It's a doubleheader of CFL action tonight when the Hamilton Ticats host the Montreal Alouettes and the Edmonton Eskimos travel to Calgary to face the Stampeders. Coverage gets underway tonight at 7pm et/4pm pt on TSN and TSN Mobile TV. You can also join our game night blog on TSN.ca, to talk with fellow CFL fans about tonight's action.
Ticats vs. Alouettes
Firmly in control of the East Division standings, the Montreal Alouettes try to put even more distance between themselves and the competition as they take on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday night at Ivor Wynne Stadium.
Since losing back-to-back games versus Hamilton and Toronto in July, the Als have rattled off six wins in seven opportunities in order to assume the top spot in the division where they hold a four-point advantage over the Argonauts heading into play this week.
Montreal had some spirited play from several sources in the 31-10 triumph over Toronto last week, as Anthony Calvillo moved beyond 77,000 passing yards for his career as he converted 15-of-29 passes for 315 yards and a couple of touchdowns, as well as a pair of interceptions. Although he failed to make it into the end zone, Brandon London delivered his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season with five receptions for 118 yards.
S.J. Green finished with just 58 yards on two catches for the Als, but that was still good enough to push him over the 1,000-yard mark for the second year in a row. A relative newcomer to the program, Victor Anderson scored a pair of majors for the Als, one on the ground and another through the air, becoming yet one more weapon for Calvillo to have at his disposal.
But perhaps the most exciting play of the game came on a missed 41-yard field goal attempt by Swayze Waters which was returned by Trent Guy a record 129 yards up the right sideline early in the third quarter. Guy also logged a nine-yard TD reception in the second quarter which capped a seven-play, 80- yard drive for the Alouettes.
As for the Tiger-Cats, a team which started the season with three wins in five tries but has since hit the skids with just one more victory in seven opportunities, they were held to a mere 237 yards by Winnipeg last time out in a 34-12 road defeat.
Now four games under .500, Hamilton is in third place in the East Division standings after Henry Burris led an inept offensive effort that failed to produce a single major. In fact, the entire scoring total came from kicker Luca Congi who knocked through all four of his field goal tries in the outing.
Burris finished 11-of-24 for 156 yards and was sacked three times. Avon Cobourne was stymied as well as he carried the ball 18 times for 77 yards and also caught three passes for another 33 yards but was held out of the end zone.
Penalties played a huge role in the outcome as Hamilton was flagged 17 times for 135 yards.
Burris is still second in the league in total passing yards, trailing only Calvillo (3,711), with his 3,520 yards, but it just goes to show that even the best quarterbacks are capable of having disappointing outings. In fact, Burris remains the league's top passer in terms of TD tosses with 27, leading him to a CFL-best 104.2 efficiency rating and yet his team can't buy a win these days.
Because of the efforts of Burris, Hamilton leads the league in scoring with 30.0 ppg entering play this week. However, at the same time the squad is last in the CFL in preventing points, giving up 31.8 ppg which is difficult to overcome.
Burris has had several top-notch efforts against Montreal in his career and in recent matchups he has performed rather well from an overall stats standpoint with a total of 14 passing TDs and just three interceptions in his last six appearances.
Calvillo, who has thrown more than one interception just once in his career versus Hamilton, has also built some strong numbers in recent meetings. Over the last four encounters with Hamilton, Calvillo has thrown for no less than 329 yards and has a total of 10 touchdowns, against just a single interception so if the Tiger-Cats are expecting pro football's all-time passing yardage leader to hand them a gift this week, they are sorely mistaken.
Montreal barely slipped by with a 31-29 victory in the most recent meeting at home last month against the 'Cats, which means the Als now own an 88-78-7 advantage in the all-time, regular-season series dating back to 1950. Montreal has won three of the last four clashes overall.
Stampders vs. Eskimos
The Edmonton Eskimos try to figure out how to get back into the win column for the first time in a month as they challenge the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium on Friday night.
Unfortunately for the Eskimos, the team is at a crucial point in the season and isn't even sure who the starting quarterback will be for this outing. Both regular starter Steven Jyles and backup Kerry Joseph have dealt with injuries and because of that, as well as inconsistent play, third-stringer Matt Nichols was the one getting the majority of the practice time at quarterback.
Edmonton head coach Kavis Reed has been forced to juggle quarterbacks, depending on their health and level of success, which is why seeing Nichols this week may not be that much of a stretch.
Against British Columbia last week, the Esks nearly upset the top team in the league, but ended up suffering a 19-18 home loss nonetheless when the offense became stagnant in the second half. Jyles, who went the distance for the Eskimos, converted 17-of-27 passes for 222 yards and a score of Cary Koch of 27 yards in the second quarter, but the signal-caller was picked off once and sacked four times in the setback as well.
Hugh Charles accounted for one rushing score as he finished with 33 yards on six attempts for a so-called rushing attack that managed just 85 yards on 16 attempts as Edmonton lost for the fourth straight time and the fifth in the last six outings.
As for the Stampeders, they had their four-game win streak snapped by Saskatchewan on the road, 30-25, in week 13 action. Kevin Glenn converted 24- of-38 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns, both to Marquay McDaniel, but he too was picked off once and buried on four sacks in the decision.
Nik Lewis, who now needs just five more receiving yards to move into 14th place on the all-time CFL list, responded with five catches for 61 yards for Calgary last week. Jon Cornish responded with a game-high 67 rushing yards on 12 attempts, but not all the news recently has been positive for the league's top running back who has compiled 947 yards and seven touchdowns on 164 carries.
On Monday, the league announced it had fined Cornish an undisclosed amount for his inappropriate conduct towards CFL fans during the meeting with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Head coach and Stampeders GM John Hufnagel expressed his disappointment in the behavior of Cornish and has said that he too will discipline the running back. Whether that action has any bearing on this week's outing remains to be seen.
With 1,118 yards from scrimmage this season, Cornish has become a mainstay on an offense that needs to be on the field for the Stamps to succeed. Sure, the team can probably get along without him for a spell, but they'd rather have him at their disposal rather than have to plan for someone else to carry the load coming out of the backfield.
Certainly Glenn would prefer to have Cornish ready and available whenever he needs him, even though the signal-caller is having a decent season with an efficiency rating of 96.7 and is already within three passing touchdowns of his entire total from last season. Glenn's last four games against Edmonton have been met with mixed results, throwing for no more than 273 yards in any one of those contests and having six interceptions, against just four majors through the air.
While Calgary knows full well who will be starting at quarterback this time around, the Eskimos have to hope that whomever is under center for them will be ready to get the ball moving, unlike previous games against the Stamps this season. Stats don't always paint a clear picture of a team's level of success or failure, but seeing that Edmonton has scored a combined three points in the first and third quarters against the Stamps this season is by no means a good sign for the visitors this time around.
Edmonton, which is due to host Calgary in the final regular-season game of 2012 in early November, owns a 123-84-3 record in the all-time, regular-season between the clubs. However, the Esks came up short in the most recent matchup back on Sept. 7 by a score of 20-18 which means Calgary has taken three in a row and nine of the last 11 meetings.