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September 7, 2021

Steinberg’s MMQB: Thoughts from Mark’s LD Weekend

Geoff Robins/CFL.ca

It’s the most important and anticipated weekend of the regular season and it was back with a vengeance…even if it came a little earlier than normal. It was awesome to take in Mark’s Labour Day Weekend after a year off, and it didn’t disappoint. The crowds and atmospheres were intense, the games were fun, and we had some great performances to sink our teeth into.

Good for Dane

So far, so good since Dane Evans got the ball back at quarterback in Hamilton. After a 32-19 win over Toronto on Monday, the Tiger-Cats are 2-0 with Evans as their starter and he’s been a big reason why. In two starts, and a small chunk of a third game, Evans is up to 452 yards passing, four touchdown passes, and no interceptions. Just imagine what this offence might look like when Bralon Addison returns and Brandon Banks truly gets going.

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What’s good about Hamilton’s quarterback situation right now is it’s pretty cut and dried. I understood why head coach Orlondo Steinauer went to Jeremiah Masoli to start the year: he was the incumbent and a former MOP candidate. Well, after a tough start and some injury concerns, the Ticats switched to Evans and the results have been overwhelmingly positive. As such, Evans has the job until something happens that could change things. Easy peasy.

Defending for a reason

Zach Collaros. Andrew Harris. Darvin Adams. Nic Demski. The Blue Bombers boast so much talent on offence and all those names were on display in Sunday’s 23-8 road win in Saskatchewan. But in moving to 4-1 and into top spot overall, Winnipeg is getting just as much vital contribution from the other side of the football and the CFL’s most terrifying defence.

 

Sunday, for example, saw the Bombers frustrate Riders’ quarterback Cody Fajardo to the tune of three interceptions and a 59% completion rate. Running back William Powell was held to 44 yards on the ground. Willie Jefferson was the most dominant player on the field, as per usual. Brandon Alexander had a pair of picks. Adam Bighill was a human wrecking ball. For the league’s most stingy defence, it was very much another day at the office.

Statement made

Trevor Harris picked up his first regular season win over the Calgary Stampeders in emphatic fashion to close out Week 5. As part of an impressive 32-20 win at McMahon Stadium, Edmonton’s franchise quarterback threw for 398 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. Prior to Monday afternoon, Harris was 0-9-2 head-to-head against Calgary as a member of three different teams.

 

Even more impressive about Edmonton’s second straight win was the conditions they were playing under. Yes, the Elks were the team ultimately responsible for last week’s postponement, but that doesn’t mean bouncing back with a convincing road win wasn’t still impressive. Edmonton was facing adversity unlike most players have dealt with, but they faced it down and came together. Good on them.

Waking up

After a couple difficult outings, Montreal’s offence woke up in a big way to open up the weekend. Who on the Alouettes didn’t have a big game in their 51-29 win over Ottawa on Friday night? Vernon Adams Jr. threw for 288 yards and four touchdowns. Eugene Lewis caught five passes for 120 yards and two majors. Right there with him was human highlight reel Jake Wieneke at 118 yards and two touchdowns. Oh, and William Stanback went for 112 on the ground, racking up 7.5 per carry along the way.

 

Montreal needed a game like Friday’s to get their swagger back, and what they did shouldn’t be discounted based on their opposition. Yes, the REDBLACKS are 1-3 and have lost three straight, but prior to this weekend they were one of the CFL’s staunchest defensive groups. The Als should feel good putting up totals like they did Friday and it’s great momentum heading into their second and final bye of the year. Once they’re back for Week 7, it’s ten straight to finish for Montreal.

Quick hits

While he’s still looking for his first rushing touchdown this season, it was good to see Edmonton’s James Wilder Jr. finally find the end zone Monday. The league’s leading rusher has been as consistently dangerous as any player in the league so far this year and he deserved to be rewarded with some points. It also just happened to be the eventual game winning score in the fourth quarter.

It’ll likely be Bo Levi Mitchell back at quarterback for Calgary in Saturday’s rematch with the Elks, but that shouldn’t take away from what Jake Maier has done the last three weeks. The Stamps might be 1-2 with Maier under centre, but that record doesn’t reflect how he’s performed. Maier has thrown for over 300 yards in all three of his starts, has completed more than 65% of his passes, and hasn’t thrown an interception since the first half of his first start. Calgary has to feel far more confident in what they’ve got if they need to go to Maier later this year.

One of the beneficiaries with Maier at quarterback has been receiver Josh Huff. In those three aforementioned games, Huff has gone for 128, 92, and 68 yards as one of Maier’s favourite targets. As a result, Huff now leads the league with 374 receiving yards and I’m curious to see how Mitchell keeps this hot streak going.

Finally, all eyes are on BC as they were the odd group out for Mark’s Labour Day Weekend. The 2-2 Lions have shown some real positives early on this season and they’ll close out a Saturday tripleheader against Ottawa. With Edmonton’s two straight wins, BC has company in the middle of the West Division and a crossover seems far less likely in 2021. This is a big one for the Lions coming off their first bye.

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