Saturday’s debut by Khari Jones may just be the tonic for what has ailed Stampeder fans all year. One thing is certain Jones just made Matt Dunigan’s job a little bit easier and more importantly may take some heat off the Stampeder everyman! Jones, who was making his first start in over six weeks and his first in a Stampeder uniform, threw for three touchdown passes, in a much deserved 29-11 victory over the Toronto Argonauts. Jones and the Stamps put on a show that folks in Calgary haven’t seen for a rather long time, and one they hope they see an awful lot more of in 2005.
With pinpoint accuracy Jones completed 14 of 22 passes for 233 yards, moving the Stamps down field with authority, building confidence for a Calgary offence that has struggled throughout much of the 2004 campaign. The new QB combined his impressive passing work with some exciting runs by Joffrey Reynolds, who rumbled through the Argonaut defence for 189 yards on 23 carries. With the experience of Jones at the helm, the Stamps did not look like the 3-12 team that entered play, instead there were signs Saturday that given time to gel and with a few more additions this Stampeder team may not be too far away from challenging the CFL West powers once again.
Jones performance should go a fair way in easing the stress in coach and GM Matt Dunigan's life, his expression and comments at the end of the game were that of a man who had just had a fair amount of weight taken off of his shoulders. After struggling through the year with quarterback after quarterback, Dunigan may finally be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not an approaching freight train. The confidence provided by Jones became infective as the game went on, his arrival in Calgary is something that this team can build on, combined with an already solid defence the 2005 season can’t come fast enough now, Stamps fans can only wonder how things might have changed if this deal had been made at Labour Day!
For Toronto it was a costly two points lost, the Double Blue had hoped to put themselves closer to clinching second place in the East and a home playoff date, but with the loss today and yesterday’s big win by Hamilton a showdown for the Eastern home semi-final date is set for next week when the Ti Cats come to town.. And Pinball Clemons will have lots of things to point out to his charges in the film room this week as they prepare for the Cats. Turnovers killed the Argos on Saturday, with the three fumbled and three interceptions contributing to the downfall of the double blue.
Damon Allen began the process of shaking off the rust from his seven week lay off due to his knee injury; Allen went into the game in relief of Michael Bishop who fumbled the ball at costly points in the game. But the timing of the Argos QB seemed a little off right from his entry to the game, costly interceptions late in the game sealed the fate of the Double Blue. With defensive secondary coverage breakdowns and an inability to stop the run the Argo defence will have provided the Ti cats with some vital weaknesses to work on Thursday night at Skydome.
The Stamps go on to play the BC Lions on Friday night, a game which as late as three weeks ago might have been considered an easy two points for the Leos, but with Jones getting comfortable with the Stamps offence that may not be an automatic pass now. Another Stamps game that might have been irrelevant two weeks ago now suddenly looms large in two weeks, Jones returns to Winnipeg with his new team on Oct 29th to close out the Stamps season. That game may not mean much to the standings, but for pride of performance it could be a pivotal match for the Stamps. Suddenly Stamps fans have a reason to follow their team through the end of the season, they aren’t going to make the playoffs this year, but one thing seems certain, the Stamps aren’t going to go out quietly!