CFL West final: Stampeders should silence Roughriders | Football | CBC Sports

CFLCFL West final: Stampeders should silence Roughriders

Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2013 | 10:42 AM

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Jon Cornish (9) of the Stampeders eludes the grasp of Dwight Anderson in a 42-27 victory over the Roughriders on Aug. 9. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press) Jon Cornish (9) of the Stampeders eludes the grasp of Dwight Anderson in a 42-27 victory over the Roughriders on Aug. 9. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

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CBC Sports football contributor Malcolm Kelly explains why he thinks the Calgary Stampeders will beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Sunday's CFL West Division final.  

By the time Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Corey Chamblin told his players to put a cork in it when it came to trash talking the Calgary Stampeders, the White Stallion was already long out of the barn and galloping through the Heartland to the Fleming ranch (I should be paid extra for these CBC promo things).

So...

The host Calgary Stampeders (14-4) will defeat the Saskatchewan Roughriders (11-7) in Sunday's West Division final at McMahon Stadium and advance to the 101st Grey Cup.

We take you back to the pre-game moments of Week 18, when Stampeders running back Jon Cornish was keeping his legs loose on the stationary bike while staring coldly across the field from the sideline. He had the look of a hunter who has found his foe and is now merely waiting for the opportunity.

You see, a few weeks earlier Roughriders running back Kory Sheets had offered the on-the-record opinion that "Everybody knows that I'm the better back than he is ..."

Mr. Cornish refused to take the bait, publicly. But he made his point on that Week 18 night with 1:56 to go and Calgary trailing by three points. Taking the ball, he was hit on the five-yard line, from where he bulled three of the best defenders in the CFL - Alex Hall, Ty Brackenridge and Ricky Foley, who had him by the leg - into the end zone with him for the winning score.

Point made.

Only, after that game gave the White Stallions first overall in the West, the Riders resident running mouth Dwight Anderson said this: "We're coming here and we're going to beat them, period. We're the better team. Calgary sucks."

Eeeyup.

On such small things do playoff games often turn. And when you consider these two teams matchup nicely against each other, it's only going to take a few of them.

If the two Riders had kept their mouths in check, we might have picked Saskatchewan to win this and go home to host the 101st Grey Cup with a chance to win the chalice for, let's see ... oh yes, the fourth time in 19 championship appearances.

Especially given the injury woes Calgary now faces.

When Marquay McDaniel, the Stamps' top receiver, went down for the year in the meaningless Week 19 game, it was evened out by Saskatchewan losing slotback Chris Getzlaf the week before. But the Cowtown boys were further devastated inside the defensive line when tackles Demonte' Bolden and Micah Johnson both suffered knee injuries and won't be seen again until next June. How do you replace that this late in the year?

Possibly with roommates Earl Okine and Freddie Bishop III coming off the practice roster. It might also be Oren Wilson. But none of them are going to be as good and that opens more holes (as we circle our partners round and round) for Mr. Sheets.

Cornish (1,813 rushing yards) and Sheets (1,598) were the best two runners in the league this year and the latter actually was about 50 yards better overall in the three head-to-heads between Calgary and Saskatchewan.

Jon was better than Kory in that final game when it mattered and, even with three early turnovers in the backfield, Cornish kept his cool (not always his nature) on the Calgary sideline.

Sheets, on the other hand, got into a screaming match with Riders offensive co-ordinator George Cortez, who seems determined to outcoach himself with his play calling, when the runner felt he wasn't being run enough.

You can easily imagine the Stamps going, "Hey, if we can just stop Sheets a bit in the early going, maybe he'll really lose it with Cortez."

Meanwhile, the quarterbacking situation is fascinating.

In one corner, you have Darian Durant, who always seems one bad game away from being banished out of Regina as kicker Paul McCallum once was (and how did that go, Rider fans?).

Durant's always been a favourite of this column and that final series in last week's West semifinal, when he ran for 41 yards against the B.C. Lions before tossing the winning touchdown to seal the deal showed, again, he is a big-game leader. Overall, Durant's thrown for 738 yards in three contests against Calgary, including six TDs and just one pick.

In the other corner, you have the now two-headed beast of veteran Kevin Glenn and Drew Tate, the young slinger back from a long injury layoff. 

Glenn is tabbed to start on Sunday. But Tate is especially interesting. Back in a Week 2 loss to the Riders, he looked pretty good, completing 19-of-25 pass attempts for 231 yards and two TDs prior to hurting his forearm.

Then, he had a strong second half in Week 18 against Saskatchewan and led the winning drive. In five-plus quarters versus the Green men this year, Tate was 30 of 41 for 422 yards. Watch that.

It's amazing how close these teams are statistically.

Both can sack. Calgary led 13-6 head-to-head in that and, yes, losing the two inside guys will hurt some. But most of their attack comes off the ends, led by Charleston Hughes. Both can run kicks back and both can tackle - they were each plus-19 in giveaway/takeaway to tie for league lead.

Which brings us to the conditions. The only real way to know the weather in Calgary is to look out the window. However, long-range forecasts say minus-17 with the wind chill, a touch of snow and a bit of wind. That means running. That means Cornish vs. Sheets. And a chance for one to really show who's best.

Says here, it will be Cornish. And the Stamps.

Last time these two met, it was the best game of the year. Expect more of the same on Sunday.

Post-season record: 1-1

Follow Malcolm Kelly on Twitter @sportsnag

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