All season long Stampeder fans have been asking “Is it November Yet?”
After two straight trips to the Grey Cup game without a win, fans were impatient to get back to the playoffs confident their team would be involved. The chalice being awarded at the end of the year being the only measure of success that Stampeders fans, and players, would accept.
Despite the Vegas odds makers posting the Stamps as a 5.5 point favourite, the overwhelming sentiment across the league was that this was the season the Stampeders were ripe for the picking and the Bombers were just the team to do it. Turns out the guys in Vegas know their stuff as the Stampeders would down the ‘Peg 22-14 to advance to their third straight Grey Cup game, joining the 2008-2010 Alouettes as the only teams to accomplish the hat-trick in the SMS era.
The game was dominated by the defences in a wet McMahon Stadium and wasn’t decided until a late fourth quarter TD put the Stamps ahead by 10. Despite a late field goal that led to an onside kick attempt recovered by the Stampeders Alex Singleton, the Bombers never got a real look at the endzone after Eric Rogers scored his third TD of the day.
Some other thoughts on a game that won’t likely ever make it to the ESPN Classic channel:
While there were no reports of a goat being kicked out of the stadium or a player that was bitter about being traded, the fact remained that heading into the West Final the Calgary Stampeders had never conquered the Winnipeg Blue Bombers when a shot at the Grey Cup game was the prize. Sure they had beaten them twice in the big game itself, but the Stampeders were 0-6 in Western Finals against the team from Manitoba.
Turnover trends bucked
In every game the Stampeders lost this season, they committed more turnovers than their opponents. In every Bombers win, they forced more takeaways than they had giveaways. The Bombers won the turnover battle by a rather pedestrian 1-0 score as the result of a Don Jackson fumble that came during the first possession of the second half. Calgary’s defence would hold the Bombers to a punt, but Calgary would be forced to give up a safety on the ensuing drive. I know it won’t count as two points off a turnover, but it should.
Won’t you be my neighbour
There was question marks surrounding the Stampeders receiving corps this week as to which three imports would be playing between Eric Rogers, Chris Matthews, Markeith Ambles, Bakari Grant, and DaVaris Daniels. The decision to have Rogers in the lineup was certainly the right one as he caught three TD passes from Bo Levi Mitchell and was the Stamps leading receiver with 61 yards. Don’t be surprised to see those names go back in the bingo machine this week though and see an entirely different set come out next week. Not because of anyone’s play not being up to coach Dave Dickenson’s expectations, but another week of healing for Daniels may get him back into the lineup. If he does, I’d predict Ambles being the odd man out. Rogers and Matthews both present very difficult size match-ups for DB’s on the outside, and Daniels is dangerous in the slot.
Alex Singleton did what Alex Singleton does as he piled up seven tackles and added one special teams stop for good measure. His biggest play may have come with under a minute to go as he recovered an onside kick attempt to seal the win for the Stampeders. “I don’t know that most people know that I have the best hands on the team, I didn’t even know until after that…” he joked adding, “We have the receivers to catch it, I’m usually blocking but if the ball goes to you, you better catch it.” Why wasn’t he the Stamps DPOY nominee again? Right… because of…
Micah in the middle
Micah Johnson proved why he was the Stampeders nominee for Most Outstanding Defensive Player again as he was an absolute terror all game long. Andrew Harris and the All-Star-laden Winnipeg offensive line had a lot more trouble opening holes this week for Andrew Harris than they did a week prior. Johnson is a huge reason for that. A game changer at tackle, Johnson added a sack to his day. After the game, he carried Bret Hart’s WWE Title belt on to the stage where the team was presented with the West Division trophy. Johnson told me that Bret Hart helped motivate the club the day before. “He’s Calgary royalty man, anytime we can get ahold of that belt and just feel like him a little bit, it’s awesome.”
Davis does a double
Ja’Gared Davis picked up a pair of sacks and was on the heels of Bombers QB Matt Nichols on several occasions. The play of the DL had a major impact on Nichols ability to see the field and just might have been the reason that Nichols was limited to just 156 passing yards on the day. Nichols was flushed more than a middle school toilet on Swirly Day. Davis has incredible athleticism and it was put on display against the Bombers. Limiting Andrew Harris to just 71 yards is an accomplishment and Davis gets a big piece of the credit here.
Major stat hit
Sometimes in sports, you will hear the adage “Just get on the scoresheet, doesn’t matter how.” I’m sure Brad Erdos would rather have kept his completely clean sheet on the CFL stat page but after Bo Levi Mitchell handed him the ball to avoid a sack in the game, Erdos was credited with a 10-yard loss as the running back of record on the play. No matter how much longer Erdos’s career lasts, he may never get that into positive yardage.
Not a rematch
Bo Levi Mitchell said a lot of things in his post-game availability. “I was in this guys basement, the funnest interview ever,” he said while pointing at me and referencing his recent appearance on the Horsemen Radio podcast (Available on all major podcast platforms! Subscribe today!). Among the game related talk though was a reference to the Grey Cup opponent, the Ottawa RedBlacks, stressing that in his mind this isn’t a rematch of the 2016 Grey Cup that saw Ottawa walk away victorious. “They’ve got a different defence, a different defensive co-ordinator, different quarterback. The only thing that is the same is the two logos.” Mitchell has seen a lot of turnover around him as well. Of all the receivers and running backs that dressed for the Stamps that day, only Lemar Duran played in the West Final. Bakari Grant and DaVaris Daniels were also both on that team and could pull in for next week’s championship clash.
Dickenson gets dirty
Dave Dickenson apologized Monday for his outburst that was caught on TSN’s feed where it appeared that he yelled “F***ing Canadian” in reference to Mike O’Shea after a somewhat dubious penalty call that negated a punt return TD by Tunde Adeleke. Dickenson suggested that the curse words caught on camera are part of a nickname “F***ing Canadian Mafia” which apparently refers to the Bombers front office which includes O’Shea. Not that it makes things any better, but at least he didn’t insult all Canadians? Put a shotgun mic on any coach in the league and my bet is you would hear something that would make Nana blush instead of smiling at you from the window as you survey your flat tire. Useless Nana can’t even help you change a tire…did it work? Did I shift focus away from this absolute non-issue manufactured controversy? Good.
The Stamps will clash with the Redblacks in the premiere game on the CFL schedule next week. The 106th Grey Cup kicks off at just after 4:00 p.m. MST which is about two hours after it should in an outdoor stadium in Alberta in November. Temperatures in Edmonton are expected to be a very manageable -4 Celsius.