I'm planning plenty of CFL coverage this year, including bringing back the weekly The Whole 110 Yards column that I used to write at The Rookies. Here's the initial installment, breaking down last week's games and previewing this week's clashes. I'm also live-blogging tonight's Friday Night Football game over at CFL.ca with Brian Wawryshyn and Tyler Bieber; make sure to swing by there!
Game of the Week: Saskatchewan 54, Montreal 51 [CP, via Yahoo!]
This rematch of the 2009 Grey Cup was almost as spectacular. The Riders trailed 33-12 early on in the second half, but scored four second-half touchdowns to send the game to overtime and then added another two to seal the third-highest scoring game in CFL history in the extra frame. Darian Durant (North Carolina) started the game poorly, but turned in a tremendous second half and finished with 29 completions on 44 attempts for 581 yards and five touchdowns, with no interceptions. The Riders' Canadian receivers had a great day, too, with Andy Fantuz (Western) hauling in eight passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns and Rob Bagg (Queen's) catching four passes for 121 yards and a touchdown.
Interestingly enough, Saskatchewan was almost doomed again by a too-many-men call the way they were in the Grey Cup. They scored first in extra time and converted the two-point conversion the new overtime rules forced them to make [Mark Masters, National Post]. They then played strong defence, and actually forced Montreal to fail on a third-down conversion attempt, but somehow yet again had too many guys on the field. That gave the Alouettes another chance. Avon Cobourne (West Virginia) ran the ball down to the two-yard line, and then Anthony Calvillo (Utah State) found S.J. Green (South Florida) for both the touchdown and the two-point conversion to send the game to a second round of overtime.
Montreal got the ball first in the second round, but they could only manage a field goal. That allowed Saskatchewan to recover from their earlier mistake, and they only needed two plays to do so. Durant hit Weston Dressler (North Dakota) for 33 yards and then found him again on a three-yard pass into the end zone, giving the Roughriders the win and momentarily banishing memories of the too-many-men call. This game demonstrated the offensive skill and flair the CFL can often offer, and it also showed that both of last year's Grey Cup finalists remain teams not to be trifled with.
Calgary 30, Toronto 16:
The second half of the Canada Day doubleheader didn't live up to the first game for sheer excitement, but it still offered some compelling football [CFL.ca]. One of the big stories was Stampeders' rookie kicker Rob Maver (Guelph), who they drafted fifth overall this year to replace Sandro DeAngelis (Nebraska). Maver hit five of six field goals, but missed one from 42 yards. Still, it was a very impressive debut for him. Quarterback Henry Burris (Temple) was okay, completing 27 of 40 passes for 324 yards, but he wasn't able to throw a touchdown pass. Running back Joffrey Reynolds (Houston) had a solid game for Calgary, rushing 17 times for 116 yards and a touchdown. The new-look Argos, under former Calgary head coach and GM Jim Barker, looked more like the old woeful Argos, but quarterback Cleo Lemon (Arkansas State) did show some promise. Overall, this game suggested that both of these teams will still need some work.
Winnipeg 49, Hamilton 29:
This game saw the triumphant return [Winnipeg Free Press] of quarterback Buck Pierce (New Mexico State). Pierce had some stellar moments in previous years with B.C., but always seemed to get hurt just before he really broke through. He put in a great showing in this one, though, completing 17 of 25 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns and rushing six times for 89 yards and another touchdown. Fred Reid (Mississippi State) added some more cowbell, rushing for 97 yards on 13 carries. Hamilton was very underwhelming, though; many expected them to do well this year, but they really struggled in this game. They'll have to improve quite a bit if they want to contend for the East Division title this year.
B.C. 25, Edmonton 10:
This was the most defensively-oriented of any of the Week One games. Edmonton was able to move the ball, with quarterback Ricky Ray (Sacramento State) completing 27 of 40 passes for 229 yards and running back Arkee Whitlock (Southern Illinois) rushing 16 times for 116 yards and a touchdown. They couldn't put many points on the board, though, largely thanks to two Ray fumbles. B.C. struggled to move the chains, especially through the air, but running back Jamal Robertson (Ohio Northern) got it done, rushing 10 times for 168 yards and a touchdown. Kicker Paul McCallum (Surrey Rams), the oldest player in the CFL, sealed the victory, going six-for-six on field goals and adding a conversion for 19 points. The field may have played a factor, as it seemed pretty slippery, but both offenses will definitely need to do some more work.
Off-Field Story Of The Week: "Head coach Ken Miller warns of someone impersonating a Rider in Regina"
As the Kurtenblog guys pointed out, only in Regina would anyone try to impersonate a CFL player.
Match to watch: Saskatchewan at B.C., 7 p.m. Pacific/10 p.m. Eastern Saturday.
This should be a tremendous one. Saskatchewan's fresh off beating the Grey Cup champions, and they'll look to maintain their place at the top of the West Division. B.C.'s also coming off a win, and they'll be opening their new outdoor stadium at Empire Field. Sounds like guaranteed excitement to me.
Other upcoming games:
Toronto at Winnipeg: 5 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Eastern Friday.
Calgary at Hamilton: 10 a.m. Pacific/1 p.m. Eastern Saturday.
Montreal at Edmonton: 4 p.m. Pacific/7 p.m. Eastern Sunday.
WPG over TOR, CAL over HAM, BC over SSK, MON over EDM
Tune in next week for the next installment of The Whole 110 Yards!