The Calgary Stampeders came into this week’s game with the B.C. Lions with a chance to leapfrog their Vancouver rivals into second place in the West Division standings.
Instead, for the fifth time this season, they found themselves on the wrong side of a one-score game with a team ahead of them in the standings.
The Stampeders are now 0-5 against the Lions and Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2022 and 8-0 against the other six teams in the league.
Here’s what I saw from high up in Section I:
So many flags
It isn’t often that you go to a football game and see a near-perfect impression of Oprah Winfrey, but the fans in attendance at McMahon Stadium — and those watching at home — could have been forgiven for wondering if the officials were channelling the famous talk show host on Saturday night.
“You get a flag, and you get a flag, and you get a flag… EVERYONE IS GETTING A FLAG!” they seemed to paraphrase as they let the laundry fly on no less than 21 occasions for a total of 215 total yards between the two teams.
Nine of those flags were on returns alone. All night long, the game was disrupted by yellow missiles launched into the air.
“I don’t think that’s the flow we want, but if we earned them, we earned them,” Stampeders’ head coach Dave Dickenson said after the game. “Definitely the ones I did see, I did see some poise penalties that we lost our cool, saw some things we didn’t want.”
While neither side should be happy about their discipline situation, Calgary got the worse end of the equation. 12 penalties for 128 yards was the final total, a number Dickenson blamed on his players, not ticky-tack officiating.
“Special teams was ridiculous. Gotta be cleaned up,” he continued. “Quit holding. I will guarantee there is a lot of holding on every play but to me, the guys have got to understand the standard and they’ve got to play to it and knock it off. That’s the thing that pisses me off the most. They probably have gotten away with it six, seven, eight times because [the refs] are looking somewhere else but it’s still a penalty. Play by the rules. We’ve taken so many penalties on the first kickoff of the game. It’s ridiculous. Ultimately it’s why I want to take kick returns, but why? Just take the ball at the 40.”
Late miss sinks Stampeders
While taking a three-point lead with fewer than 20 seconds left in the game doesn’t guarantee you a win in the CFL, if Rene Paredes had hit his 49-yard attempt late in the fourth quarter, the headline today would likely be very different.
I’ve given a lot of deserved credit to Paredes in this space, but sometimes we have to place some goat horns when they’re due.
I’m positive this won’t shake Paredes’ performance, nor the team’s confidence in him. However, with the season series now in the Lions’ favour, this loss could end up being the deciding factor in which of these two teams hosts the Western Semi-Final in November. That would be an oddly bitter pill to swallow given his career full of clutch kicks.
Maier self-critical following loss
Jake Maier had a pretty clean game as far as the stat sheet is concerned. He completed 26-of-38 pass attempts for 301 yards and a trio of touchdowns with no interceptions.
After the game, however, he did note some things he thought contributed to a lack of flow in the offence.
“It was definitely choppy. It was me getting to my check-downs a little too soon at times, maybe picking the wrong side of the field where I start my progressions at times,” Maier said, before highlighting some positives as well.
“I was really happy with the way we kept our poise there in the fourth quarter and really put some drives together. A couple big third-down catches and guys weren’t afraid of the moment, which was really inspiring to see.”
Judge was everywhere
Cameron Judge had nine tackles to lead both teams and also notched a strip sack where he recovered the ball himself deep in Stampeders’ territory, maintaining what was a tied game at that time.
Judge continues to stand out for the Stampeders this season and is now in the top five in the league for tackles with 66 total stops, three quarterback sacks, two forced fumbles with five fumble recoveries and an interception.
While we are only two-thirds of the way through his first season in Red and White, it seems like John Hufnagel was incredibly shrewd in trading for Judge’s rights this past offseason.
Speaking of Canadians making an impact
Both Luther Hakunavanhu and Jalen Philpot put up receiving touchdowns this week, with Hakunavanhu seeing seven targets and making four catches.
The target share was his second highest of the season and the most he’s seen since Week 2 against Hamilton.
As Maier becomes more comfortable in the driver’s seat, he is looking to find a more varied group of receivers. Nine different Stampeders had at least one catch during the game.
When the Stampeders have been at their best during the Hufnagel era, it has been when they could utilize every weapon at their disposal. The Canadian receiving corps of Hakunavanhu, Philpot and Richie Sindani will all need to contribute down the stretch for the team.
Let’s do it again next week!
The Stampeders have five separate home-and-home series in their schedule this season and if they want a chance to host a home playoff game in November, next week is a must-win.
With that many penalties during the game and a post-game altercation in the parking lot between the two teams that was allegedly spurred by a physical confrontation between Cameron Judge and Lucky Whitehead, next week could provide some fireworks in the physicality department.
It will be a must-watch contest for fans!