Stamps Labour Day streak snapped as Elks end embarrassment

3DownNation has covered many things since its inception.

From Manziel Madness, why Genie Bouchard went to an Argos game, and all the CFL news that has been fit to print. Without patting ourselves too firmly on the back, there is a reason you, loyal reader that you are, keep coming back every day.

Today, however, is different.

Today we chronicle something that hasn’t happened in the entire existence of this site: a Stampeder Labour Day loss. The Stamps fell to the Elks, marking the first time the Horsemen have dropped the marquee game on the schedule since 2011, an eight-game streak.

Here is a few musical thoughts as to why:

Drops aren’t just for DJ’s

Last week Jake Maier set a franchise record with 17 straight completions to start the game against Winnipeg. This week, his first incompletion came in the first quarter and the Stamps’ rookie pivot was continually victimized by drops throughout the game. Receivers were dropping passes like the Beastie Boys dropped Science.

Over and over in this game, promising drives were snuffed out by an ill-timed knockdown. Not sure what the difference was from this week to last, but the sure-handed pass catchers that played against the Bombers looked like a shadow of themselves in this one.

Markeith Ambles was very visible in this vein despite a day that featured nine catches for 78 yards and one touchdown. Ambles was targeted 15 times, almost a third of the Stamps 46 pass attempts and more than once the ball clanged off his mitts. Most notably late in the game where the pass came in so hot that it seemingly knocked him off his feet, negating what would have been a first down.

Maier had a clean sheet with 328 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, but if the open receivers caught the balls they were offered instead of knocking them down, he could have had 400 on the day and the result of this game might have been dramatically different.

After the game veteran Kamar Jorden was very blunt: “We just weren’t connecting on offence. Dropping passes, penalties, not staying on the field, things like that….we definitely need to find a way to improve on offence, get some confidence and get some swagger behind us.”

Harris carves up zone defence offers more “Ice, Ice, Baby” than “Under Pressure”

Trevor Harris came into this game having never beat the Stampeders, garnering just two ties as the quarterback of the Redblacks and otherwise coming up short every other time he faced the Red and White. The Stamps blitzed Harris often but were unable to “fold him like a bedsheet” as other teams had done previously.

Harris had all kinds of time to pick apart the Stampeders defence and did so to the tune of 398 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.

If the Stamps aren’t able to find pressure on future opposing pivots, I could be writing a lot more analysis that look like this in the future. It seems the well of defensive ends that this team has drawn on for the last 13 years has gone a little dry. Granted, the defensive starters have almost never been the same pair of bookends that other teams have been blessed with, but year after year, the Stampeders have found guys that were pit-stopping on their way to the NFL. Right now, that isn’t the case.

Leads are slippery when wet

For the third time in their four losses on the year, the Stampeders gave away a fourth quarter lead. This team is still relatively inexperienced with only 19 players having more than two full seasons worth of games (36) under their belts. Increase that expectation to three seasons (or 54 games) and the list drops down to 12 and half of those players played the bulk of their games elsewhere.

This is a very young team that is still learning how to win. If they figure it out before too much time has passed, they could be one of those teams that “got hot at the right time” come playoffs.

Before that can happen though, they need to figure out how to keep their collective foot on the gas for 60 minutes.

Mighty proud of that ragged old flag

26 penalties were called in this game. I wish I could channel my inner Forrest Gump and say that “was all I was going to say about that,” but you loyal readers know better.

Not quite sure how Harris going down in a rugby scrum for a sack becomes a roughing the passer infraction on replay, but Maier taking a club to the neck in the open field doesn’t upon a similar review process.

Nor was there a call when an unnamed Elks player tossed the ball at the back of Colton Hunchak’s helmet in the end zone on third down with no one else in sight. It’s an automatic objectionable conduct penalty, if the ref sees it.

Maybe they would have had the crew not been affected by the departure of Al Bradbury, who pulled a hamstring calling back a Calgary defensive touchdown from Derek Wiggan. The TSN feed was unable to show the Stamps player that went offside on that play, allegedly Shawn Lemon, but the ref responsible saw him. Maybe the all-24 camera angle will come out this week and vindicate the call.

My favourite officiating moment of the night came on a punt return where they announced a penalty to Calgary for blocking in the back, changed it to a penalty on Edmonton for blocking below the waist, and then picked up the flag with no penalties after all.

Being a ref is thankless, certainly, and I’m not about to huff and puff my overweight body up and down the field trying to figure out pass interference with two world class athletes running a 4.30 speed 40-yard go route. That said, this review session may take a while.

Time keeps on slipping into the future

The Stampeders are 1-4 for the first time since 2004, when Matt Dunigan led the team to a last place finish. While it says here the Stampeders won’t be repeating that terrible finish, the playoff picture is getting a lot harder to imagine and could be completely out of the question without a win next week against these very same Elks.

Bo Levi Mitchell might be back under centre as he was removed from the six-game injured list this week.

While Maier hasn’t been the issue, he also hasn’t been the solution. There is no question that Mitchell carries both the “swagger” and “confidence” that Jorden indicated has been missing.

The question becomes one of chemistry between Mitchell and the receivers that have not had a ton of reps with QB1 to this point, given that he missed a lot of training camp nursing a groin injury.

The Stampeders season may rest on the outcome of the rematch Saturday in Edmonton.

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