VANCOUVER -- The Stampeders and Lions will do battle under the bright lights of BC Place on Saturday night, as their second meeting of the season will decide, at least temporarily, first place in the West Division.
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For the Red and White, this weekend will be about revenge. The last time these teams met back at the end of July, the Stamps were embarrassed on their own turf at McMahon Stadium, falling 34-8 in their most lopsided loss of the season.
Since then they’ve won six of their last eight games, outscoring their opponents by an average of close to 12 points over that stretch. As we hit Week 15 and the regular season schedule winds down, suddenly the Stamps find themselves with another crack at the Lions – with a lot on the line.If the Stamps are certain of one thing, it’s that they’re a different team than they were back in July.
In that game, Travis Lulay threw for 315 yards and three touchdowns, while Calgary’s ace tailback Jon Cornish was less-than-stellar, finishing with a minus-one-yard rushing on a measly half-dozen carries.
The home side committed the evening’s only two turnovers and found itself embalmed 31-3 over the final three quarters.
“Anything positive come out of that game?” reflected middle linebacker Juwan Simpson. “Yeah, getting off the field at the end.”
If anything’s certain now, though, it’s that the Stamps are a different team since then.
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“You have to keep it in the back of your mind from the standpoint of knowing how dangerous that group over there is,” said middle linebacker Juwan Simpson. “They can inflict a lot of damage if you let them.”
“But saying that, we are a MUCH different team than we were back then.”
Since then, the Stamps have been a model of unity, both defensively and offensively.
While Kevin Glenn continues to lead one of the highest-scoring offences in the league with great veteran savvy, Cornish has put himself in the running for Most Outstanding Player. He was the first back to hit 1,000 yards this season, now sitting at 1,127 total rushing yards with five games still remaining.
It’s helped the Stamps become the league’s second-highest scoring team in the league – somewhat of a surprise this season considering the team had moved on without its two offensive focal points on offence in Henry Burris and Joffrey Reynolds this past off-season, while also losing starting QB Drew Tate to injury early in the season.If anything, the Stamps have built an identity since then.
“We’re much more together, all around. We’re more confident in ourselves and each other,” said Simpson.
But of course, the stench of that previous loss still lingers. It’s the one dark spot remaining in Calgary’s season so far, and with Saturday’s duel along with a third and final meeting in three more weeks, the Stamps still have a chance to win the season series and grab hold of the West Division title – and most importantly, overcome their greatest demons.
“That last one, man, I don’t know what you’d call it,” continued Simpson. “But this, this I guess you could call the Clash of the Titans, in a sense.”
Defensive end Kenny Pettway echoed the notion.
“They just flat-out beat us last time,” he sighed. “In every area you can think of. We’ve got to put our ‘A’ game on the field this time. Anything less won’t be good enough. That’s been pretty much proven.
“B.C.’s one of those teams that don’t give you much for free; very few mistakes. So to beat them, you’ve got to make less mistakes than they do and match them in intensity.”
Certainly no one, either side, is daft enough to think Saturday at BC Place will be as comprehensively one-sided as July 28th.
Since the mugging at McMahon, the BC Lions are also sporting a 6-2 record, leading the league with nine wins this season to go with a league-best point differential of plus-89 points.
“With them coming off the Sask game, a loss, they’re going to have a lot of fire in their belly,” cautioned Cornish.
“And our Edmonton game, after our Sask loss, really let us remember who we are as a team, what we can do offensively and defensively. Coming into this B.C. game . . . you know, I really think it’s going to be the best game of the year for us.”
Cornish had another performance to remember in last weekend’s 39-15 win over the Eskimos, rushing for 180 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 20 carries.
“You don’t get many opportunities where you have two teams in this type of situation,” continued the New Westminster native. “I’m really looking forward to us having the game I know we can.”While the Stamps look to get revenge for a bad loss early in the season, the Lions are just in a grumpy mood in general, after falling 27-21 at Mosaic Stadium last weekend.
It was another game in which the Lions started slow, this time scoring just one point in the opening half and trailing 18-1 in front of a pumped-up Riderville gathering.
This time though, unlike in previous meetings, a late flurry of offence from the Lions wasn’t enough to get the win, as a late touchdown by Greg Carr sealed BC’s fate.
Mike Benevides has seen how things are done by other CFL teams, and figures what needs to improve with the B.C. Lions will not come from change, but a challenge.
There are troubling signs for the club, while a host of potential injury issues have been unmasked in the wake of just the team’s fourth loss of the season.
But there will be no moves other than those necessary, the rookie head coach said, because in his estimation what ails the Lions can be rectified if his players look at the schedule and answer a single question the right way.
“The question becomes, what do you want of the next five [games],” asked Benevides. “Each man has to make sure they find a way to get it done and find a level of improvement.”
|The last time they met|
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Lions 34, Stampeders 8
Travis Lulay threw for 315 yards and three touchdowns on 30-37 passing, while Stamps running back Jon Cornish was held to minus-one rushing yard as the Lions cruised to a 34-8 win on the road at McMahon Stadium. Nine different players had catches for the Lions, who appeared to be in mid-season form after losing two straight to Saskatchewan and Edmonton. Kevin Glenn had 245 yards in a losing effort, but failed to throw a touchdown pass as the Stamps were held out of the end zone entirely.
“It’s not complicated,” he continued. “The biggest thing we’ve had is consistency. And my approach has got to be consistent and that is to push as much as we can out of them.”
The Lions were pushed to previously-unseen depths early in Regina and ultimately ran out of responses.
They waited 18 minutes before getting the ball to Andrew Harris even once, then failed to get him involved in the final 1:18 after recovering an onside kick.
On the other side of the ball, they couldn’t contain shifty slotback Weston Dressler, who scored two touchdowns with unfathomable ease, had a third called back due to a penalty, and could have had a fourth when the Lions had nobody covering him before Benevides frantically called a timeout.
“I couldn’t cover [Dressler] but I could call the timeout,” Benevides said.
They’ve only scored a single point in the first quarter of the last three games, have just one touchdown in the opening 15 minutes of the last four, and haven’t scored 30 points more than once overall in their last eight contests.
Defensively, meanwhile, they may be forced to give up on the idea of dressing six linemen, which has been central to their success, if they want to keep linebacker Solomon Elimimian in the lineup.
“Some things have become evident the last couple of weeks, but the right thing is to stick to some core beliefs,” Benevides said. “It’s what we want the next five games to be. Everything we want is there. It’s in the core of themselves.”
The next five games starts now for the Lions, who have a chance at home to not only create a two-game cushion at the top of the West Division, but to once again assert themselves as the league’s top team.
Kickoff is at 10:00 P.M. ET, and can be seen on TSN or followed live via Game Tracker on CFL.ca and CFL Mobile.
- With files from Postmedia
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