Stampeders grind out victory over Lions

Calgary Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson hounded his team all week about their sloppy practices after enjoying some time off to heal bumps and bruises.

The club grinded out the win on Friday night, but no one was overly thrilled with the performance.

Jerome Messam rushed for Calgary’s only touchdown and Rene Parades was perfect on five field goals in a sloppy 21-17 victory over the B.C. Lions.

“We played exactly like we practised,” said Dickenson. “Guys just lost their focus a little bit.”

Despite the negatives, Calgary (6-1-1) regained second place in the CFL’s ultra-competitive West Division, a point back of the Edmonton Eskimos and a point up on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

“It was disappointing to see the execution and the mental errors and the penalties and just stuff we’re not used to seeing,” added Dickenson, who improved to 21-3-2 as a head coach. “At the end of the day it will still count as two points.”

B.C. (5-4), meanwhile, remains fourth in the West, four points ahead of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who have two games in hand.

The well-rested Stampeders, who improved to 15-0 in the game following a regular-season bye dating back to 2004, hadn’t played since Aug. 3, but entered B.C. Place Stadium having outscored opponents 128-35 in their three previous outings.

There was none of that on this night, with Bo Levi Mitchell going just 15-of-31 passing for 237 yards and one interception, marking the first time in 18 games the Calgary quarterback failed to throw a touchdown.

“The game’s not about numbers,” said Mitchell. “We’re 1-0 this week. That’s all that matters.”

Mitchell improved his career record to 49-8-2 as a starter, but suggested some type of injury to his throwing shoulder was part of the reason for a somewhat pedestrian performance.

We all play through things,” he said cryptically. “Unfortunately I rely on a big part of my body and that’s hindering a little bit right now.”

Jonathon Jennings threw a TD to Chris Rainey and ran in another score for the Lions, finishing 26-for-38 for 240 yards with two interceptions. Ty Long kicked a field goal for B.C., but also missed a crucial convert.

The Lions were looking to make amends following Sunday’s ugly 41-8 loss in Regina to the Riders where head coach and general manager Wally Buono questioned their readiness in his pre-game team talk.

“We’re a football team that needs to execute better,” Buono said Friday. “We’re a football team that needs to play better, and we’re a football team that needs to take care of opportunities.”

After the Stampeders grabbed an 18-14 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter on Messam’s one-yard plunge that was followed by a failed two-point conversion, the Lions got to within one with under nine minutes to go when Long connected on a 28-yard field goal.

Calgary got the ball back and rode Messam for two carries, but the hulking running back had to be helped off the field after the second touch and didn’t return with what appeared to be an injury to his left leg.

The Stamps were eventually forced to punt. Dickenson said he didn’t know Messam’s status, but the player was seen walking without much of a limp near the locker-room.

The Lions were also forced to punt on their next possession to set the Stampeders up at their own 48 before settling for Parades’ fifth field goal of the night from 27 yards to make it 21-17 with 2:37 left.

Rainey returned the ensuing kickoff to the B.C. 43, and the Lions got a reprieve after a Maurice Morgan fumble was overturned after video review.

The Lions elected to punt with two minutes left and got the ball back at the Calgary 46 with 1:12 remaining after a nice return by Rainey and got down to the 30. But the drive stalled on third-and-five when Jennings’ completion to Rainey wound up an inch short.

Leading 9-8 after a forgettable first half, Parades hit his fourth field goal of the night from 46 yards out five minutes into the third quarter to stretch the Stampeders’ lead to four.

The Lions came right back on their next possession, with Jennings finding Rainey in space and letting the speedster do the rest as he snaked his way to the end zone. Long missed the extra point to keep the score at 14-12.

Calgary led 9-0 after the first quarter, but the damage could have been a lot more after Marken Michel dropped what looked like a sure touchdown on the game’s first play from scrimmage.

B.C. struggled mightily on offence through most of the first half minus injured receivers Bryan Burnham and Nick Moore.

The Lions’ offence had almost nothing going on – four punts, one blocked punt and an interception on their first six drives – until they got the ball with less than five minutes to go in the second quarter. Jennings lead a methodical 11-play, 69-yard drive that culminated in his own one-yard plunge and a two-point conversion.

Notes: The Lions visit the Ottawa Redblacks next Saturday, while the Stampeders host the Toronto Argonauts. … Calgary and B.C. play again on Sept. 16 at McMahon Stadium. … Attendance was 20,622.