Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Whole 110 Yards: The Comeback Boyd

Toronto Argonauts' Cory Boyd (C) dives across the goal line for the tying touchdown in the dying seconds of the second half of their CFL football game against the Edmonton Eskimos in Edmonton August 6, 2010. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber (CANADA - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Photo: Toronto Argonauts' running back Cory Boyd (South Carolina) dives into the end zone for the tying touchdown in the last minute of the Toronto - Edmonton clash last Friday. The Argonauts won 29-28. [Dan Riedlhuber, Reuters]

Welcome to another edition of The Whole 110 Yards! Here's my breakdown of all of Week 6's CFL action and previews of the coming week.

Game of the Week: Toronto 29, Edmonton 28

A slow-starting game between two teams that aren't all that highly-regarded turned into a barnburner Friday night. 3-2 Toronto came out strong and scored 11 points in the first quarter on the road against a 1-4 Eskimos team that only picked up its first win the previous week. The Argonauts led 19-7 at the half, and it looked like this might be a blowout. Edmonton turned it on in the second half, though, with Arkee Whitlock (Southern Illinois) plunging one yard for a touchdown on the Eskimos' first drive. Slotback Jason Barnes (Sacramento State) then made a ridiculous play, catching a 45-yard end zone bomb from fellow ex-Hornet Ricky Ray with his knees in double coverage. Early in the fourth quarter, Jason Goss (Texas Christian) then picked off Toronto quarterback Cleo Lemon (Arkansas State) for a 49-yard interception return, and backup quarterback Jared Zabransky (Boise State) checked into the game and ran a bootleg in to put Edmonton up 28-19.

After doing nothing for most of the second half, Toronto finally came back to life in the dying moments. Lemon and running back Cory Boyd (South Carolina) orchestrated a drive that led to a Grant Shaw (Saskatchewan) field goal, pulling Toronto within six. It looked like the Argonauts might run out of time, but after a defensive stand, they pulled off a 94-yard drive (aided by a superb catch from former Tennessee Volunteer Jermaine Copeland and two pass interference penalties). The drive was capped off by Boyd's third touchdown of the day, which came on a one-yard run with only 22.8 seconds left and sealed the victory for Toronto.

Once again, Toronto won without a superb performance from Lemon. He finished the day 23 for 34 for 292 yards and a touchdown, but also gave up that critical interception. However, he kept them in the game and turned in a similar performance to the more-famed Ray, who completed 24 of 35 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown.

It was Boyd who really got it done for Toronto, though. He had a 25th birthday to remember, rushing 25 times for 164 yards and two touchdowns and then adding another 46 yards and a touchdown on four receptions. He's leading the league with 648 rushing yards, but has also kept a very good 6.5 yards per carry average. Much of the Argonauts' 4-2 record so far can probably be attributed to him, and if he can keep this level of production up, it could be a good season for the Boatmen.

Calgary 27, BC 22:

This game didn't particularly look like a clash of a 4-1 team and a 1-4 team. B.C. actually led 10-7 after the first quarter, and they only trailed 17-13 at halftime. Things went off the rails in the third quarter, though, particularly when Dwight Anderson (South Dakota) picked off an errant pass from Travis Lulay (Montana State) and returned it 48 yards to the Lions' 10. That interception was particularly ill-timed, as it came right on the heels of B.C.'s Stanley Franks (Idaho) picking off Henry Burris (Temple) and it was followed by Burris finding former Lion Ryan Thelwell (Minnesota) for a touchdown that gave the Stampeders an 11-point lead. B.C. pulled six points back in the fourth quarter with Jarious Jackson (Notre Dame) working reasonably well in relief of Lulay, but he too threw a crucial interception that sealed the Lions' fate. The Calgary offence wasn't overly impressive, with Burris only completing 22 of 32 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns while being intercepted once, but they outshone the anemic B.C. offence and did enough to get the job done. They now lead the West Division with a 5-1 record, while B.C. is tied for last with a 1-5 record.

Montreal 30, Saskatchewan 26:

This was quite the game, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's followed the recent clashes between these two teams. Montreal led 10-7 after the first quarter and increased their lead to 17-7 partway through the second. However, Saskatchewan looked set to cut the lead to a single touchdown with a 42-yard field goal attempt from Luca Congi (Simon Fraser). The kick was wide, though, and Montreal's Tim Maypray (Virginia Military Institute) returned it 118 yards for a touchdown and a 10-point swing. Congi hit a field goal to narrow the gap a bit, but the Alouettes still led 24-10 at the half.

The Roughriders came out to play in the second half, though, particularly on defence. They held Montreal's high-powered offence to just 31 yards in the second half. Their offence then took advantage, adding three more Congi field goals and a touchdown pass from Darian Durant (North Carolina) to Wes Cates (California University of Pennsylvania) to pull within two points. Things then went wrong, though, as Andy Fantuz (Western) bobbled a pass from Durant and Chip Cox (Ohio) stepped in to intercept it. Montreal punted it back, but J.P. Bekasiak (Toledo) sacked Durant in the end zone to force a safety and a final Durant Hail Mary was batted down, sealing a Montreal victory.

It was an impressive performance from Durant, though, especially considering that he was fending off the effects of salmonella from eating undercooked chicken [Rob Vanstone, Regina Leader-Post via The Montreal Gazette]] after a July 10 game in B.C., as well as struggling with a thumb injury. He completed 35 of 62 passing attempts for 445 yards and two touchdowns, despite being picked off twice. If that's how he plays while feeling awful, the rest of the league had better watch out [Jamie Nye, NewsTalk 650] now that he's recovered.

Hamilton 29, Winnipeg 22:

There were a couple of interesting stories in this one. Hamilton kicker Sandro DeAngelis (Nebraska) had been struggling horribly this year, only hitting 58.3 of his field goals before Saturday's clash, but he went three-for-three on the day and credited the improvement to a discussion he had with former Tiger-Cats kicker Paul Osbaldiston about wind trends at Ivor Wynne Stadium. Winnipeg kicker Alexis Serna probably wishes he received the same advice; he was one for three on the day and was released later this week [Adam Wazny, Winnipeg Free Press]. Hamilton quarterback Kevin Glenn (Illinois State) and Winnipeg pivot Steven Jyles (Louisiana - Monroe) both turned in tremendous performances. Glenn completed 24 of 41 attempts for 371 yards and three touchdowns while being picked off once, while Jyles was 24 for 35 for 349 yards and two touchdowns. The real star was former Minnesota Golden Gopher Arland Bruce III, though, who's turned it on for Hamilton lately after a slow start to the year. He reeled in 11 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown, leading the Tiger-Cats to the win in the process. If he can keep that up, the Tiger-Cats' prospects look bright.

Former College Star of the Week: Jared Zabransky, Boise State

One of the great things about college football is the upsets, and in recent years, one of the most memorable ones is Boise State's 43-42 win [Spencer Hall, Every Day Should Be Saturday] over 7.5 point favourite Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Their quarterback for that game just happened to be one Jared Zabransky. You've probably seen these highlights of the game a million times, but they never get old (and yes, that is current Hamilton wide receiver Drisan James who's also prominently featured!).

Zabransky signed with the NFL's Houston Texans as a free agent after that game and then went to the Pittsburgh Steelers before winding up with Edmonton in 2009. However, he hadn't had many opportunities to run the kind of trick plays he did with Boise State until he spelled Ricky Ray for one play in Friday night's game (skip to 3:23).

Welcome back, Lord of Trickery. Good to have you in the CFL.

Off-Field Story of the Week: The Hamilton stadium mess. This has been an issue for a while, but it exploded this week when Tiger-Cats owner Bob Young withdrew from the stadium discussion Monday [Mark Masters, National Post]. Mayor Fred Eisenberger and council opted to go on without him and build at the West Harbour site Young believes is unsuitable for the team. That's led to speculation that the Ti-Cats could move anywhere from Ottawa to Moncton to Burlington to Quebec City [Drew Edwards, The Hamilton Spectator], and even tiny Milton, Ontario is throwing its hat into the ring [Masters]. There's a long way to go still, but unless things get worked out, Hamilton could build a stadium that sits vacant much of the time and have their CFL team leave anyway. This is going to be one of the most interesting off-field stories to follow this year.

Matchup of the Week: B.C. at Saskatchewan (9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight)

This should be an interesting one. The 1-5 Lions are off to their worst start ever in the Wally Buono era, so they'll be desperate to turn it around tonight. They're going to their third different starting quarterback of the year, former Notre Dame pivot Jarious Jackson. However, they're in a tough spot in Saskatchewan, facing a very talented 4-2 Roughriders team that now has quarterback Darian Durant back at full health [Murray McCormick, Regina Leader-Post]. The always-intimidating Rider fans should be fired up for tonight as well. Adding more fuel to the fire, legendary Saskatchewan receiver Don Narcisse was welcomed into the CFL Hall of Fame todayCP] along with Tracy Ham, Bob Cameron, Joe Pistilli and Elfrid Payton. The inductees will be honoured at tonight's game as well, which will add yet another interesting touch to this one. In the end, I think the Roughriders will be just too much for B.C.

Pick: Saskatchewan

Other games:

Hamilton at Winnipeg (8:30 p.m. Eastern Friday; I'll be running the Friday Night Football Live Chat with the usual gang for this one.

Pick: Hamilton

Montreal at Toronto (7:30 p.m. Eastern Saturday)

Pick: Montreal

Edmonton at Calgary (8:00 p.m. Eastern Sunday)

Pick: Calgary

Last week: 2-2

Season: 8-9

Thanks for reading The Whole 110 Yards! Tune in again next week for another edition.

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