June 20th, 2024

Inside the CFL: Calgary has the edge against B.C.

By Lethbridge Herald on November 4, 2022.

Graham Kelly

Inside the CFL


The B.C. Lions got off to a rip-roaring start before their sensational young Canadian quarterback Nathan Rourke was hurt Aug. 19 in Regina. He surprised many by returning  from surgery for the 2022 finale in Winnipeg. A meaningless game,  head coach Rick Campbell played him against the first string Bomber defence until two minutes into the second quarter.  He went 7/11 for 68 yards. Has he shed the rust accumulated over eleven weeks, has he regained his timing?  If the answer is yes, Calgary will have their hands full Sunday. If not, the Lions will be easy pickings. 

     While Rourke was gone, the Lions lost wide receivers Lucky Whitehead and Bryan Burnham to injury. Both will be in the semi-final lineup.         

     How do the teams match up?

    There is little to choose from between them. Both had 12-6 records with the Lions hosting the semi-final after winning the season series.  B.C. won the first two games in Calgary 31-29 and 41-40, the Stamps winning 25-11 in Vancouver.

     Calgary was first in points scored, B.C. second.  The Lions led in total offence, the Stampeders 11 yards per game behind. B.C. was No. 2 in second down conversions, Calgary 2% behind.  Both averaged seven yards per play. They say football games are won in the trenches. Calgary allowed the fewest sacks in the CFL,17, B.C. was 5th, giving up 39.  The Stamps topped the league with 50 sacks, B.C. was third with 45.  But here’s the thing.

     B.C. did not record a single sack in their three games with Calgary. Not one. The Stamps had eleven against the Leos. If this pattern persists Sunday, the Crowchild Crew will be off to Winnipeg.  

     Defensively, Calgary gave up 397 points, B.C.  8 more,.  There was a three yard difference in total yardage surrendered.        B.C. had the better pass defence, Calgary 7th. However, Calgary was hit hard by injuries to the secondary and has tightened up considerably. 

     Sean Whyte was tops in field goals, Rene Paredes second. Calgary’s Cody Grace is the best punter.  The Albertans were first in punt returns and were substantially better than the Lions at returning kick-offs, vital for field position.  

     I’m giving the advantage to Calgary in special teams and defence.  What about the offence? 

      Cowboy Ka’Deem Carey and Lion James Butler,  were first and second in CFL rushing. But over the last few games, Dave Dickenson has unleashed another outstanding ball carrier in Derek Mill, who is averaging 75 yards per game.  Almost as good is No. 3, Peyton Logan.   If Calgary can get a lead they will be able to control the clock and the game. During the season, Time of possession was essentially even.

              B.C.’s hopes lie with Nathan Rourke.  They can’t win with Vernon Adams, Jr. If Rourke  returns to form, he is  is better than Jake Maier. Captain Canada loves the long bomb and is good at it. Three of the league’s top receivers, Dominique Rhymes, Keon Hatcher and Lucky Whitehead are Lions and Burnham is better than all of them. But Calgary allowed the fewest big plays in the league. 

     Calgary hasn’t been able field a strong receiving  corps all season.  Their top gun is Malik Henry who missed the last five games. He needs to return and join play maker Reggie Begelton. 

     Calgary’s ace-in-the hole may be Bo Levi Mitchell if Maier falters or goes down. But will Dave Dickenson  put him in, rather than the super runner but super green third string QB Tom Stevens.? What a story that would be, the  soon to depart Mitchell coming off the bench and  leading his team to a shot at Grey Cup glory!

      During the regular season, the Calgary Stampeders couldn’t finish at times.  They often faltered in the rnd-zone settling for field goals.  They took field position killing special teams penalties  The only Eastern opponent they lost to was Hamilton who beat them with 13 seconds left on the clock.  That loss cost them second place and the opportunity to host the semi-final.  Have they learned their lesson? 

      It should come down to line play.  If the Stamps’  D line can get to Rourke, and the  O-line continues to open gaping holes for Casey and Mills and render B.C. sackless,  Calgary will win. 

     Home field advantage?  Nah, Calgary likes playing there.

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