Calgary Stampeders fall in overtime again and 13 other thoughts

Courtesy: Calgary Stampeders

The Calgary Stampeders have had no shortage of thrilling games this season with half of their six games played being decided by three points or less, and they have needed overtime twice.

Unfortunately for the Red and White, they came up short in the extra frame for the second time this season, falling to the Ottawa Redblacks 43-41 at McMahon Stadium, leaving them winless at home so far this season.

Here’s what I saw from high in Section I:

Dickenson upset with results

Following the game, Stampeders head coach and general manager Dave Dickenson vented some of his frustrations with his team that hasn’t been able to close out close games, or maintain momentum from one week to the next.

Dickenson put some of the blame on the coaches, suggesting that if they aren’t getting results that the philosophy or play calling would need to change. He added, however, that if those changes aren’t successful, there may need to be changes to the roster instead.

“As coaches, I am of the same opinion that you have to do something different. You can’t continually make the same calls or coach the same way if the players aren’t responding and we’re not winning,” he said.

“As coaches, we found ways to change that up a few years ago and the players responded.” Dickenson said, referencing the 2021 team that started 2-5 before finishing 8-6 on the season. “So now we have to find the same ways, or we have to get new players. That’s the other option, so we will see how it goes.”

Decisions backfire in big moments

Speaking of coaching decisions, while the team’s deep passing game shone in a way that hadn’t been seen so far in 2023, there were many play calls that left possible points on the field. In a game that went to overtime, each one can be individually scrutinized.

The first was a one-point convert miss from Rene Paredes that sailed wide on the Stampeders first touchdown. While this can hardly be called a whiff from a coaching standpoint, the reaction from the miss seemed questionable.

Following the Paredes miss, the team decided to go for a two-point conversion on the next two opportunities and missed both. Later in the game and in range for a long field goal, the Stampeders instead gambled on third-and-three with Tommy Stevens coming up a few inches short, resulting in a turnover.

Taking the Paredes miss, the ensuing failures of both two-point converts, and the failed sneak, that’s a minimum of five points Paredes could possibly have scored had he been given the opportunity.

These were all potential points that were left on the field, all of which could have made the margin of victory needed in regulation.

Maier’s mixed results

Jake Maier had himself a game against the Ottawa secondary, throwing for 450 yards with four touchdowns. Unfortunately, another score came as a result of Maier’s pass as he threw a pick-six to Ottawa defensive back Brandin Dandridge in the first quarter.

“I think the plays that happen early in games compound as the game goes,” Maier said. “It’s not just what happens in overtime, it compounds during the game. We have to avoid those. I think I’ve turned the ball over in every game we’ve played in, and whether I’ve responded or not, we’ve got to eliminate those so we can give ourselves a little more breathing room and not have to overcome ourselves.”

Michel goes off

Marken Michel continues to readjust to the Canadian game after a few years in the NFL. He made an absolutely spectacular adjustment on a 33-yard touchdown catch early in the game before turning on the jets later in the game and getting away for a 95-yard score.

Michel ended the day with a game-high 134 yards on four receptions. The Stampeders have been missing a true deep threat in the offence since Malik Henry got hurt and Michel is proving he is once again capable of filling that role.

Barnes continues to shine

Another player vying for the deep role is 2023 third-round draft pick Clark Barnes. The Guelph product scored his first career touchdown on a 54-yard catch as part of a five-catch, 87-yard performance on the day.

Barnes is proving to be a reliable set of hands on the field, no matter where he lines up and has also added kick returning duties in the absence of the injured Peyton Logan.

“(Barnes) is outplaying a lot of guys in the league as a rookie,” said Dickenson. “To me, he is tough, too. He battles. He was hurting. He made some nice catches, he’s got speed, and caught it in traffic, and he’s doing kick returns too, so I bet he is sore.”

Barnes also gathered 110 return yards on five kick returns in the game.

Elusive Lewis

Elsewhere in the return game, Tommylee Lewis once again looked incredibly shifty and difficult to take down in the punt return game, taking five punts back for a total of 89 yards, with a long of 33 yards.

It may just be a matter of time before he finds the end zone, but you can feel electricity in the air when he has the ball in his hands.

Sweeping up the Crum(s)

The Stampeders got to Trevor Harris and Mason Fine on seven occasions last week but Dustin Crum is a far more mobile quarterback.

Crum officially ran the ball nine times for 63 yards but he was also sacked five times and under pressure frequently.

Very few of Crum’s runs appeared to be designed with most coming after he was flushed from the pocket. Nearly half his yards on the day came on a 27-yard dash down the sideline before being pushed out of bounds.

The Stampeders defensive front getting pressure is hardly news but that is now 12 sacks in two games after collecting just nine in the first four games of the season.

Mr. 2,000

Rene Paredes kicked a game-tying field goal late in the fourth quarter to cross over the 2,000-point threshold for his career.

Coming into the season already in the top 10 of all-time CFL scorers, Paredes would likely need to play another season to catch Terry Baker, who is one spot above him with 2,123 career points.

If Paredes were to continue at this career pace, he would supplant Lui Passaglia for first all-time sometime during the 2035 season.

Far from saying he is retiring, the full-time firefighter said that handling the dual roles this season hasn’t been that difficult.

“It hasn’t been too hard to handle,” he said. “Right now, I am worried about here, and when I am there, I worry about there. We will see what happens but I’m not focused on (retirement plans) right now.”

Paredes said he would be celebrating the achievement with his family but maintained he needed to keep his focus on making the next kick.

Halftime chihuahua madness

I don’t often write about halftime shows, but the one the Stampeders offered this week provided top-tier entertainment by going off the rails in a hilarious way.

The conceit was simple. Have a bunch of dogs race each other from the 35-yard line to the goal line in two heats, then crown a winner in a third and final race.

The first heat featured chihuahuas, all of whom were introduced with a bio package and then set off looking to advance to the final.

At least, one of them did. The other dogs scattered in every direction causing much laughter from the crowd in attendance.

As you can see in the video below, taken by my cohost on the Go Stamps Go Show Podcast Stephanie Hudson, it didn’t go well.

Catching the off course pooches wasn’t easy, and some of the dogs had to have several people surround them before they could be corralled.

The second heat was a little better as the corgis took to the field.

In the finals, one of the corgis looked like it was trying to make a meal of the chihuahua in the next lane while a photo finish was required to determine a winner.

Kudos to the Stampeders game day team for providing halftime entertainment that we want to see rather than a bar band doing covers and trying to break through.

Hot dogs

As part of the Family Day promotion being run by the Stampeders this week, they offered a $3 hot dog and a drink deal that was enjoyed by many, even turning it into an east vs. west stands competition.

For what it is worth, the west side of the stands won the contest 2,462-2,436. There has been no confirmation of the rumour that the winning margin was due to the Stampeders cancelling the halftime pizza in the press box because the elevator was broken down again.

Jokes aside, this is the kind of promotion that could see the team gather more young families into the building.

Given that the hot dog and a drink typically retails for $13, that kind of savings was hard to pass up. My family of three got two each and paid less than $20 after taxes for something that would normally run $78. I can only imagine the financial viability for cash-strapped families who could come to the park and get tickets and a decent amount of food for less than $100.

This could put a lot more butts in seats and bridge that generational gap!

Get outside and touch turf

Not only were families treated to deals at the snack counter, they were also allowed down on the field after the game.

Players came out to sign autographs and kids were running patterns on the turf to catch mini footballs. It was a blast.

This kind of engagement has been missing since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and should go a long way towards reconnecting fans and the team.

RIP Dan Carson

On a sadder note, the team paid tribute to long time P.A. announcer Dan Carson, who passed away far too soon at just 60 years old. Carson had been the voice for generations of Stampeders fans, having held the microphone for the last 31 years.

Carson’s voice was the sound of game day for me and many others and while I’m sure the team will find a capable replacement once they settle on one, it was still somewhat jarring to hear someone else on the mic.

Carson had missed games infrequently over the years but felt jarring knowing that we’ll never hear his dulcet tones again.

The Stampeders also announced that they will be renaming the P.A. announcer booth in Carson’s honour.

The road ahead is fraught with danger

The Stampeders go to Montreal next week, a place where they have suffered many regular season stumbles even in their best years, before a murderers row of Toronto, B.C., Winnipeg, and Toronto again before the traditional Labour Day matchups with Edmonton.

Given the current standings, the Stampeders will likely have to find a way to win some games in which they’re underdogs in the next five weeks to continue to believe their season will end with some sort of playoff push.

Ryan Ballantine is a lifelong Stamps fan and host of the Go Stamps Go Show Podcast. He has been covering the team since 2008.