July 15th, 2024

Bo shines in return, don’t blame the microchips

By Lethbridge Herald on June 13, 2024.

Graham Kelly 

Inside the CFL


The word of the day for Calgary’s home opener last Friday was relief. Relief that the game wasn’t cancelled due to the local water emergency; relief that the home team won 31-24, and relief that former favourite son Bo Levi Mitchell received a warm welcome on his return with the Hamilton Ti-Cats and relief that he played well.

On a gorgeous night before a disappointing crowd of 19,741 the Stamps hung on to win. Bo wasn’t helped by untimely drops at key moments. He played like an elite quarterback.

The major controversy of opening week was microchips in footballs. The technology is designed to advance statistics through Genuine Sports, the league’s technology partner.

In Winnipeg’s Thursday loss to Montreal, Bomber kicker Sergio Castillo who missed two field goals and a convert, blamed the microchip. Rene Paredes was perfect vs. Hamilton with six field goals and two converts. Technology is changing the game. I prefer the days like the 1970 Western Final in Regina when a Paredes predecessor Larry Robinson, in a raging blizzard, aimed 10 feet wide, closed his eyes and kicked the Stamps into the Grey Cup.

The micro chip controversy obviously had no effect on the great 14-year veteran Paredes. But his six three-pointers also indicated the persistence of a Stampeder problem that dogged them last year: the inability to finish drives with touchdowns.

Another poblem they had during their 2023 6-12 season was fourth-quarter collapses. The Tabbies scored two majors in the late going and could argue they lost because they just ran out of time. So despite the win, Dave Dickenson’s posse still has a lot of work to do.

But back to Bo. It has been a tough couple of years for the two-time winner of the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player Award who led Calgary to four Grey Cup appearances, 2014, ’16, ’17 ’18, winning the first and last contests.

In 2022 he started the first nine games but then John Hufnagel and Dave Dickenson decided to bench him in favour of the much younger and cheaper Jake Maier. At 32, it looked like his career was over. But Hamilton signed him in January 2023. On the first game of the regular season he got hurt. He returned eight games later but went down again.

In all, he started six games for the Cats. Once again it seemed he was done, but there he was, back in old familiar haunts, this time starting for the visiting Easterners.

He had an excellent evening throwing for 300 yards, completing 27 of 38, one TD, one interception. Said Bo to the assembled media after the game: “We started a bit slow but I got locked in during the second half and played better.” (He had only 77 yards passing in the opening 30 minutes, marred by too many men and procedure penalties, typical opening night jitters.)

Trouble was when he engineered a touchdown, his defence couldn’t shut the Stampeders down.

When I visited with Bo privately in the dressing room and congratulated him on a fine performance, he shook his head and said, “I had an interception. We can be better.” But I could tell with the little grin he game me, he was delighted with his return to McMahon Stadium and relieved he played so well. Heck, he even amazed his former fans by running three times for 36 yards!

Of course, the oft-criticized Jake Maier was overshadowed by the return to the Bow of the Bo. But he showed improvement to the point he was named CFL Player of the Week. He moved around much better than in the past, looking as if he had lost weight. He, too, was pleased with his performance.

“When they scored points, we answered them with a really good drive,” he observed in his scholarly fashion. “I don’t know if you could say that about last year’s team. That was really fulfilling for us to get that done.”

Calgary ventures into B.C. Saturday night to face a wounded pride of Lions that lost to an obscure quarterback in Toronto. The home opener will be preceded by a rock concert and more than 50,000 fans are expected to stay when the music dies and cheer their football heros on. Leo dominance over the Stampeders should continue.

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