Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Week Four Reviews (ending July 24)

Saskatchewan at Montreal

The weekend finale offered up one of the closest finishes from the unlikeliest of sources. The Saskatchewan Roughriders, who had yet to claim victory in 2011 went into Molson Stadium on Sunday and took two points from the defending Grey Cup champion Alouettes.

It was a result that most probably didn’t think was likely pre kick off, but with Anthony Calvillo knocked out of the game in the early going, the playing field suddenly seemed very level for the Riders who took advantage of the CFL’s marquee attractions absence to craft their own little march to victory.

The path to their 27-24 victory was a rewarding one for head coach Greg Marshall, who no doubt has been feeling the pressure in Saskatchewan these last few weeks, the locals having become unaccustomed to being on the losing end of final scores.

But with Calvillo sidelined due to an eye injury, the reins to the Alouette offence were turned over to Adrian McPherson, who struggled to move his team for the majority of the third and fourth quarters.

However, in the latter stages of the final quarter, McPherson finally got into a rhythm, bringing the Als to within seven points with less than five minutes to go with the Riders in the lead 24-17.

A field goal ninety seconds away from the end of the game seemed to put the game away for good for the Riders, the added bonus of a Rider interception seemed to spell doom for the Als, but a fumble shortly after that set the scene for another wild CFL finish.

The Als took over the ball on the Riders seven yard line and put another six on the board thanks to a McPherson scramble, with time running down the Als attempted a short kick off, but the Riders special teams unit rose to the occasion grabbing the ball and securing the first victory of the year for Saskatchewan.

The finish seems to reflect the kind of season the Riders have had thus far, where breakdowns and turnovers have ruled for the most part, Sunday however fate provided a change of luck, something we imagine that head coach Marshall hopes provides a path for future success down the line.

For the Als, the loss was secondary we imagine to the state of their starting quarterback’s health, it’s anticipated that Calvillo’s vision problems will clear up by the time week five starts, while McPherson did eventually get into sync, it’s clear that Calvillo is the main driving force behind the Alouettes offence, as goes AC so it seems will go the Als.

Globe and Mail-- Riders hand Alouettes first loss Riders beat Als for first victory this season Als shoot themselves in the foot
National Post-- Calvillo injured as Riders win their first

Edmonton at Calgary

It was the more anticipated showdown of the weekend in the CFL, a return to the glory days of the Battle of Alberta, a battle that in the last few years had been tilted towards the Calgarians, but as we’ve seen in this early part of the CFL season, these aren’t last years Eskimos.

Edmonton remained undefeated at the end of the 60 minutes played, another stellar day for Ricky Ray who led the Eskies to a 20-5 lead by the third quarter, a pace which most would have though should secure victory.

But, the prospect of humiliation at the hands of their provincial rivals finally seemed to shake some of the lethargy off the Stamps, as they launched an impressive rally that erased most of that lead and set the stage for some nail biting action in the final minutes of the fourth.

The Stamps finally got into a groove through the third and fourth, with Henry Burris finding his range again after a first half of struggles, the Stamps seemed to leave the Eskimos defensive unit a bit off their balance in that third and fourth quarter shift, but the Eskimos finally got their defensive play back on track just in the nick of time.

It was an Eskimo force of a turnover in the waning moments of the game that secured the victory, as Julius Williams hit Henry Burris from behind on a third and 10 gamble, knocking the ball loose and securing possession for the Eskimos.

The Stamps who had started on the comeback trail a little late, wouldn’t find the end zone again, leaving the Eskimos to claim their first win at McMahon Stadium since 2008 by a score of 24 -19.

The Edmonton victory seems to serve notice that it’s time to redraw those pre season predictions as to placements in the West Division, the Esks have been full value for each and every win thus far and seem to be growing in confidence as each week passes by on the CFL schedule.

With their success in Calgary over the weekend, the battle of Alberta it would seem is back on full boil, making for a some appointment making television viewing to come as we work our way towards the playoffs in November.

Edmonton Journal-- Esks handle adversity, Stamps
Edmonton Sun-- Eskimos down Stampeders
Calgary Herald-- Unbeaten Eskimos hold off Stampeders
Calgary Herald-- Edmonton's best on O outshine Calgary's
Calgary Herald-- Stamps beat Stamps

Winnipeg at Toronto

Home sweet home for the Argos, as Toronto made its Rogers Centre debut for 2011 in the midst of a Southern Ontario heatwave.

Such was the oppressiveness of the heat, that Rogers Centre officials chose to keep the roof closed for the benefit of the paying customers, something which provided the first lesson of the night for the Argonauts, when they learned that pre game fireworks and closed roofs make for an interesting combination.

With the pyrotechnics complete, Argo fans and those viewing on TV were left to gaze through the haze, as a fog of smoke brought back memories for the truly faithful Argo fan of the ancient fog bowl, where players zigged and zagged in and out of view, it wasn’t quite on that scale on Saturday afternoon, but it was close.

Eventually the fog of smoke lifted, but for Toronto the fog of another losing effort would remain, despite a hopeful start, the Argos watched the Blue Bomber launch a comeback on the way to 33-24 victory.

Along the way to the loss, the Argoss lost the services of Cleo Lemon, who took a helmet to helmet hit six minutes into the game and never returned.

Until that point Lemon had started off strong, leading the Argos to their first score of the game on their first possession, it was to be his only success on the day, forced out shortly after that, a glancing blow hit that sent his helmet flying and damaged a tooth, a combination that brought his day to an end and with no penalty call on the Bombers, it was a hit that had the Argos questioning the officiating by games end.

Dalton Bell was thrust into the game at that point and with his big opportunity as understudy at hand, after an initial drive for a score, he failed to impress for the remainder of the game, providing an opportunity for the Bombers to add to their win column for yet another week.

Buck Pierce, who took a few more hits of his own this weekend, rallied the Bombers into the second half, finding his success through both the run and the air, in particular the second half reboot provided Terence Jeffers-Harris to showcase his skills, picking up two of the Bombers TDs, his second late in the fourth the back breaker for the Argos, coming on the heels of Toronto having taken the lead back heading into the homestretch of the game.

The loss leaves the Argos with but one win on the season so far and with questions that need some answers for the week ahead, the concerns over Lemon’s troubles mixed with the defence’s inability to shut down the Bombers just a few of the items that the Argos coaching staff need to sort out.

Globe and Mail-- Buck Pierce rallies Bombers past Argos
Winnipeg Free Press-- Buck Pierce leads Bombers to victory over Argos
Toronto Star-- Lemon knocked out as Argos lose home opener
National Post-- Argos question officiating in loss to Bombers
Toronto Sun-- Bell blew chance as Argos QB

Hamilton at British Columbia

By the end of the weekend, the Lions would be feeling very lonely holding down the dubious title of team that hasn’t won as their own.

An er, (achievement?) that they grasped with a 39 to 31 Friday Night Football loss at Empire Field another game where the Lions failed to take advantage of opportunities to score and despite offering up a bit of a comeback, still remained without a win for the fourth time in this regular season.

The night didn’t get off to a terrific start for the hometown side, the Cats were quick to the score board running up a fourteen point lead before the Leos finally got untracked from whatever it is that haunts them after the national anthem.

They battled back into the second quarter to draw even with the Cats, only to surrender the lead once again thanks to a penalty for too many men on the field which allowed the Cats to take a 3 point lead into half time.

The penalty indicative of the Lions struggles this year, an inattention to detail or missed assignment causing as much trouble as any actual fumble, interception or stopped drive.

Hamilton took charge of the third quarter adding to their lead as Kevin Glenn found more success from his air game, mixing both the run and the pass nicely through the three quarters of football.

Quarter four saw the Lions begin what seems to be a common theme of the year, the comeback quarter that comes up just a little short.

Using the run to more effect the Lions Robertson picked up his second TD on the ground in the fourth quarter, a TD run that was set up by Geroy Simon pass reception, it brought the Lions close but as has been the case through the year thus far, the Lions could not close the game out.

While they added a field goal towards the end of the final quarter, the Tiger Cats took control once again scoring a game clinching TD with less than a minute to go.

For the Cats it was a welcome victory on the road, bringing some balance to their early season troubles and securing a place in the hunt for first place in the CFL East.

Vancouver on the other hand is a team heading in the wrong direction and while the signs are there that there may be some positives to build on, the first third of the season is moving up quickly and judging by the success of their West Division competitors any hopes for a first or second place finish are starting to fade a bit, rather just surviving to grasp a playoff spot may soon be the motivating factor, but then again unless they start to win some games that too may be a bit of a moot point.

Vancouver Province-- Lions worst in CFL with 0-4 record after loss to Tiger-Cats
Vancouver Sun-- Lions drop to 0-4 with 39-31 loss to Ticats
Vancouver Sun-- Lions' Wally Buono now racking up defeats to go with record wins
Globe and Mail-- Glenn leads Tiger-Cats past Lions
National Post-- Lions fall to 0-4 after loss to Ticats

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