Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Whole 110 Yards: Saskatchewan ridden down

July 24, 2010 - Calgary, Alberta, Canada - 24 July 2010: Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive back Leron Mitchell (25) attempts to block Calgary Stampeders receiver Deon Murphy.

Photo: Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive back Leron Mitchell (Western) tries unsuccessfully to block Calgary Stampeders receiver Deon Murphy (Kansas State) last Saturday. Calgary won 40-20. [Zuma Press]

Welcome to another edition of The Whole 110 Yards! Here's the breakdown on all of Week 4's CFL action. Sorry this is later than usual; it's been a hectic week around here. I'll try to get the Week 5 edition up early this coming week.

Game of the week: Calgary 40, Saskatchewan 20

This was a pretty remarkable result, if not a remarkable game. Calgary had looked very vulnerable the week before, falling 27-24 to Toronto in last week's Game Of The Week, while the defending West Division champion Roughriders rolled into Calgary's McMahon Stadium with a 3-0 record.

Stampeders' quarterback Henry Burris (Temple) finally displayed some of his usual form, though, completing 21 of 31 passes for 279 yards and four touchdowns. He was picked off twice, but he also got some much-needed help on the ground from running back Joffrey Reynolds (Houston), who recovered from a subpar outing the previous week to rush 15 times for 93 yards and a touchdown, and Reynolds' backfield mate Jon Cornish (Kansas), who picked up 77 yards on five carries. Receivers Romby Bryant (Tulsa), Nik Lewis (Southern Arkansas) and P.K. Sam (Florida State) all had a touchdown catch, and Bryant picked up 117 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches. Weston Dressler (North Dakota) had a good game for Saskatchewan (9 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown), but Darian Durant (North Carolina) was mediocre; despite throwing for an impressive 354 yards and one touchdown, he only completed 22 of 37 passes and was picked off three times.

In the long run, I'm not sure this result will mean all that much. Saskatchewan still seems like the class of the West to me, despite a very rough outing here. This was a great performance from Calgary, but they haven't been the most consistent team yet, and they'll have to find that consistency if they want to challenge the Riders' dominance in the long term. This might be the first step down that road, though.

Other games:

Toronto 24, B.C. 20:

Last week's Friday Night Football offering was quite the contest. B.C. came out of the gate strong with a solid performance from quarterback Travis Lulay (Montana State), who was making his first CFL start in relief of Casey Printers (TCU). Jamal Robertson (Ohio Northern) saw a few more carries than he had the previous week and rushed for two touchdowns, although he only picked up 54 yards on 12 carries on the day. By contrast, Argos' quarterback Cleo Lemon (Arkansas State) started very slowly and they only remained in the game through the superlative performance of running back Cory Boyd (South Carolina), who showed off his ESS EEE CEE speed against the Lions, rushing 19 times for 148 yards. Towards the end, though, Lulay and the Lions faltered and Lemon and the Argos improved. Both quarterbacks finished with not-overly-impressive stat lines (Lulay was 26 for 40 for 330 yards with two picks, while Lemon was 19 for 28 for 222 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions), but Lulay doomed his team with a pick-six to Byron Parker (Tulane) in the final moments, while Lemon recovered from his early struggles to lead a Toronto comeback. Really, though, the Argos were 3-1 after this and the Lions were 1-3, but there's been very little separating the two teams' play so far. The Argos have found a way to win and the Lions haven't, and that tells you a lot about the roles of luck and late-game mistakes in this league.

Montreal 37, Hamilton 14: This could have been a battle of the two teams expected to contend for the East Division crown this year, but it was really more of the traditional massacre. Anthony Calvillo (Utah State) was his usual self, completing 28 of 38 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns. AC didn't get a lot of help in the run game, as Avon Cobourne (West Virginia) only carried eight times for 55 yards, but Calvillo remained cool under pressure regardless and spread the ball around, rewarding four different receivers with at least five catches. Kevin Glenn (Illinois State) struggled under centre for Hamilton, completing only 16 of 32 passes before giving way to Quinton Porter (Boston College), and the Ticats couldn't run the ball either; former Michigan State Spartan DeAndra Cobb only picked up 25 yards on eight carries while fumbling once. Hamilton's got a ways to go before they catch up to Montreal.

Winnipeg 47, Edmonton 21: Not much to say about this one. Edmonton continued their winless season with a horrid performance, while Winnipeg's offence looked pretty potent under backup QB Steven Jyles (UL Monroe), who completed 14 of 22 for 267 yards and a touchdown. He was picked off twice, but Edmonton couldn't do anything offensively and the outcome was never really in question.

Former College Star Of The Week: Jon Cornish, Kansas

Cornish had a tremendous performance this week for Calgary. He only saw limited backfield duty, spelling Joffrey Reynolds, but he made the most of his opportunities, rushing five times for 77 yards. He's an interesting story, as he's a Canadian who grew up in New Westminster, B.C. and played basketball, track and football at Burnaby's famed St. Thomas More Collegiate high school. He opted for the NCAA route and didn't see too much time in his first couple of seasons at Kansas, but ran for 780 yards as a junior, was selected in the second round of the CFL draft by Calgary and then set the Jayhawks' all-time single-season rushing record as a senior, running for 1,457 yards and leading the Big 12 in rushing yards. He put up 201 yards and two touchdowns against Kansas State in 2006. He's part of an ever-emerging corps of Canadian running backs in the CFL, and if he keeps this up, he looks likely to be a CFL star in the coming years.

Off-field Story Of The Week: The Braley Bowl! [Mark Masters, National Post]. Last week's Lions-Argos game saw the first clash in CFL history where both teams were owned by the same man, Senator David Braley. I don't think that's ever happened in the NFL, but it did in the XFL (thanks to Vince McMahon owning everything), it still does in MLS and it used to in hockey. Frankly, as I wrote back in 2009 when it came out that Braley had loaned money to the Argos (before he bought them outright), there are far more troubling ownership situations in other sports. This could cause problems if it was someone else, but Braley tends to be a relatively hands-off guy on the football side, so the biggest problem it might create is his decision on who to cheer for. Last Friday, he took the diplomatic route, wearing a Hamilton Tiger-Cats shirt (the team he used to own) instead of either Lions or Argos apparel.

Matchup of the week: Hamilton at Saskatchewan (6:30 p.m. Eastern/3:30 p.m. Pacific Saturday, on TSN in Canada and NFL Network in the States).

This could be an interesting one. Both teams are coming off humiliating losses, and they'll be eager to avenge them. I think the Riders will take it, though; they have home-field advantage, so they'll be backed by hordes of green-clad, watermelon-headed fans, and they're just a stronger team.

Pick: Saskatchewan

Other games:

Winnipeg at Calgary (9:30 p.m. Eastern/6:30 p.m. Pacific tonight, TSN)

Pick: Calgary

Montreal 41, Toronto 10 (Thursday)

Pick: Montreal (on Twitter)

Edmonton 28, B.C. 25 (Friday)

Pick: B.C. (on Twitter)

Last week: 1-3

Season: 6-7

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