The first week of play in the 2011 CFL campaign certainly provided for no shortage of surprise endings, surprise results and more than a few challenges for CFL coaches, with the visiting teams claiming victory in three of the four season openers.
In Montreal, the BC Lions made a spirited comeback in the second half that could have made it four for four for the visiting squads, but fell just short, as the Als held on to claim victory by a score of 30 to 26. The season opener was a story of two halves of football, with the Als dominating play in the first thirty minutes. Providing some serious evidence that Anthony Calvillo is back in top shape and more than ready to add to his legacy.
The Lions finally got untracked in the second half, as Travis Lulay finally got into a groove, ably moving the Leos down the field in the second thirty, taking them to within 7 points with time running down, it's at that point that the first controversial decision of the 2011 season took place, as head coach Wally Buono decided to take the three points that were within reach in the final two minutes, hoping one imagines that his defence would find a way to return the ball to his offensive team. It's a decision that Buono has owned up to as a mistake upon reflection on the results.
The Lions will next face the Stampeders, providing a key moment already in the CFL for both teams, with each squad seeking to get into the win column, the Als take to the road for a rematch with Saskatchewan their Grey Cup opponents from the 2010 National championship.
Globe and Mail-- Alouettes down Lions in CFL opener
Vancouver Province-- Leos tame in 30-26 loss to Montreal
Vancouver Sun-- BC Lions rally comes up short in loss to Alouettes
National Post-- Calvillo, Alouettes outlast Lions
Canada.com-- Alouettes hold off Lions to open CFL season
In Hamilton, the talk isn't just about a surprising loss to the visiting Blue Bombers on the weekend, but if coach Marcel Bellefeuille hasn't created a Quarterback controversy far too early in this season. The Cats head coach removed starter Kevin Glenn from the game in the fourth quarter, that after an interception (his third of the game) that put the Bombers into the lead for good, going on to take their opening week game 24-16. That decision has provided for the majority of the grist of reporting mill in the days following, though it appears that any lingering hard feelings have been addressed as the Cats prepare for week number two, with Kevin Glenn already announced as the team's starting QB.
Their success on opening night should serve as a major confidence building moment for the rebuilding Bombers, far too often in 2010 the Blue Bombers would find the fourth quarter frustratingly futile, surrendering leads or collapsing in the latter stages of play. Their ability to capitalize on the Ti Cat turnovers proved to be their strength, making Hamilton pay for their miscues and putting their defense in the position to secure the victory through the fourth. Beyond the win, the Hamilton game provided the Blue with a valuable lesson as to how to secure their success this season and in a short sentence it is "Make sure that you protect Buck Pierce!"
The Bombers and CFL fans in Canada and beyond watched with some trepidation as the Winnipeg Quarterback was crushed under perhaps one of the hardest hits on a CFL field in the last few years, left unprotected in the Bomber backfield, with Jamall Johnson swallowing up the yardage between himself and the Bombers quarterback taking him hard to field. Pierce was quick to his feet, but if Winnipeg has any inclination to success this year, making sure that never happens again should be a team priority.
Winnipeg plays host to the Argos on Friday night, while the Ti Cats will be in Edmonton on Saturday night.
Canada.com-- Ticats throw one away against Bombers
Globe and Mail-- Bombers rally past Tiger Cats
Winnipeg Free Press-- Blue start season with a bang
Hamilton Spectator-- Turnovers cost Ticats dearly
Toronto Argonauts Coach and GM Jim Barker is probably getting a little bit weary of all the added attention of late, Barker the central figure in the ongoing documentary on TSN about the Argos season has had the added burden of a television crew recording his every move while he prepared his squad for their season debut. But, if the result of the weekend opener is any indication, it hasn't caused any great attention deficit for his players, the Argos managed to end a long standing losing skid when it comes to visits to Calgary, as they took advantage of the Stamps kicking woes on the night to secure a 23-21 victory.
With Calgary's Rob Maver suffering from a recurrence of his leg troubles from training camp, the Stamps connected on only 1 of 4 field goal attempts ,nine potential points that certainly would have made more than enough of difference on opening night.
The Stamps problems however went further than their struggling kicking game, they had definite problem in converting scoring chances deep in the Toronto end of the field, an inconsistent Henry Burris showing flashes of the skill he has become famous for in the first, only to find his drives fizzle out when seven points were within reach.
Still, Burris we imagine will regain his form before too long, for the Stamps success it seems is going to be fleeting unless they resolve their field goal troubles of the weekend, a more immediate concern that should be addressed sooner than later.
Globe and Mail-- Argos get last gasp win over Stamps
National Post-- Missed kick costs Stampeders in opener
Toronto Star-- Argonauts end 6 year Calgary drought
Toronto Sun-- Argos off to a flying start
Calgary Herald-- Dreadful season opener sees Stamps lose to Argos
Calgary Sun-- Stamps sloppy out of gate
The final match up of the CFL kickoff weekend, featured the Eskimos and the Riders, a game which on paper as they say should have been a thumping for the Riders.
However, as we are oft reminded, you do still have to play the game on the field and play the game Edmonton did. The Eskimos waited out the pre game hail storm and then provided rookie head coach Kavis Reid with his debut win, a stellar performance on both offence and defence which staked the Esks to a 42 to 28 victory.
In the early part it seemed as though the game was going to be a typical Western Conference shootout, but as the third quarter got underway the Eskimos began to take control of the game, their defense shutting down the Riders attack, while the offence led by Ricky Ray continued to put points on the board.
The Esks in fact never trailed in the game, as Ray completed three touchdown passes, the running game and the foot of Damon Duval provided the remainder of the scoring.
The key to the Eskimo victory was there ability to stop Darian Durant when it mattered most, picking off three passes at key points in the game to snuff out Rider drives.
The Eskimos can continue to lay claim to the top spot on the West with a victory over Hamilton on Saturday, also on Saturday, the Riders meet the Alouettes in a Grey Cup rematch.
Globe and Mail-- Ricky Ray leads Eskimos past Riders
National Post-- Eskimos kick off season with win over Roughriders
Canada.com-- Eskimos open season with surprising win over Riders
Edmonton Journal-- Edmonton Eskimos beat Saskatchewan Roughriders 42-28
Edmonton Sun-- Esks No. 1!