Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Whole 110 Yards: A foul situation in Edmonton

Calgary Stampeders' Nick Lewis (R) scores a touchdown despite being swarmed by Edmonton Eskimos' Maurice Lloyd (47), T.J. Hill (18) and Chris Thompson (29) during the second half of their CFL football game in Calgary, Alberta, August 15, 2010. REUTERS/Todd Korol (CANADA - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Photo: Calgary wide receiver Nik Lewis (Southern Arkansas) fights off three Edmonton Eskimos to score a touchdown Sunday. The Stampeders won 56-15. [Todd Korol, Reuters]

Welcome to another edition of The Whole 110 Yards! Here's a breakdown of all of this past week's action, as well as a preview of this week's games.

Game of the Week: Calgary 56, Edmonton 15

Most weeks, the game I feature in this slot is either a close result or an unexpected one. This game doesn't meet either of those criteria, but it deserves inclusion just for the sheer magnitude of this wipeout. As Professor Stephan might say, "This isn't entertainment, it's genocide!"

Stampeders' pivot Henry Burris (Temple) had perhaps his best game of the season, completing 21 of 29 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns with nary a pick in sight. Backup Drew Tate got some action in mop-up duty and was also impressive, going four-for-four for 40 yards and a touchdown and rushing for a touchdown as well. Lewis led the receiving corps with 117 yards and two touchdowns on five catches, but Arjei Franklin (Windsor) and Romby Bryant (Tulsa) also had good games; Calgary's ground game was in good form too, with Joffrey Reynolds (Houston) rushing 14 times for 79 yards and a touchdown and Jon Cornish (Kansas) adding 74 more yards on seven carries.

The story was far less rosy for Edmonton. Quarterback Ricky Ray (Sacramento State) got knocked out of the game after completing just two passes for 19 yards on five attempts. The Eskimos were already losing 18-1 at that point, so it's not as if they were only slain by Ray's injury, but neither Jared Zabransky (Boise State) nor Jason Maas (Oregon) was terribly effective in relief. Zabransky showed flashes of his potential, but wound up only completing eight of 16 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown. He was also intercepted once. Maas completed five of eight for 62 yards, but was also picked off once. Edmonton's problems certainly aren't all on their quarterbacks, as their defence has been awful and their offensive line as struggled as well. Moreover, their ground game was non-existent Sunday, as Arkee Whitlock (Southern Illinois) was held to just 35 yards on 11 carries. Still, the Eskimos will have to get better quarterback play from somewhere if they want to get any better.

This was either an incredibly impressive showing from the Stampeders or a terribly pathetic performance from the Eskimos. Calgary's showing was good, but I'm tending towards the latter. One man who agrees is The Edmonton Journal's Dan Barnes, who delivered a scathing scatological screed in response to this one:

"It's not always fair, but it's physics, so the torrent of effluent produced by a 1-6 football team tends to run downhill. ... [I]it becomes ever more clear Hall is unfit to act as both defensive co-ordinator and head coach. At this point in time, he needs at least one less. And one umbrella."

Looks like it's going to be a long year in Edmonton.

Other games:

Toronto 37, Montreal 22:

This was the most surprising result of the week. The Alouettes have been one of the most dominant teams this year, while the Argos have been playing very well by their standards, but only decently by anyone else's. Remember, it was just last week that they eked out a one-point win over the cellar-dwelling Eskimos.

Particularly surprising was that this didn't follow the blueprint for most of Toronto's wins to date. Yes, they still got a solid performance from running back Cory Boyd (South Carolina), who rushed 17 times for 63 yards and a touchdown (but fumbled once). The real star, though, was a man who could charitably be described as "average" before this week; quarterback Cleo Lemon (Arkansas State).

Lemon completed 13 of 19 passes for 269 yards. More impressively, he threw three touchdown passes with no interceptions. He also pulled off a spectacular play, where he handed the ball to Boyd on a sweep to the right, then ducked left himself and headed downfield. Boyd faked a run, then threw a great pass to the wide-open Lemon for a first down. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Argonauts try this again; Boyd can throw, and most defensive backs don't stick with their coverage schemes once a play looks like a run. Moreover, most coverage schemes don't include the quarterback.

Unusual plays were the order of the day for Toronto. They also had fullback Bryan Crawford (Queen's) rumble for 42 yards on a fake punt, and both Chad Owens (Hawaii) and Ryan Christian (TCU) excelled in the kick-return game. Christian took the one kickoff he caught 110 yards for a touchdown and a new franchise record [Mark Masters, National Post], while Owens picked up 85 yards on two returns and added 43 more on six punt returns. Owens also had 163 yards and two touchdowns on six receptions, and Andre Durie (York) continued to be an excellent weapon out of the backfield, picking up 35 yards and a touchdown on three catches. Toronto will miss Jermaine Copeland (Tennessee), who was injured early on after a 50-yard catch, but in most other respects, the Boatmen appear to be holding water.

For Montreal, there are more questions. QB Anthony Calvillo (Utah State) completed 37 of 49 passes for 450 yards and three touchdowns despite a sore finger, but he was picked off once and fumbled once. That's certainly not a line to complain about from your quarterback, though. Of more concern is the dismal performance by RB Avon Cobourne (West Virginia), who only picked up 26 yards on 11 carries. Maybe Montreal should consider giving the ball to my old Queen's compatriot, FB Mike Giffin? I've heard he can run a bit [Mike Woods, Queen's Journal].

Hamilton 39, Winnipeg 28:

Not a bad game, even if it seemed like deja vu all over again; it was the third matchup between these teams in the seven weeks of the season so far. The Tiger-Cats took the season series 2-1 with this win. Despite the 11-point margin of victory, though, there really wasn't too much separating these teams on the stat sheet. Hamilton pivot Kevin Glenn (Illinois State) completed 18 of 26 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns, but was intercepted twice. Buck Pierce (New Mexico State) started for Winnipeg and completed seven of 12 passes for 63 yards with one touchdown and one interception before being pulled thanks to a re-aggravated injured knee. Steven Jyles (Louisiana-Monroe) came in in relief and put up similar stats to Glenn, completing 14 of 22 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. There wasn't much of a difference on the ground, either; DeAndra Cobb (Michigan State) ran for 86 yards and a touchdown, but he got 22 carries, while Fred Reid (Mississippi State) was held to 48 yards, but only received 11 carries. In the end, the Tiger-Cats took advantage of their opportunities and Winnipeg didn't.

(You can read more of my thoughts on this one at the archive of our Friday Night Football Live Chat.)

Saskatchewan 37, B.C. 13

Not too much to say about this one. Saskatchewan's clearly the better team at the moment, and their 5-2 record reflects that. B.C.'s better than their 1-6 record shows, as they've had some tough luck and made some crucial mistakes in close games, but this wasn't anywhere near close. The Lions are going to have to turn this around quickly if their season is to be anything better than a total write-off.

Matchup of the week:

Hamilton at Toronto: (7:30 p.m. Eastern, Friday)

The Battle of Ontario should be particularly good this time around, as both the Argonauts and Tiger-Cats are playing well recently. For once, Toronto comes into one of these games with the upper hand; they're 5-2 as opposed to Hamilton's 3-4 record, and they're playing at home. This could be close, though, especially given that most people would probably take Kevin Glenn at quarterback over Cleo Lemon. Still, the Argos impressed me last week against Montreal, so I'm picking them here.Make sure to join us tomorrow for the Friday Night Football Live Chat during this one!

Pick: Toronto

Other game: (four teams are on byes this week)

Winnipeg at Montreal: (tonight, 7:30 p.m. Eastern)

I don't think this one will be as close. Winnipeg's struggling, and Montreal should be fired up after last week's loss. That doesn't bode well for the Blue Bombers.

Pick: Montreal

Last week: 3-1

Season: 11-10

Thanks for reading The Whole 110 Yards! Tune in next week for more.

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