- FREE AGENCY
There was an Artful Dodger-esque light-fingered fluidity, boldness, and sneak-thief timing about Tre Roberson on Saturday.
In such a rich vein of larcenous form, the second-year Calgary Stampeders’ cornerback might’ve sauntered into the Louvre in broad daylight and slipped out toting the Mona Lisa underneath an arm without being spotted.
More’s the pity, then, that the Ottawa REDBLACKS stole the most coveted prize of opening-day.
Those two points on offer.
“I had a good study week,’’ reckoned Roberson post-game. “A great off-season.
“We’re gonna get back to it next week. We’ve got a bye week, so everybody gonna get some work in, we’ll come back.
“They played pretty good. That was a great team effort and they deserved to win.
“I know the last time we were 0-1 we finished with 15 (wins). So it’s a next-game mentality.”
The three thefts were the most pilfers by a Calgary Stampeder since safety Greg Knox hit for the hat-trick back on Oct. 30th, 1994.
“Tough,’’ sighed Stamps’ boss Dave Dickenson in the wake of a 32-28 loss, “to waste that.
“That was a heckuva game for him.
“We’ve seen it in camp. We’ve had trouble beating him at camp. I think he’s really elevated his game.
“Just tough to waste that type of performance.”
Not even Roberson’s grandpa, legendary Edmonton Eskimo Hall of Famer Larry Highbaugh, ever managed a three-pick evening. Two, on seven occasions. But never the hat-trick.
“Man, I gotta lotta things to look up to,’’ said Roberson. “He’s got six Grey Cups. I tell people all the time: ‘I’ve only got one. So there’s a long way to go.’”
In sorting through the debris field, poor penalties at key moments, turnovers and an uncharacteristically silent second half from the usually-potent Stampeder attack – only 103 yards of net offence – conspired to bring about their downfall. Tellingly, the home side could only muster 43 yards along the ground, compared to 125 by Ottawa, the majority of those via tailback Moses Madu.
Calgary’s lone second-half major came via a Brandon Smith interception, the 12-season, 35-year-old gold- standard DB snatching a deflected pass out of midair and hot-footing it 59 yards to pay dirt – his first pick-6 since Labour Day 2010.
“They got the best of us,’’ Smith acknowledged. “It happens sometimes. The ball doesn’t always fall your way.
“We left some things out there. As defence, we’ve got to get better. Particularly on first down. They had a plan and it worked. We have to put teams in more second-and-long situations; make them work harder.
“We’ve just got to reload. We’re not pointing fingers at anybody or getting down on ourselves.
“The Grey Cup isn’t won today.”
The Stamps’ last-gasp push to pull a result back from the abyss – after REDBLACKS’ QB Dominique Davis pushed the ball over from five yards away at 13:38 of the fourth quarter to complete a four-play, 47-yard drive and stake Ottawa to its first lead – was ended when DB Jonathan Rose outfought wideout Michael Kuklas for a 40-yard Bo Levi Mitchell launch just over the REDBLACKS goal line with five ticks left on the McMahon Stadium scoreclock.
The Stampeders convene for the traditional run-down Sunday morning before having the week off, returning to plot course for a visit from the BC Lions.
“Give them credit,’’ said Dickenson, in wrapping up’s Saturday disappointment. “We got outplayed and probably out-coached. Let’s be honest about that.
“We had our chances. We still coulda won. A lot of plays were there If somebody could’ve stepped up and made one. I don’t think our best players offensively were dialled in. We were close but couldn’t make the throws, couldn’t make the catches, really couldn’t control the line of scrimmage.
“No excuses. We’ve been sharp throughout camp. Poor execution and not trusting what we’re doing enough and not enough playmakers stepping up and making plays.
“I thought our D did enough. They caused turnovers and scored. We had our share of dumb mistakes and we lost our poise a few times.
“That’s on me. As a coach, your players are a reflection of how you are how, how you act, so I’ve got to make sure they don’t do that again or they don’t play.”