Stat of the week!!!
Toronto's back-up quarterback, third-year player from Edinboro, Trevor Harris, had two special teams tackles. Never a good thing when that's happening. Although Harris did show us 400-metre strength, speed and endurance while tracking down the speedy returner from West Virginia, Jock Saunders, on the missed field goal return of 121 yards.
That play showcases how unpredictable and explosive our great brand of football can be here in Canada and also gives us an insight as to how you can make a bye week only two weeks into the season pay off. To ensure there were no blues, loss of continuity or complacency pertaining to the execution of schemes, the Stampeders coaching staff and players reloaded and actually extended their playbook.
This was evident on Saunder's missed field goal return. Coach Mark Kilam, in his tenth year coaching for the Stampeders, and fifth as special teams coordinator, had his return teams locked, loaded and dialed in, ready to pounce on this very opportunity.
Anticipating a missed field goal, a wall return left was executed like clock work. Saunders, while making an acrobatic catch on the errant field goal attempt as he was tight roping the very back of the end zone, started to his left and quickly became the beneficiary of his teammates' hustle and preparation. Before you knew it, Saunders, the first year Stampeder, was bursting down the sideline with Kilam himself not far behind. With sheer determination and athletic ability, Argonaut Harris, who was holding for third year kicker from Alabama-Birmingham, Swayze Waters, on the field goal attempt, somehow tracked down Saunders. Sometimes we see these extra effort and hustle plays pay off, but in this case the Stamps third year quarterback, from Eastern Washington, Bo Levi Mitchell cashed in quickly with a quick TD strike. Bang, ten-point swing just like that! Exciting and unpredictable. To have a designed missed field goal return implemented at this juncture of the season is one thing, but to be able to execute all the moving parts that are required in order to pull it off, is really heady stuff.
Another example of how Calgary used the extra prep time to their advantage was the direct snap to Saunders, throwback to Mitchell, chunk it over the top to Anthony Parker. This early in the season, teams are working diligently to find rhythm and consistency in the basics of their respective systems, let alone trying to master plays like the flea-flicker. Maybe Saunders was the only running back who had the ability to throw it back to Mitchell, but to have that play in the game plan at this stage and the way it was executed, is an indicator that Calgary had the extra time and spent it wisely.
If you still are not convinced that this extra week of prep time holds merit for teams and in this case the Stampeders, look to whom the Stamps had to replace in only their second game of the season. Missing was Jon Cornish, reigning Most Outstanding Player in the CFL and two electrifying receivers in Nik Lewis and Mo Price. The Stamps' offence found a way to survive and even thrive. Second year receiver from Texas A&M, Jeff Fuller flexed his athletic ability and found the end zone twice, picking up some of the slack. Fourth year receiver from University of Calgary, Anthony Parker seemed well versed and more at ease performing his responsibilities, contributing four catches for 101 yards and a score. Third year running back, also from the University of Calgary, Matt Walter continues to round out into form when given the opportunity.
I'd also say that Walter took on more of a work load than usual in this contest because of the added time the Stamps were afforded. Walter was involved downfield in the passing game on play 115 from scrimmage, a fake screen pass. This is when he releases out of the backfield giving the defence a look like he is going to block the defender who's covering the receiver faking the hitch screen and then at the last possible moment, he turns it up the rail as the defence bites on the screen. You see it all the time in the CFL but primarily with your starters executing these timing plays, not your back ups. Not a believer yet?
How about the Stampeders' defence shutting down the high powered offence of Toronto led by 12-year veteran quarterback from Sacramento State, Ricky Ray. Ray had his streak of ten games in a row throwing a touchdown pass broken. We are talking about an offence that put up 559 total yards of offence against the defending Grey Cup Champion Saskatchewan Roughriders' defence the week before and looked lethal. Defensive coordinator Rich Stubler had his men on point to where they held the Ray-led Argos out of the end zone for just the second time since Ray has been an Argo. Now I must say Ray and company moved the ball between the twenties but that's where the well devised defensive gameplan came into play. Don't give up the big play and make Toronto be patient series after series. In other words, play everything in front of you and rally to the ball. Certainly easier said than done, but the plan was implemented and well executed.
So an early quirk/bye in the schedule actually pays off for the Stampeders as they were able to prepare, plug and play players without missing a beat and actually extend a few of their philosophies and schemes in only Week 2 of the season. Calgary's next bye week is a long ways off, coming in Week 16. I'll bet you they will embrace that bye week as much and if not more than they did in Week 2!
Here's a look at the remaining bye weeks for each CFL team.
Week 1 Ottawa (makes sense to give them a bit more time)
Week 2 Calgary (see article above)
Week 3 Hamilton (able to get Masoli and LeFevour up to speed and Fantuz and Ellingson another week)
Week 4 Saskatchewan (ouch, a two-game losing streak going into this stretch is ugly)
Week 5 Montreal
Week 6 Edmonton
Week 7 Toronto (seems like they could use it now)
Week 8 None, that means somebody has to play twice during this week and that's Toronto
Week 9 Hamilton
Week 10 BC
Week 11 Toronto
Week 12 Ottawa
Week 13 Winnipeg
Week 14 Toronto (Damn, Toronto gets three, making up for Week 8)
Week 15 Montreal
Week 16 Calgary
Week 17 BC
Week 18 Edmonton
Week 19 Saskatchewan
Week 20 Winnipeg