This Week In The CFL: Calgary stays at the top

September 12, 2017

By: Andrew Bucholtz

Calgary 25, Edmonton 22:
The Calgary Stampeders got off to a bit of a disappointing start this year, tying their opener against Ottawa before winning two and then falling to Montreal. Meanwhile, their provincial rivals in Edmonton were the CFL’s hottest team earlier, starting the season 7-0 despite a host of injuries. Things have changed recently, though; the Eskimos’ loss Saturday was their fourth in a row, while Calgary’s victory was their seventh in a row. And they did this despite losing the quarterback battle, as Edmonton’s Mike Reilly completed 37 of 47 passes (78.7 per cent) for 461 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while the Stampeders’ Bo Levi Mitchell only completed 21 of 36 (58.3 per cent) for 272 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

The Stampeders’ success has been thanks to their versatility, and that was on display again Monday. They still have a strong running game, with Jerome Messam picking up 48 yards on nine carries and Roy Finch adding 18 on his one carry. (Backup quarterback Andrew Buckley also scored two touchdowns on short-yardage plunges.) They have a good defence, with linebacker Alex Singleton leading the way with 11 tackles Saturday and Tommie Campbell adding two tackles and an interception. And they have a strong special teams group, with Finch, punter Rob Maver and kicker Rene Paredes all having good games. All of that came together Saturday, and it’s a big part of why the Stampeders are 9-1-1 and atop the West.

B.C. 41, Montreal 18:
The Lions’ quarterback situation took another weird twist this week. Jonathon Jennings began the year as a starter, but eventually lost his job to Travis Lulay following a series of struggles. Early on in this one, though, Lulay left with what would later be diagnosed as a suspected ACL and MCL injury that may have him out for the year and Jennings stepped in. That wound up working just fine for B.C., though, as Jennings completed 22 of 29 passes (75.9 per cent) for 295 yards and two touchdowns. Add in Jeremiah Johnson’s 19 carries for 91 yards and two touchdowns, and the Lions’ offence looked very good. And they also held Montreal to 68 first-half yards. This was a good win for the Lions, who now sit at 6-5 and are well in the race in the West.

Hamilton 26, Ottawa 22:
The Tiger-Cats have been on a great roll the past two weeks, posting back-to-back wins under new head coach June Jones following a 0-8 start under Kent Austin. Their 26-22 road win over the Redblacks Saturday was particularly impressive, as Ottawa has long looked like one of the East’s best teams. And they did that without a great showing from quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who only completed 17 of 31 passes (54.8 per cent) for 231 yards. A big part of Hamilton’s success was the running game, long-neglected under Austin; Masoli had 73 yards on seven carries, while C.J. Gable had 74 on 11 carries with two touchdowns. If the Tiger-Cats can keep that ground game going, they may yet find more success this year.

Winnipeg 48, Saskatchewan 28:
The Blue Bombers got some revenge for last week’s 38-24 road loss to the Roughriders, pulling off this big win in the rematch at home. Some of that was about quarterback Matt Nichols, who completed 24 of 37 passes (64.9 per cent) for 282 yards and three touchdowns, but a lot of it was about the defence; Maurice Leggett and Jovan Santos-Knox each came up with interceptions, and Leggett returned one for a touchdown. (He also had a franchise-record 97-yard punt return touchdown.) Winnipeg’s now second in the West with a 8-3 record, and if the Bombers’ defence can remain stalwart, they may be in good shape.

Thanks for reading! Tune in next week for another CFL column, and catch my appearances discussing the CFL on Barnburner’s podcasts. You can also get in touch with me via e-mail (andrew_bucholtz@yahoo.ca) or Twitter @andrewbucholtz