Winnie the Pooh would have been right at home at McMahon Stadium last weekend as it was certainly a blustery day. The temperature at kickoff for the third game of Saturday’s tripleheader was slightly less than the points scored by the Riders just a few hours earlier.
The teams played about as inspired football as the crowd gave them energy, as the intensity seemed to match the level of empty seats at the league’s oldest stadium.
Here are some of the things I saw last weekend and some the officials didn’t:
Moments of Efficiency
After the offensive struggles last week against Montreal, the troubles continued into Week 18 with the Stampeders scoring just four points in the first 27 minutes of the game. Over the final three minutes of the half, the red and white would score touchdowns on back-to-back drives sandwiching a Tre Roberson interception that trimmed the deficit to just two points headed into the halftime break.
Credit the Lions defensive backfield as they held Bo Levi Mitchell to just a 44.7 per cent completion rate in the game. Newcomer Chris Matthews was able to haul in a TD pass for his first as a Stampeder and Markeith Ambles got his first ever TD catch but for most of the night, BLM seemed to not quite be on the same page as his receivers. Not surprising really as the Stamps continue to fight the injury bug that has cost them Kamar Jorden, DaVaris Daniels, Reggie Begelton, and Marken Michel in recent weeks. Chemistry takes time and the Stampeders are looking at an almost completely revamped corps.
Side note: I was looking to make a barely funny joke about a villain from Mr. Rogers Neighbourhood, but apparently there weren’t any. Further proof of the inherent goodness of Fred Rogers I guess.
Putting Team to the Test
The Stampeders coaching staff may look back at a few gambles and think they should have handled them differently, but I think the gambles may pay off in the long run. Putting your team in unfamiliar situations can only help the squad as they move towards the playoffs. Execution on those plays needs to be better.
Not sure how the official tasked with the purpose missed a roughing the passer and horse collar tackle on Mitchell late in the third quarter. The play ended up as a 14-yard loss leading and a punt in what was at the time a two-point game. The penalty (if called) would have moved the Stamps to their own 48, instead, it was a punt from the 19. By then head coach Dave Dickenson had already used his challenge on an equally blatant missed DPI call in the game and so had no recourse for what was labelled a sack.
After the game, Bo Levi Mitchell discussed the hit.
“The frustrating thing is that is two weeks in a row I’ve got hit in the face and not got called, and I’ve seen the other guys get easy ones….not only did he hit me in the face, but he wrapped his arm around my neck which has been called as a horse collar…there’s two guys back there so I figured they should see it.”
I’ve long made the case that coaches should get another challenge as long as they are right, and get a penalty for delay of game if they are wrong. It would allow for blatant misses like this to be corrected. While the human element of officiating does come into play, the eye in the sky was supposed to correct obvious gaffes. At least that’s what they told us when it first began. The mandate changed somewhat, but wouldn’t it just be better if they did review plays and get the call right negating the need for coaches challenges in the first place?
A Tribute They Couldn’t Refuse
It was Wally Buono’s last regular season game at McMahon Stadium and prior to kickoff, the Stampeders played a tribute video to the man they call The Godfather. Despite Buono’s tenure being longer with the Lions, Stamps fans clearly still see Wally as one of their own, prompting a standing ovation from the crowd in attendance. Buono began a culture of excellence in Calgary that still pervades to this day as both John Hufnagel and Dave Dickenson were mentored by the all-time winningest coach in CFL history. Speaking personally, it was Buono’s 1990 Stampeders team that made the then 11-year-old me fall in love with the sport; so the next time I write something you hate, blame Wally.
Next up for the Stampeders is a home date against Saskatchewan. With both offences struggling and defences performing admirably, you may want to bet the under.