|1. CALGARY STAMPEDERS[Unchanged]|
Overall record: 8-1
Streak: Won 4
Next: at Edmonton
Everyone was talking about the stud defence on Monday but there was an offensive number that catches the eye: 444 - the number of yards the White Stallions amassed while ripping the Edmonton defence to shreds. This was supposed to be a battle between two good protective units, but it turned out one wasn't up to the challenge. The Stamps simply shattered the Eskimo linebackers, amassing 205 yards on the ground, 163 of them from RB Jon Cornish who is back up to speed after missing most of the sked so far with concussion. There was a feeling that if Calgary had needed more points, they simply would have scored them. QB Bo Levi Mitchell is 11-1 as a starter to begin his career and he led a well balanced attack (28 rushing, 29 passing plays). Defensively, the Stamps allowed Edmonton under 25 minutes possession, 15 first downs and 273 yards. An impressive effort. Shame about those signature uniform helmets.
|2. SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS [Unchanged]|
Overall record: 7-2
Streak: Won 6
Next: at Winnipeg
Round 1 of the back-to-back went to Saskatchewan despite a defence that fell asleep for four minutes in the third quarter and almost gave it away. Up 21-7, the Riders allowed the Bombers a long drive, strongly abetted by 20 yards in silly penalties. Then the special-team tacklers flailed at a returner for 64 yards and it was a tie game. That's the third straight game they've given up a TD return. Enter Darian Durant, playing with a sore throwing hand. He was great, first hitting Taj Smith with a 59-yard major then taking the Riders on a surgical nine play scoring drive with that ate up most of the final three minutes. Durant wasn't right, and you could tell (14 of 26), but he was right on when the time called for it. He had an excellent run game to turn to, and that pounded out 160 yards. Despite the snooze, the defence piled up four sacks and held Winnipeg in check most of the game. The Riders have to close those holes on special teams or next time they might not get away with this.
|3. EDMONTON ESKIMOS [Unchanged]|
Overall record: 7-2
Streak: Lost 1
Next: vs. Calgary
Blast those Stampeders. Just when everything was coming up roses in the City of Former Champions, Calgary had to come and stomp all over the flowers. Not just any stomping, either. The defence gave up those 444 yards and could do nothing to keep Jon Cornish under control (the size of the holes straight up the middle were shocking). The offence had more of an excuse because QB Mike Reilly was not, after all, ready to play with his thumb injury so the tough task fell to Matt Nichols again. His attack came up with some yards, but just two field goals. The touchdown came off special teams thanks to a blocked punt. You also need protection and three sacks didn't help Nichols. He did have a nice day with Adarius Bowman, the league's top receiver, who had eight more for 12 yards (742 this season). If Reilly is back this week for the return match, at least it will give the Eskimos a running threat back there. Special team mistakes created two big plays, that blocked punt, and a fourth quarter contacting the kicker error just as Edmonton was getting the ball back.
|4. B.C. LIONS [Unchanged - BYE]|
Overall record: 5-4
Streak: Lost 1
Next: at Ottawa
What a nice way for Travis Lulay to work his way back up to speed, starting his first game since off-season shoulder surgery put him back seven games by taking on the Redblacks. He's been working in slowly behind Kevin Glenn, but expect him at the controls this week. What he'll find in Ottawa is a competitive defence, but not one that should keep the club from scoring enough points to get the win. Statistically, that will be 16. Solomon Elimimian, linebacker extraordinaire, may not play after suffering a hamstring injury in the last outing. The D should be more than enough for the Redblacks anyway. Inconsistency has been biting these Lions on a regular basis and since another 5-4 run may be the least needed to make the playoffs as the fourth place cross over, they'll have to find themselves in a hurry.
|5. WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS [Unchanged]|
Overall record: 6-4
Streak: Lost 1
Next: vs. Saskatchewan
You have to like a team that finds a way to stay in games they shouldn't be winning. This time it was because the Riders gave them a small opening in the third period and the Bombers charged right through it. That bodes well for the future. Winnipeg was outplayed for most of this weekend's opener of the two-game set, but led it twice in the last quarter on field goals by Lirim Hajrullahu. Speaking of opening, the Blue and Gold did that nicely, pinning the Riders in their own end for the first quarter but came out with just seven points because Drew Willy threw an end zone interception. Saskatchewan took over from there and built a lead. Bombers clawed back. Troy Stoudermire is a heck of a pickup isn't he? A breakaway run back threat means you are never completely out of a game. The offence just isn't consistent enough right now, and that has to be corrected.
|6. HAMILTON TIGER-CATS[Up from 7]|
Overall record: 2-6
Streak: Won 1
Next: at Montreal
No idea if the enthusiasm can be replicated regularly, but the opener at Tim Hortons Field was colourful and exciting in a beauty of a new facility. That's even with some of the construction still to be finished. Kitties came out with claws extended on defence, as you'd expect, and gave Ricky Ray and his minor league receiving corps absolutely nothing. With no vertical passing game at all from Toronto, the D just cheated up without worrying about the back door being open. The offence, under the returned Zach Collaros (27 of 38, 317 yards), moved the ball nicely at times but shot itself in each of its four paws. They fumbled on the goal line, fumbled while killing the clock on the final drive, took a bunch of holding calls and had a couple of key drops that might have been TDs. Ah, who cares, for now. Cats needed a win in the worst of ways and they found one for their long-suffering fans, to whom they awarded the game ball. Great choice.
|7. TORONTO ARGONAUTS[Down from 6]|
Overall record: 3-7
Streak: Lost 3
Suddenly it was Labour Day, 1975. The Argos defence was playing well, kicker Swayze Waters was doing an even better Zenon Andrusyshyn impression than the old Big Zee himself, and the offence stank the joint out. Here's Darian Durant's receiving corps this week with the Riders: Bagg, Dressler, Smith, Getzlaf, Swain. Here's Ricky Ray's: Adams, Guy, Bradwell, Barnes, Adjei. You see the problem. With a week off, Chad Owens and Andre Durie are due back and NFL final cuts are available, so there is no excuse for the club to field the kind of group they paraded in front of the paying customers in Hamilton. Ray was forced to crawl ... crawl, mind you ... up to 50,000 yards thrown in his career. They don't block well right now, either. Waters was superb, putting consecutive punts inside the Hamilton one (don't think I've ever seen that. It is time for ownership to spend some money on players because it's becoming embarrassing.
|8. MONTREAL ALOUETTES[Unchanged]|
Overall record: 2-7
Streak: Won 1
Next: vs. Hamilton
The Jonathon Crompton Experience made its second appearance this weekend in Montreal and thanks to a decent back up group the Larks were a hit. The QB threw for 15 completions, 245 yards and a pick while leading a balanced attack that featured 100 yards from RB Brandon Whitaker (and a fumble into the end zone that ruined a drive) and five catches for 127 yards from Duron Carter. Any game that features those two over 100 is one Montreal can win. Overall, the offence piled up 183 yards on the ground, led by an offensive line that did not give up a sack. Als came into this one last in first downs and first in two and outs, but they ground out a win against a defence that's been playing all right. As for their own defenders, the Larks were on the field just over 25 minutes for the second time in a row. That's pretty good. It will be some weeks to see if the recent improvements are an illusion.
|9. OTTAWA REDBLACKS[Unchanged]|
Overall record: 1-8
Streak: Lost 6
Next: vs. B.C.
Some of the Ottawa fans are getting a mite testy (why, is beyond me) and they're turning their attentions on QB Henry Burris. Let's see, you take a top level driver and put him in a 1971 Ford Pinto and then wonder why he can't get any speed out of it. But lo, the RBs problem on offence must be the fault of the guy with more than 53,000 in passing yards and 330 touchdowns. Must be. Burris was 21 for 34, 245 yards and a touchdown this week. He cajoled those yards out of it, sacked three times and hurried all game. (Backup QB Thomas DeMarco is out for the year with a torn ligament, by the way.) At the same time, there were 16 penalties - too many offside and procedure calls, and too many caused by an inability to make plays legally so you stick out a hand and take a face mask. In short, about what you'd expect from a first-year club. Good game from Travis Brown, who had five tackles (three on specials) and a pick. GM Marcel Desjardins will use the rest of the season trying guys out, especially receivers. Ottawa scouts will flood Canadian university games looking for 2015 talent.
Follow Malcolm Kelly on Twitter @sportsnag
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