The Canadian Press
TORONTO — With three minutes remaining and an 11-point deficit, an injury to Bo Levi Mitchell seemed like one last devastating blow for the Calgary Stampeders.
What happened next won’t soon be forgotten, as backup Nick Arbuckle completed all nine of his passing attempts and scored twice, leading the Stamps to a stunning comeback victory over the BC Lions.
Mitchell, the Most Outstanding Player in 2018, has led the Stampeders to three straight Grey Cup appearances. With two rings and two MOPs already crowding his trophy case, he’s etched his face on the CFL Mount Rushmore before his 30th birthday.
Arbuckle, in his rare on-field sightings, has provided glimpses of a quarterback that could one day start. But after an off-season that saw several key departures, including defensive stars Micah Johnson and Alex Singleton, can the Stamps afford to lose Mitchell for any extended period of time?
That and more as the writers weigh in on The Weekly Say:
Can the Stamps still get by if Bo misses time?
Jamie Nye: Nick Arbuckle pulled off an amazing comeback but even if Bo Levi Mitchell is healthy or not, their schedule is definitely going to test them anyway. I believe Arbuckle can help the Stamps win but overall we may start to see if this Stamps team is finally going to take a step back with games in Saskatchewan and against Hamilton, Ottawa, Edmonton and Winnipeg in the weeks ahead. Arbuckle will either sink or swim. But why should we doubt Calgary having a guy ready to fill in? They seem to always do.
Donnovan Bennett: What’s your definition of “get by”? Life is about expectations. Can they be a very competitive football team and win their share of games in the West? Yes. Can they be by far the most dominant team in the league like they’ve been since Bo Levi Mitchell has been the starter in Calgary? No. Arbuckle had a great nine passes but let’s not get out of hand. Mitchell has been named MOP in two of the last three seasons, won the Grey Cup in two of the last five seasons and thrown for 4,000 plus yards in each of the last four seasons. Put some respect on his name.
Davis Sanchez: Obviously Stamps aren’t the defensive team they have been historically. I think they need to score into high 20s minimum to win…If Arbuckle can do that yes, if not no.
Don Landry: Hard to say right now. Nick Arbuckle looked terrific in relief against BC. He seems to have the goods to get things done but I’d like to see him take on a defence that’s prepared for him before I pronounce him suitable to carry the Stampeders forward.
Marshall Ferguson: They’ll survive but I’m not sure how sustainable it is. Dave Dickenson prepares backups as well as anyone in the CFL and Fajardo/Dominique Davis have surprised most people through three weeks so maybe Arbuckle has it in him.
Chris O’Leary: It’ll be tough. Let’s say Bo is out six games. That gives Nick Arbuckle games against Saskatchewan, Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton and Winnipeg. As well as he played in a high-pressure situation, we don’t know much about Arbuckle. Can he get Calgary half of those games? If so, they’d be 4-4. That’s not where you want to be in the West.
Matthew Cauz: I want to say yes and put my faith in the greatest football foundation over the past decade but in the short term it will be difficult. Calgary is on the road as Saskatchewan and then at Hamilton. Their defence predictably is middle of the pack at best and they’re last in time of possession.
Jim Morris: Probably not, but missing Bo isn’t Calgary’s only problem. There is no doubt the Stampeders are better with Bo at quarterback, but they haven’t looked like Grey Cup champions in the two games he played. The Stampeders gave up big plays and took some undisciplined penalties in their win over BC. So far this year Calgary has scored as many points as they have allowed. Losing Bo will only expose more holes.
Does Fajardo deserve to keep the #1 job when Collaros returns?
Cauz: Absolutely. Cody has looked fantastic the past two weeks and more importantly he looks comfortable within the Roughriders’ offence. It’s always tough to lose your job due to injury but considering the situation I have no problem with Zach sitting out longer than he may have expected.
Morris: The old saying has been you can’t lose your job to injury. That being said, I think Zach would be on a very short leash if he comes back and doesn’t produce right away.
Sanchez: Thirty-two points last week, he’s your QB as long as he’s putting up numbers like that. He is younger and more dependable so at this point yes.
Landry: He does. Fajardo has shown poise and good decision-making tendencies as well as a strong, accurate arm. The Riders’ offence is moving with him at the helm at the moment so I’d not be changing that recipe up.
Nye: YES! Zach Collaros, sadly, is proving you can’t rely on him to stay in the game so it’s time for the Riders to take another step forward at quarterback and when Fajardo throws for nearly 800-yards in his first two starts, you ride his hot hand as long and as far as possible. I’d be willing to live with the ups and downs of a first-year starter right now because he looks like he can blossom into something special.
O’Leary: Yes. Even if this is just a matter of a hot hand, the Riders are finally getting the QB play they’ve needed since moving on from Darian Durant. Fajardo has played lights out. He deserves to stay in the game as long as he’s helping his team.
Ferguson: Yes, Zach is a special talent but Saskatchewan has needed to turn the page to their next full-time guy for a bit and Fajardo has opened that door wide for them to step through.
Bennett: I don’t believe you should lose your job to injury…unless the player who replaced you is playing better than you were when healthy. That’s currently the case in Saskatchewan. In his last two starts Cody Fajardo has a 78.5 completion percentage, passing for 790 yards, 4 TDs, 0 interceptions and added two rushing TDs. It’s only two games, but Collaros hasn’t had an eight quarter stretch that good since he’s been in Saskatchewan. It’s Cody’s job to lose now.
Which struggling team, Toronto or Montreal, will turn things around?
O’Leary: Montreal. That’s not so much an endorsement of what the Als have shown, but more a statement on what the Argos haven’t. There’s been little cohesion on offence and an inability to tackle or get to the QB on defence (zero sacks through two games). I thought the Argos would have been much better than what they’ve shown in two games.
Morris: I would say Montreal. The Als have shown flashes of putting their game together. The Argos have shown flashes of going nowhere fast.
Landry: I’d say Montreal. While both teams have questions at quarterback, the Alouettes just seem more cohesive than the Argos do at this point, more ready to take a step forward.
Sanchez: Argos. I have more trust in the combo of Corey Chamblin and Jim Popp.
Bennett: Toronto. They have more talent and they have helped in their demise by beating themselves. If we had a draft between the depth charts of both teams, how many positions would you choose an Alouette player over an Argonaut? Not many.
Nye: I’m going with Toronto because I think they have the horses on defence that if they can start to turn things around (it can’t get any worse) they can start to have an impact. James Wilder Jr. can handle a heavy work load to take pressure off whoever is behind centre. I think with the changes around the Argos, they are the team who will improve as they gel. We all thought it would be another tough year in Montreal and they’re proving us right.
Cauz: Is there a third option?