There’s a story in sports that the preseason doesn’t matter when it comes to wins and losses, but the Calgary Stampeders don’t seem to believe that. After all, they have won more preseason games than any other team in the last 15 years and that has translated to a league-best winning percentage over the regular season as well.
It would have been easy to fold the tent against the B.C. Lions after they let the west coast squad build up a 21-0 lead, but Calgary stormed back to tie the game at 22 late in the fourth quarter. They would eventually concede a field goal on the final play of the game to fall 25-22.
Here’s what I saw on the preseason live stream.
QB battle tightens
I wrote before the game that Logan Bonner had the inside track on the backup QB slot, outdueling incumbent Tommy Stevens and fellow rookie Chris Reynolds throughout camp. On this night, however, it was Reynolds that stood out while Bonner completed none of his three attempts while operating a run-heavy script.
Stevens started the game and would come back in for the fourth quarter, completing eight-of-13 passes for 108 yards in a mixed outing. He was sacked once, which turned a likely long field goal attempt into a punt, but also bounced off a big hit in his own endzone to avoid a safety and scamper 11 yards to continue what could have been a game-winning drive.
Stevens was also victim to two third-down gambles gone wrong. The first came on the team’s opening drive after a long completion to Floyd Allen put the ball inside the B.C. 10-yard line. A miscommunication on the ensuing route between Stevens and Tyler Roberts led to a turnover on downs.
Late in the game, he found Cole Tucker to get the Stampeders into field goal range with a chance to win, but the receiver dropped the ball while trying to secure it and the drive was snuffed out.
All told though, the reigning short-yardage QB looked far more composed and in control of the offence than he had previously.
Bonner was only on the field for two drives in the second quarter and the first heavily featured Peyton Logan, who was handed the ball four times, and B.C. penalty yardage, as the Lions twice extended the drive which ended in a field goal. The second drive was a two-and-out that featured a pair of incompletions, neither of which were great throws as one was behind Roberts and the other fell at the feet of Logan.
The playcalling didn’t favour Bonner showing out, but he didn’t manage anything with his opportunities.
Reynolds, on the other hand, moved the ball very effectively. He would complete 12-of-13 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown to a streaking Luther Hakunavanhu. He was sacked twice, with one of those taking the Stampeders out of field goal range, but was also able to throw for a pair of two-point conversions.
Whatever the plans may have been heading into the preseason matchup, the play of the QBs didn’t make the decisions facing Dave Dickenson any easier.
Adams carves up the defence
There were a lot of starters missing from the Calgary defence, but Vernon Adams Jr. had his way with the players that did take the field.
Adams would go a perfect 12-for-12 for 213 yards and a trio of passing touchdowns. Credit should also go to Justin McInnis, who made a pair of hotly contested catches in the endzone for scores, but Adams picked apart the Calgary scheme in the first half.
There may be something to the idea that the defence was intentionally bland because these two teams play again in the season opener next week, but Adams’ confidence headed into McMahon next week will likely be at an all-time high.
Allen burned by flag
In what was a “show me” game full of relative newcomers trying to make their mark, Floyd Floyd Allen had a noticeable night, collecting both of his receiving targets for a combined 46 yards while working into the return game.
He’d have had an even more impressive night had a punt return touchdown not been eradicated by a holding penalty in the third quarter.
His other returns also netted solid yardage and he looked comfortable fielding the ball. In the end, Allen netted a total of 88 all-purpose yards on five touches.
Battle of Canadian RECs
Headed into the game, the battle between Cole Tucker, Clark Barnes and Rysen John was expected to be a featured matchup.
Barnes caught both his targets for 27 yards and also had a 22-yard kick return for the team. Tucker would only find a single reception among his five targets and John was only targeted once but was badly overthrown.
While Tucker and John are still learning the Canadian game, Barnes has looked incredibly comfortable and reliable in the offence thus far.
Making the most of it
Canadian running back Ryth-Jean Giraud continued to impress with limited opportunities, as he came into the game late in the fourth quarter and still managed to catch all four of his targets for a total of 54 yards through the air — the highest of any Stampeders’ receiver on the day.
While he wasn’t really utilized in the run game, getting just a single carry for three yards, Giraud has been the most eye-popping player for Calgary this preseason.
A veritable murderers row is ahead of him on the depth chart with Ka’Deem Carey, Dederick Mills and Peyton Logan entrenched at running back, but the former Alouettes’ draft pick can’t be told he didn’t out-perform expectations this training camp.
Special teams still special
There are a pair of clouds looming over the Stampeders’ special teams units. The first is the annual nail-biting that outstanding coordinator Mark Kilam will be lured away for a well-deserved head coaching job. The second is the inevitable retirement of Rene Paredes, who recently joined the Calgary Fire Department.
An all-time kicker destined for the Hall of Fame, Paredes has come back to play football the last few seasons while openly considering retirement at the end of every year. As such, the Stampeders have been drafting young kickers in anticipation of the move, and eventually having them move on to other teams via trade or free agency.
The team brought two kickers into camp this season to compete for that role, with Global Toshiki Sato and Canadian draft pick Campbell Fair duelling it out. Not much has separated the two thus far, as they have each hit their field goal attempts and have similar kickoff distances, but Sato can also punt which may give him the inside track from a versatility standpoint. Fair did punt in college but hasn’t yet been asked to for the Stampeders.
All of that said, Fair is six years younger than Sato, which may also be a deciding factor.
Elsewhere on the field, the Stampeders allowed zero punt return yards and out-performed the Lions on kick returns and coverages as well, proving Kilam’s cover schemes to be among the best in football.
The Stampeders will host the Lions in their season opener on Thursday, June 8 at McMahon Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. MST.