Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bo can throw, Bo can run; on Opening Day the Stamps had lots of fun!

It's only one game into a lengthy CFL season, but opening day for the Calgary Stampeders provided some impressive themes for the hometown crowd to chew on.

The faithful appeared split when head coach John Hufnagel announced Bo Levi Mitchell as the Stamps starter for 2014, a good segment of Calgary fans firmly in the Drew Tate camp, however with a bit of an assist from a strong Alberta wind, Mitchell seemingly channeling the days of Peter Liske, showcased an aerial attack that had McMahon Stadium buzzing early into the first half of Saturday's game.

A spectacular 100 plus pass and catch pattern with Mo Price set the pace early for the Stampeders, launching Mitchell's status as starter in a pretty impressive style. Later in the half, the Stamps QB provided for some fancy footwork, a short deke and a ramble down the field to pick up some yardage offering up some diversity to the Stampeder air attack.

He made good use of running back Jon Cornish through the game, providing Canada's athlete of the year some solid touches of the football.  His play on the day however marred by a nasty and controversial hit by the Als' Kyries Hebert, the result of which at one point appeared to leave the Calgary crowd fearing that Cornish would have to be taken off the field by ambulance.

The collective sigh of relief was clear as the Stamps back finally took to his feet, to walk off to the sidelines, while Hebert was banished from the remainder of the game and perhaps for a bit longer.

Hebert, might want to possibly go ahead and make some plans for the Quebec mountainside for a portion of July, as his ugly hit on Jon Cornish probably guarantees him at least a review from the CFL head office and maybe a bit of down time.

The Stamps total offence on the day provided for impressive numbers, with Mitchell finding the aerial range for over 300 yards in passing, the Stamps picking up their pace through quarters two, three and four on their way to a convincing 29 to 8 victory.

Clearly the post training camp message from Stamps coach Hufnagel's was heard, the Stamps firing out of the locker room to take the play to the Als in the season opener, a very different impression than that delivered just a week ago in their final tune up match with the Lions.

For Montreal, the pre season woes continued on into the first regular season game. The Als offence a major concern, the legend of Anthony Calvillo's career work looming large over a Montreal team that doesn't appear quite comfortable with it's new rebuilding theme.

Clearly, it all is very much a work in progress, with Troy Smith still working to find his comfort zone with the Alouettes game plan.

There were glimpses of what could be with the promise of Chad (Ochocinco) Johnson to showcase in the league, his path to the CFL grabbed a fair amount of the attention in the pre season, though to his credit he time and time again he offered up caution amid his observations on his new adventure.

However, for all his NFL experience, the CFL is clearly a new game for the star receiver, the quirks of the play, the larger expanse of the field and the pace of the game all aspects that will no doubt take a little bit of time to adjust to.

Though as Vicki Hall of the Calgary Herald was first to advise the football world, Johnson's first statistic in the CFL would be that of a tackle. Somehow, we imagine that Als fans will be more interested in pass receptions, yardage and Touchdowns once the full season review is complete.

For Tom Higgins, the challenge of rebuilding the one time perennial contenders looms large, there were signs of concern for all aspects of the Alouette game, defensive miscues provided the Stamps with much opportunity to add to their lead.

Issues of on field discipline would appear to be something that will require attention, the Als were guilty of a number of plays that resulted in penalties, a feature of their game that left the Als playing from behind through the day, with the expected scoreboard result.

When it came to watching that scoreboard, the Als coaching staff had but one opportunity to see major points arrive on their portion of the McMahon stadium board, with the Als scoring their lone touchdown on the day, on the final play of the game.

A short burst of offence, long after the Stamps had put the game away. The more lasting image for Higgins and his coaches will be the stalled drives and lost opportunities.

When both coaches review their film from Day One of the new campaign, Hufnagel will find much to like on the play of the Stamps. The stumbles through prep-season long forgotten now that there are points up for grabs and standings to track.

Down Montreal way, the focus for Tom Higgins will be on correction. He and his coaches clearly have a fair amount of work to do in Montreal should they hope to make the 2014 year a bounce back year from last years troubles.

So far, that task looms larger than evan perhaps on the first day of training camp, with one month of practices and now game time experience, the many flaws in the Als game plan are there for the viewing, it will be a long week in the film room for all units in Montreal.

A few reviews of the night can be found below:

Calgary Sun-- Calgary Stampeders win season-opener
Calgary Herald-- Clothesline hit rocks Cornish, sparks concussion fears
Montreal Gazette-- Punchless Montreal Alouettes fall prey Stampeders
TSN-- Stampeders Crush Alouettes, Los RB Cornish to Injury
CBC-- Stampeders thump Alouettes in season opener

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