November 8, 2012

Stephen: Controlling turnover battle key versus Riders

So, when was the last time the Calgary Stampeders defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders in a playoff game?   Well, Calgary’s starting quarterback that day was Doug Flutie, while the Saskatchewan coach on the opposite sideline was Ray Jauch.

The score was a very one-sided 36-3 Stampeder win.  Since that afternoon almost two decades ago, the Stampeders have not defeated the Riders in five post-season meetings.  The most recent of those clashes took place on a frightfully cold afternoon in 2010 at McMahon Stadium.

The Stamps are saying all the right things about just wanting to win.  But they have to at least be aware of recent history against Saskatchewan.

That history of recent losses (2006,2007, 2009, 2010) has seen the Stampeders lose the turnover battle in every game.  Turnovers have been a Stampeder problem in 2012 as they have more giveaways than takeaways.  The turnover battle is the story of most football games, but particularly in the post-season against Saskatchewan.

The Stampeders made their announcement on their starting quarterback, upon their return to work this week.  The team made a definitive statement early in the week that they were going to start Drew Tate.  The decision garnered a split reaction amongst Stampeder fans.
Glenn was universally praised for his steady hand during his time as the starter.  In the end, coach John Hufnagel felt Tate’s scrambling ability and ability to extend plays was the difference.  To their credit, the Stampeders didn’t let the issue linger and become a distraction.

The quarterback position was but one decision the organization has to make.  

For the first time in a long time, the Stampeders are actually getting players back on the roster.  The team is expecting receivers Nik Lewis and Marquay McDaniel to be ready for action against Saskatchewan.  

They are also evaluating Canadian offensive lineman Spencer Wilson.  He missed the last several games with a knee injury.   Should Wilson by ready to play, the Stampeder may consider starting four import receivers.  Normally they have a Canadian starter, but Arjei Franklin is doubtful while John Forzani and Anthony Parker are both on the sidelines.  Forzani is done for the year with a high ankle sprain.

Safety Eric Fraser missed most of the regular season finale in Edmonton and the expectation is, he will be ready to play against the Roughriders.

The team will also have a big decision to make at corner.  Rookies Jamar Wall and Darius Brooks are both back to full health.  

Who starts at that position?  John Hufnagel will make his call by week’s end.

Calgary won two of the three regular season meetings involving the clubs.  That pair of wins included the memorable comeback July 19 when the Stampeders came from seventeen points behind late in the game, to force overtime.  The teams split the meetings at Mosaic Stadium.

Weather should not be a determining factor in the game.  The kickoff temperature is forecast at minus-5 with a light wind.  Anything would be an improvement on the icy West Final of 2010.