MAC'S MAIN MAN
Nearing the halfway point of the CFL season, last year's East Division champions, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, needed to make a statement. Are they going to turn things around? Fade into oblivion because of injured quarterbacks and inconsistency?
Enter Joey Elliott.
The third-year import has more often than not been No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart. With starter Buck Pierce injured (as usual) and backup Alex Brink's mediocre play, one could forgive Winnipeg fans for not being overconfident at the thought of Elliott as the signal caller. After all, he has never thrown more than two touchdowns in a single season since entering the league.
Winnipeg was in desperate need of a saviour.
Even more daunting. the 26-year-old was going up against the dynamic Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who possess weapons on both sides of the ball. Supported by the solid rushing performance of running back Chad Simpson, Elliott was able to hunker down and not only stay competitive, but outduel veteran gunslinger Henry Burris.
Elliott completed 33 of 43 pass attempts for an incredible 406 yards and a touchdown. The most important stat for No. 14, however, was the big goose egg in the interception column. He stayed poised in the pocket and spread the ball around to five different receivers in a game that, if lost, could have put the Blue and Gold's playoff hopes out of reach.
But when the clock hit zero, it was Winnipeg standing tall, having collected only its second victory by a score of 32-25.
It doesn't get any easier for Elliott as he and the Blue Bombers host the red-hot B.C. Lions in a rematch of the 99th Grey Cup. Will Elliott be able to follow up a career performance with similar numbers and grab a firm hold of that elusive No. 1 pivot job? We will all find out Friday night.
-- Andy McNamara
The big story one week ago was the abrupt end to Cory Boyd's tenure with the Toronto Argonauts. Rumours swirled as to why the league's leading rushing was let go by the Double Blue.
While everyone had an opinion on the situation, the Boatmen's front office pointed the finger at Boyd's inability to block and pick up the blitz.
Chad Kackert was called upon to be quarterback Ricky Ray's right hand man in the backfield -- a position Kackert held before, when he stepped in for the injured Boyd last season.
During his stint as the primary back in the Argos lineup, Kackert put together solid numbers. However, his inability to hold on to the football made it easy for the coaching staff to turn back to Boyd for starter's minutes after recovering from his injury.
Now, with Boyd completely out of the picture, Kackert has the opportunity he wanted all along -- a starting spot in the lineup and, in his first act as feature back, the second-year runner did not blink.
Ray confidently handed the ball off to No. 44 and he turned in an A-plus game with 14 carries for 94 yards. Kackert was also a treat in the passing game, grabbing five balls for 41 yards. The biggest thing for Kackert was he held on to the ball, despite the numerous attempts from the Calgary Stampeders to rip the ball out of his hands.
All Kackert had to do was provide Ray with more time in the passing game, something the Argos claimed Boyd, the newest Edmonton Eskimo, could not. What Kackert did Saturday night was that and much more.
If the Double Blue can continue to get efforts from Kackert like they received in a 22-14 victory at Calgary, they'll have the tools they need to make an appearance in the post-season.
-- Carlan Gay
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