good the Stamps are. Bo Mitchell was off, probably still hurt, and played his worst game of the season. But he did enough to find McDaniel in the endzone with 30 seconds left to seal the victory. 2 points, that’s all that matters.
- Chris Milo may have had a chance to tie, but he wasn’t the only kicker having troubles. Rene Peredes missed two converts.
- Jason Maas is a joke. Losing his cool on the sidelines. That’s not what elite teams do and one of the reasons the Stamps are in a class of their own.
Edmonton slips to 3rd in the West now. Sakatchewan up next. Calgary will have to figure out how they’re going to patch up the beleaguered offence in a week’s time.