Calgary Stampeders look to improve to 4-3
By Mike Hardiman
It’s an Eastern opponent once again as the Calgary Stampeders play host to the Toronto Argonauts, with the Red and White hoping for a share of first place in the West after Week 8.
This will be Calgary’s fifth game against an East team in its first seven games, the Calgary Stampeders most East-heavy schedule since 2003. The Stamps will see it balance out as eight of the team’s final 11 games will be against Western foes.
Calgary Stampeders (3-3) ran its record to 2-2 against the East with a 31-20 road win over Hamilton during Week 7. The Stamps have not won or lost more than two games in a row this season and have yet to get on any kind of roll. In every season dating back to 2005, Calgary has had at least one winning streak of three games and has won at least four games in a row on six occasions (including seven in a row in 2010).
On the flip side, Calgary Stampeders has never lost more than two games in a row under head coach John Hufnagel (they have only lost back-to-back games five times since 2008) and last lost three straight games to close out the 2007 season.
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Toronto (3-3) is in a similar position as the Calgary Stampeders, having posted only one two-game winning streak and no instances of consecutive losses so far in 2012. Toronto lost 18-9 to the Lions last week, with the nine points scored being a season low for the Double Blue.
Toronto beat Calgary Stampeders earlier in the season, a 39-36 squeaker at home in Week 2 as the Argos recorded their season high in points.
Calgary is finding it tough sledding of late against the Argos, with Toronto currently on a four-game winning streak against the Stamps including a 23-21 win at McMahon last year.
That result snapped a five-game home winning streak for Calgary Stampeders against Toronto. The streak had dated back to 2006, with the average margin of victory being 24 points.
Calgary is 2-1 at home so far (1-0 against East teams) while the Argos are 1-2 on the road (0-1 against West teams) and 1-2 overall against the West.
The game between Calgary Stampeders and Toronto gets under way at 5 p.m. MDT on Saturday, Aug. 18 at McMahon Stadium in Calgary.
The game will be televised on TSN and can be heard on the radio at QR77 (AM 770 on the radio dial and www.qr77.com on the Internet) and on SIRIUS Satellite Radio, channel 157 and channel 160 for XM subscribers.
Fans in the U.S. can see the game live via webcast on ESPN3 (www.espn.go.com). The game will also be seen the next day at www.tsn.ca on TSN’s video-on-demand page.
Calgary’s offence needed to get back to doing something the Stamps did very well over the past several seasons — running the football — and they did so with a vengeance in last week’s win over the Ticats.
RB Jon Cornish rambled for a career-best 170 yards as the Stamps put up an impressive total of 233 yards along the ground (and totaled 33:33 minutes in possession time).
It was only the second time all season the Stamps topped the 100-yard mark in rushing for a game and the 233 yards almost matched the combined rushing totals of the past four games (247 yards). Calgary Stampeders rushed for more than 200 yards twice last season and four times in 2010 (posting a 5-1 record in those games, the only loss coming to Toronto in Week 16 of last season).
Calgary Stampeders now ranks third in league rushing and bumped its average up to 101.2 yards per game. Cornish was named both top offensive and top Canadian player of the week by the CFL as he ended the game with 217 yards from scrimmage by adding six catches for 47 yards. The six receptions were a career high.
Cornish was held to just 39 yards in Week 2 against the Argos as the team rushed for just 57 yards in the loss. Calgary Stampeders scored three rushing touchdowns (Cornish, Romby Bryant and Bo Levi Mitchell) last week to snap a two-game streak without a rushing score. The Stamps lead the CFL with eight rushing majors.
The Stamps last week scored more than 30 points for the fifth time in six games and totaled 374 yards of offence. They lead the CFL in points scored (31.0 per game) and first downs (137) and are second in total touchdowns (17) but sixth in total offence (360.3 yards per game).
The passing numbers were down last week (QB Kevin Glenn passed for only 141 yards, his lowest total of this season) due mostly to the success along the ground. Of note was SB Nik Lewis and his five catches for 40 yards and a touchdown, numbers that ran his totals to a CFL-leading 43 receptions and seven receiving majors. Lewis and Glenn had good numbers in Week 2 against the Argos as Lewis had seven catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns while Glenn completed 15 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns in relief of an injured Drew Tate.
Calgary’s defence played a major role in the road win in Hamilton, limiting the Ticats to just 20 points after the Tabbies had previously scored at least 35 points in four straight games.
The Stamps held their opponent to less than 100 yards rushing (89 yards) for the third time this season (2-1 record) and 351 total yards. Calgary Stampeders sit fourth in the CFL in points allowed at 29.0 per game and ranks third in rushing yards allowed (89.7 per game), fourth in passing yards allowed (284.8) and fourth in touchdowns allowed (18).
Calgary Stampeders are 2-1 when holding an opponent to less than 300 yards and 1-2 when allowing more than 300 yards. One of those losses was to the Argos in Week 2 as Toronto hung season highs on the Calgary defence of 39 points, 575 total yards and 407 passing yards.
The Stamps forced two turnovers against Hamilton and are now 2-1 in games the defence forces more than one turnover. Calgary Stampeders were even in turnover differential last week and ranks fifth in the CFL at minus-7 for the season. The Stampeders have yet to win the turnover battle in any game this season but are 2-0 when they are at least even and 1-3 when they lose that stat.
MLB Juwan Simpson led the team in tackles with six (16 in his past three games) and leads the team with 28 (ninth best in the CFL). S Eric Fraser had a career-best six tackles while the Stamps defence combined for five pass knockdowns, also a season high. DB Quincy Butler had one of those knockdowns as well as three tackles and his second pick of the year. Calgary is third in the CFL with six interceptions.
The Calgary Stampeders did not register a sack for the first time this season in last week’s game but they still rank fourth in the CFL in that category with 10.
THE SPECIAL TEAMS
After a slow week against the Lions in Week 5, KR Larry Taylor was back to his old tricks, totaling 172 yards on kick and punt returns including a long punt return of 42 yards.
Taylor was named the CFL’s special teams player of the week for his efforts for the second time this season. He previously won the award in Week 2 when he had 441 combined yards against the Argos, 428 of which came on returns. Taylor is in a duel with Toronto’s Chad Owens for top spot in combined yards, trailing Owens by only 143 yards for first place. Taylor has 1,317 yards and both men are on pace to break the CFL record for combined yards.
Calgary Stampeders scored four touchdowns last week, limiting K Rene Paredes to just seven points but he did connect on his only field-goal attempt, making it nine straight over four games for the Calgary kicker. Paredes is fifth in scoring with 54 points and third in field-goal accuracy with a 92.3-per cent mark.
The Argos are 3-3, a drastic improvement from this point in 2011 when they were 1-5 and on a five-game losing streak.
The Toronto offence is much improved and though the Argos rank only seventh in scoring (23.0 points per game), they rank fifth in total offence (365.0 yards per game) and fourth in passing (292.8 yards). Toronto has scored less than 30 points in five of six games but the one game the Argos did score more than 30 was against the Stamps in Week 2.
The Argos defence under ex-Stamps coordinator Chris Jones is stout ranks fourth in points allowed at 25.2, third in fewest touchdowns allowed at 11 and second in total offence allowed at 311.1 yards per game. The Argos are second in takeaways with 15 and fifth in sacks with nine.
QB Ricky Ray (#15) is fourth in yards passing with 1,757 and sixth in QB rating at 93.1. He leads the CFL in interceptions thrown with seven.
The Argos have released Cory Boyd, the league’s leading rusher, so Calgary Stampeders fans will get their first look this season at new starter Chad Kackert (#44). Kackert has 349 career rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Ray’s main weapons in the passing game are SB Chad Owens (#2, third in the CFL in receiving with 35 catches for 465 yards and three majors) and SB Andre Durie (#32, fifth in the CFL with 38 receptions for 437 yards). Against Calgary in Week 2, Ray passed for 407 yards, his season high, while Owens and Durie combined for 17 catches for 206 yards.
Rookie WR Dontrelle Inman (#11) also had a big game against the Stamps with 107 yards on just three receptions and two touchdowns.
Toronto’s defensive leaders are former Stamp MLB Robert McCune (#45) with 30 tackles, CFL rookie CB Patrick Watkins (#25, 28 tackles, two interceptions) and former Stamp LB Brandon Isaac (#28, 15 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery.
S Jordan Younger (#26) shares the team lead with two interceptions while DT Kevin Huntley (#94) shares the team lead in sacks with two.
THE OTHER GAMES
Week 8 begins Thursday as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1-5, last place in the East) host the Hamilton Tiger-cats (3-3). Friday Night Football features a clash between Edmonton (4-2) at home to Montreal (3-3) while the week wraps up on Sunday with the Lions (4-2) taking on the Saskatchewan Roughriders (3-3) at BC Place.
Calgary is on the road for a West matchup with the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 25. Calgary beat the Riders 41-38 in overtime in Week 4 of this season and swept both games played in Regina in 2011 by scores of 22-18 and 45-35.