"There are three types of lies: Lies, damn lies, and statistics."
As you know I like to start every column I write with quotes by Benjamin Disraeli. Hey, who doesn't think about 200 year old British Prime Ministers/Literary greats when recalling a fantastic CFL game between the two best teams in the league? Exactly, no one.
Now if you just looked at the final box score between Calgary and Saskatchewan you would see a Stampeders 42-27 victory. This statistic could easily lead you to believe that this game was a blow out. That of course would be a lie, a big lie to be more accurate. This was the most compelling game so far of the season, a clash between two elite squads.
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So what made a game decided by 15 points so entertaining? The answer lies in all the different individual storylines that played out. Let's start with the losing team (sorry there has to be one, this isn't some kids soccer game where you're all winners!) the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
This game would have been a complete dud if not for the Roughriders' collective mental toughness. Trailing 16-0early and 26-7 at the half you never saw them quit, instead they just kept fighting back. What made their comeback so fascinating was the manner in which they did it. The usual script for this scenario is to come out guns a blazing, pass on every down, play desperate and hope you catch fire and hit on some big plays to reverse the momentum.
As we all saw, Coach Corey Chamblin elected to go in a different direction. Instead of going for a knockout out punch, Saskatchewan weakened Calgary's defence with a steady stream of body blows in the form of Kory Sheets. With just four yards and a lost fumble (Hey look, a Saskatchewan offensive turnover!) who could have predicted Sheets' second half impact?
Now while I did question the validity of statistics to start this column, there are some numbers that are simply hard to ignore. Everyone knows the obvious stat: Sheets had 12 carries for 137 rushing yards in the second half.
What makes that number all the more impressive is of those 12 carries, only one was for less than five yards, and that single attempt was for four. Sheets reminds me of a faster, smaller version of Jerome Messam in the way his physicality just wears on opponents.
On one of his third quarter runs I thought he embarrassed poor Brandon Smith. Now, there is a reason why Sheets has a legitimate shot to break the all-time rushing record: Ben Heenan!
Now I couldn't write a column on what made this game so much fun without mentioning at least one offensive lineman, I feel like I'm contractually obligated to do so. Chris Schultz made it clear on the 'CFL on TSN' panel the other day that he believes Heenan is the most underrated player in the league.
Saskatchewan's second half may have been keyed by the power of Sheets but it all started with a Heenan block on the first play from scrimmage of the third quarter, a 32-yard run. If you go back and watch, Heenan from his right tackle position, took out about seven Stampeder defensive linemen by my "very accurate" count. Seriously though it was the best block of the night.
Finally, I was impressed with the maturity of Darian Durant. Much like the team he did not panic. Beyond a brutal end zone throw that Keon Raymond somehow dropped, Durant played the sort of game Saskatchewan needed. Two plays stick out for me and neither was a touchdown pass.
In the 2nd quarter on a 1st & 20 situation, Durant scrambled around, waiting and eventually hit Rob Bagg for 18 yards making for a manageable 2nd and short situation. I call this the "porridge is just right" sort of play. Follow me on this Goldilocks theme.
The easy play (porridge=cold) would have been to run for about five yards, the defence was giving him that. The dangerous play (porridge=hot) would have been to force something deep and try to get back all 20 yards on one play. Durant though chose the "porridge is just right" smart play. Two plays later Saskatchewan scored a touchdown.
The other play happened in the third quarter and I'll call it a "courage under fire" sort of moment. Down by 16, facing 2nd & 5 on Calgary's nine yard line, Saskatchewan needed a touchdowns, not field goals. Somewhere between the immediate pass rush from Freddie Bishop III (Great name!) and getting hit by Raymond just after releasing the ball, Durant manages to hit Bagg in a short window for nine yards, first down. They would score a touchdown on the next play.
Saskatchewan has made it a one score game, it's the fourth quarter, so it's time for Calgary to feed the Roughriders' secondary a hearty serving of Lewis. The box score will tell you Kevin Glenn threw three straight pass to Lewis for a total of 60 yards with the final catch resulting in a touchdown.
What the numbers don't tell you is how those three plays were just simple slants and out patterns yet it is Lewis' combination of intelligence and bizarre athleticism that makes it all work. I could watch Glenn hitting Lewis in stride on a quick slant all day, I'm guessing Coach Chamblin and the rest of his staff is doing the same thing right now.
Finally this game was a reminder of what veterans can do when put in a position to succeed. I love seeing Glenn do well. I can't remember the last quarterback who has faced such uncertainty about his job status perform as consistently well as Glenn. In my weekly fantasy contest, Cauz vs. Canada, I will never pick Glenn or for that matter any Stampeder quarterback.
Not because they aren't worthy selections I just never know who will be starting. A couple of times Glenn ran up the middle with complete abandon to get first downs, to keep drives alive. You can tell he's no where close to 100 per cent and yet still he is willing to get smacked by Tyron Brackenridge. There is a reason we in sports media throw around the cliché "That guys a warrior". Glenn is deserving of that over used phrase.
There is one stat that will tell you this game was not worth watching, the 16 point margin of victory for Calgary. But there were countless plot twists, big plays and redemption angles that made this game so much more than a paint by numbers blowout.
Matthew Cauz is the Weekend Host for 'GAME DAY' on TSN 1050 Radio. Previously, he was a producer and football analyst for SUN TV where he appeared regularly on the “Casino Rama Grill Room” and he spent seven years working for TSN's “Off The Record”. Follow Matthew on Twitter @mcauz56.