Bulletin board material was everywhere for the Calgary Stampeders heading into the 2022 CFL curtain jerker at McMahon Stadium.
Media types in many markets were quick to say that the lustre was gone from the Stampeders and that Bo Levi Mitchell was done. Most of this coming without seeing anything of Mitchell since the West Semi-Final game last year.
It even led to a heated Twitter battle between Danny Austin of Postmedia and Regina reporter Mitchell Blair, who claimed that Mitchell would be displaced as the team’s starter by Labour Day.
While Mitchell was hardly perfect in his 2022 debut — more on that later — the Stampeders won regardless, securing a 30-27 win thanks to a late field goal from Rene Paredes.
Here’s what else I saw from Row 52 in Section I:
The more things change…
Stampeders’ placekicker Rene Paredes was perfect on the night, making all six kicks asked of him, three field goals and three converts. The Stampeders did pass on what would have been about a 52-yarder late in the fourth quarter, choosing instead to pin the Alouettes deep. That paid off as the Calgary defence held the Alouettes and got the ball back with enough time for the game-winner.
Paredes owns five of the top eight most accurate kicking seasons of all time, but there is a question as to how far downfield the Stampeders can rely upon the long-time veteran. There have been a few misses that fell short for Paredes in the >50-yard category over the years that have cost the team wins.
“Say what you want, but the guy is money…” said Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson after the game. “Every year, I don’t know how many game-winning kicks he makes, it’s almost like a given.”
Dickenson wasn’t entirely happy with the final field goal attempt though, as the ball was snapped with quite a bit of time left on the play clock.
“We should have burned more clock. We had a brand new holder and he gave me a little bit of high blood pressure there.”
Is there a Rose pun I haven’t used yet?
I can’t be absolutely certain that Mike Rose knows he was left off of 3DownNation editor John Hodge’s TSN Top 50 ballot.
However, given his game ball performance against the Alouettes in which he had an interception and a blocked field goal attempt, I’m not sure he will be discounted again any time soon.
The interception came off of a double deflection. Rose tipped the ball near the line of scrimmage, which was then deflected into the air by Stampeders’ rookie Dionte Ruffin back to Rose, who secured the ball and dove to the turf.
Rose added a defensive tackle and a special teams tackle on the night as well.
Get after Adams
Folarin Orimolade had himself a game on the defensive line, as he was in Alouettes’ quarterback Vernon Adams’ face for a good portion of the evening.
Orimolade also made a perfect open-field tackle on a scramble from Adams late in the fourth that ended a drive, forcing the Alouettes to take a field goal.
Orimalade collected one of three Stampeders sacks on the night, with Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund and Stefan Banks also getting to the Montreal passer.
Given the relatively green Stampeder secondary, a vibrant pass rush will be essential to Calgary’s potential success this season.
Mitchell’s missing touch
If you just looked at the stat sheet, Bo Levi Mitchell seemed to have an ok night at the office; 199 yards on 21-of-34 passing with a touchdown and an interception.
When you add in that running back Ka’Deem Carey also had a pair of touchdowns, it tells a story of quiet efficiency with the ball and moving the chains.
What is missing from that story is his lack of touch on deep balls.
Mitchell has had shoulder problems the last few seasons and said coming out of training camp that he was as healthy as he has ever been. If that is the case, could it be that Mitchell over-estimated the strength of his arm now that it is again healthy and that was the reason for several overthrown balls that seemed to be just out of the grasp of his receivers?
You might also wonder how his receivers are judging his arm strength, as at least once I saw a pass-catcher slow down, only to eventually see the ball go just over their outstretched hands.
Unfortunately, Mitchell was seen in a walking boot at practice the Friday morning with what is being described as a “rolled ankle.” He has an MRI scheduled for this week.
The injury occurred late in the game and Mitchell was replaced on the last two drives by…
Maier engineers game-winning drive
“It’s not often I give one of these out to a guy that only played six plays, but…” began the post-game speech, as Bo Levi Mitchell awarded Jake Maier with the offensive game ball in the locker room.
Maier was effective in moving the ball, with his first drive crossing the 45-yard line before being punted away and his second allowing Paredes to line up the winning kick.
“Hopefully in those big moments, your mind slows down a bit…” Maier said after the game. “When you are able to be in the huddle with a bunch of guys with a similar mindset, it makes it fun, man. I mean, shoot. We dream of stuff like that.”
When asked about Mitchell’s health, Coach Dickenson anticipated a question that didn’t come and answered it anyway.
“I thought you were going to ask if I know that quarterback controversies happen,” he said, garnering a chuckle from the assembled media given his previous history with Casey Printers in B.C.
“Never been a part of a quarterback controversy,” he added sarcastically to further laughs, before insisting that he has confidence in either Mitchell or Maier to run the offence.
Defensive adjustments turn the tide
After giving up just 13 points in the preseason, the Stampeders allowed 24 in the first half to the Alouettes, who capitalized on a few big plays to find the endzone.
A 55-yard first-quarter completion to Eugene Lewis got Montreal into the green zone and the touchdown was converted a few plays later to tie the game at seven.
Later, it was a 70-yard scamper from Calgary product Jeshrun Antwi that set up another score on a brilliant run and hurdle from Vernon Adams Jr. from nine yards out.
After the half, it was a different story as the Stamps were able to take away the big play and stifle the Alouettes offensively, allowing just three points the rest of the way.
“I feel like we were kinda flat in the first half,” remarked Stampeders’ linebacker Jameer Thurman. “We understood what we did wrong. That’s the thing. It wasn’t like we didn’t see what they were doing.”
After that, Thurman said it was about honing in on the details to keep the Als at bay.
Here comes the Judge
Linebacker Cameron Judge was acquired in an offseason trade and signed to help fill the gap left by a departed Darnell Sankey, who eventually left for Saskatchewan.
Judge was solid in his debut, leading the team with six tackles, and impressed his new battery mate, although Thurman admits they have room to grow.
“It was good, our first game together; the wind wasn’t quite where it needs to be, I can tell you that! But we knuckled down, and got the job done.”
Sindani breaks out
Richie Sindani has been a Stampeder for four years and has been the forgotten man in Calgary’s offensive plans for much of that time.
Not on this night, however, as he pulled in seven catches on nine targets for 101 yards, smashing his previous career-high of 59 yards in a game.
Sindani was all smiles after the game but did say he would be talking to his teammate Jake Maier about something.
“I was looking at Bo, because Bo gives the game balls out, and I was like ‘Cmon, man!’ I could have given it to my mom…” he said smiling “It’s ok. Everyone is happy. We are happy. Jake is happy and he has my game ball. I’ll ask him for it though.”
The no longer Fastest Cow
It may be time to retire this bit. The World’s Fastest Cow lost a few times last season and is winless so far this year in two games at McMahon. The first time the cow lost, it was a shock, now the bit seems to have run its course.
Not that many were there to see it
It was the first game of the season against a non-divisional opponent on a Thursday night. That said, the announced attendance at McMahon was just 21,139, with about two-thirds of that number actually in the building.
If this were to represent the season average, it would be the lowest total in nearly 40 years.
Something has to be done to get people back in the building and charging six dollars for a bottle of Pepsi, seven dollars for a single slice of pizza, and eleven dollars for an adult beverage sure doesn’t make it easy for a family to go to a game.
Next up for the Stampeders are the back-to-back East Division Champion Hamilton Tiger-Cats, as the early game of a Saturday double header.