Thursday, July 22, 2010
Photo: Toronto Argonauts cornerback Evan McCollough intercepts a pass intended for Calgary Stampeders slotback P.K. Sam in their clash Wednesday, July 14. Toronto won 27-24 to improve to 2-1 on the year. [Mark Blinch, Reuters]
Welcome to another issue of The Whole 110 Yards, your weekly update on the CFL complete with game recaps, off-field stories, former college football stars and predictions for this weekend's games! Also, I'll again be running the CFL.ca Friday Night Football Live Chat tomorrow with Brian Wawryshyn of BC Lions Den and Tyler Bieber of CFL Daily. This week's featured matchup is the B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts, and we'll kick off the chat at 4:15 p.m. Pacific (7:15 p.m. Eastern) tomorrow evening; make sure to come join us then!
Game of the Week: Toronto 27, Calgary 24
In recent years, the Toronto Argonauts have tended to receive more national coverage than any other CFL team. That's understandable, considering that they're based in the largest city in Canada and one that's also the home to most national media outlets. However, their last few seasons have been horrible, which has made the abundance of coverage of the team tough to deal with at times. That's far from the case this year, though; the franchise is playing very well under new head coach Jim Barker, and they're a lot of fun to watch in most games at the moment.
Last Wednesday's game was such an example, with action starting slowly but building to an exciting climax after a series of lead changes. The Argos trailed 24-13 after the third quarter, which would have enabled you to write them off in most years. They made plenty of mistakes early on and looked rather like the Argonauts of old, whose leaky boat would have sunk long before they got near the golden fleece. However, the defence stepped up, picking off Calgary quarterback Henry Burris (Temple) four times and holding star running back Joffrey Reynolds (Houston) to 44 yards on nine carries. Linebacker Kevin Eiben (Bucknell) was particularly impressive, recording two interceptions and two tackles.
For Toronto, it wasn't quarterback Cleo Lemon (Arkansas State) who really got it done on offence. Lemon only completed 18 of 36 passes on the day for 187 yards, and he fumbled once and was picked off once. Running back Cory Boyd (South Carolina) carried the day, though, rushing 20 times for 142 yards, and rookie kicker Grant Shaw (Saskatchewan) converted four of six field goal attempts and added a single for 13 points on the day. It wasn't a dominant performance from Toronto, but they beat a talented Calgary team and persevered despite adversity. If they can keep this up, it could be a very good season for the Double Blue.
Saskatchewan 24, Edmonton 20:
The Roughriders improved to 3-0 on the season despite trailing 14-10 at halftime and 20-13 after the third quarter. Saskatchewan lost the passing battle, allowing Edmonton quarterback Ricky Ray (Sacramento State) to complete 22 of 31 passes for 319 yards while their quarterback Darian Durant (North Carolina) only completed 15 of 28 attempts for 238 yards. Durant did throw a touchdown pass, but he was also picked off once. However, the Roughriders got it done on the ground, bringing back the Wes Cates Offence (California University of Pennsylvania, credit to Perry Lefko for the term) like it was 2007. Cates only received 12 carries, but he ran for 112 yards for an outstanding 9.3 yards per carry average. Saskatchewan also forced and recovered fumbles from Eskimo receiver Fred Stamps (Louisiana - Lafayette) and running back Calvin McCarty (Western Washington), which proved crucial to their success.
Montreal 16, B.C. 12
The reigning Grey Cup champions got their first win in British Columbia in a decade, but they didn't do so in overwhelmingly impressive fashion. B.C. quarterback Casey Printers (TCU, Florida A&M) looked quite average, completing 20 of 40 passes for 253 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Much of that was probably due to the knee injury that will keep him out this week against Toronto [Lowell Ullrich, The Province], but Montreal let B.C. hang around despite the Lions' poor play. The passing game clearly wasn't working, so if the Lions had given the ball to running back Jamal Robertson
(Ohio Northern) a bit more (six carries for four yards) or his backfield mate Jamal Lee (Bishop's), who didn't receive a single carry, it could perhaps have been a different story. Still, Montreal got it done with solid-if-unspectacular performances from quarterback Anthony Calvillo (Utah State), who completed 30 of 47 passes for 297 yards, and running back Avon Cobourne (West Virginia), who ran 13 times for 79 yards. The Alouettes haven't hit their stride yet, but they're getting results and they still have a tremendously skilled team. They should be a force to reckon with this year.
Hamilton 28, Winnipeg 7:
There isn't much to say about a blowout like this one, although Jann Shreve and I tried for three hours. Tiger-Cats quarterback Kevin Glenn (Illinois State) had a tremendous day, completing 29 of 36 passes for 336 yards and three touchdowns. He picked up the CFL's offensive player of the week award [CP, via The Globe and Mail] for his efforts. His counterpart, Winnipeg QB Buck Pierce (New Mexico State) won the award the week before, but his performance Friday was more deserving of a Razzie. Pierce only completed 10 of 19 passes for 117 yards and was picked off once. He suffered an injury midway through the game and was replaced by backup Steven Jyles (Louisiana - Monroe). Jyles did a bit better, completing 9 of 13 passes for 86 yards, but it was too little, too late for the Bombers.
Former College Star of the Week: Dave Stala
Stala, a former CIS star receiver with the Saint Mary's Huskies, had an incredible game for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Friday night. In a receiving corps full of big names from bigger-name colleges, including Arland Bruce (Minnesota) and Maurice Mann (Nevada), it was Stala who really stood out. Glenn targeted him on just about every critical play, and he's second in the league in TSN's "clutch catches" statistic. He's made a tremendous impact in Hamilton and should be a key part of their high-octane offence this year.
Off-field Story of the Week: Montreal's stadium renovation [Herb Zurkowsky, Montreal Gazette via The National Post]:
Today, Montreal has their first home game since winning the Grey Cup last season, and they've done a pretty impressive job of spicing up their home at McGill University's Molson Stadium with a $29.4 million retrofit. The expansion added 5,000 seats in a new upper deck, bringing capacity up to 25,012. That's still the smallest in the CFL, but it's nice to see the Alouettes keep their intimate setting instead of trying to build a massive new building or go back to The Big Owe. Demand's still as high as ever in football-mad Montreal, and this should allow more fans to see the games, which is always good.
Matchup of the Week: B.C. at Toronto (Friday, 4:30 p.m. Pacific/7:30 p.m. Eastern)
This should be an interesting one. Toronto's performed above most expectations so far, while B.C. has by-and-large underwhelmed. As Peter James points out, a key question is how B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay (Montana State) will perform in the absence of regular starter Casey Printers. Another question is if B.C. will finally elect to run the ball a bit; they've had great success at times with the ground game, but almost completely abandoned it early on last week. Meanwhile, the Argonauts have put up some great results, particularly thanks to RB Cory Boyd [Mark Masters, National Post], but quarterback Cleo Lemon's mediocre play so far has been covered up by strong running and defence. I'm not sure that will remain the case this week, though.
Hamilton at Montreal: (tonight, 4:30 p.m. Pacific/7:30 p.m. Eastern)
This should be a good one. Hamilton's coming on strong, while Montreal hasn't really impressed so far. Still, I like the Alouettes at home.
Saskatchewan at Calgary: (Saturday, 6:30 p.m. Pacific/9:30 p.m. Eastern)
The Roughriders haven't dominated the stat sheet, but they've piled up the wins. They're the only undefeated CFL team thus far, and I think they'll extend that streak this week against a Stampeders' squad that disappointed last week.
Edmonton at Winnipeg: (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. Pacific/6:30 p.m. Eastern)
Both of these teams have really struggled lately, but the Eskimos have at least been strong statistically. If they can reduce their turnovers, they should take this.
Last week: 2-1
Thanks for reading The Whole 110 Yards! Tune in again for more next week!