Hello, Shawn Lemon. Two more sacks and another forced fumble? Whoever said there was no more juice left in ya sure underestimated how hard you can squeeze. And even when the juice does dry up, there’ll be plenty of zest left in the rind, right?
Here are the Week 11 takeaways.
QUARTERBACK QUESTIONS ALL OVER THE PLACE
Pivotal drama is unfolding for five of the CFL’s nine franchises this week.
At the top of the intrigue list we find the BC Lions after the terrible news (not just for them but for all of us who love to watch him play) that star QB Nathan Rourke is out for weeks and maybe even the entirety of the season with a foot injury. Now, the focus turns to back-up Michael O’Connor, a third-year vet who has attempted all of 37 passes in his career. Personally, I’ve been clamouring to see the 26-year-old get a meaningful stretch of playing time ever since he was drafted by the Toronto Argonauts in 2019. He’s been watching long enough and now he’ll get his shot, unless the Lions decide Antonio Pipkin is the way to go in Rourke’s absence. Either way, BC’s season of plenty has been given a shock and the question is: Can the prosperity continue without the young star at quarterback?
Then there’s the Calgary Stampeders. The pulling of Bo Levi Mitchell in favour of Jake Maier – and the subsequent comeback win in Toronto – means Stamps’ coach Dave Dickenson has some mulling to do ahead of Thursday night’s game in Winnipeg. Don’t bet against Bo starting against the Bombers just yet, though. Dickenson hinted that he needed to see the tape of the game before he can assign causality when it comes to the loose wiring in the Calgary offence.
“If the quarterback position is doing his job and doing it to a standard that you want, you don’t let emotions decide one way or another who’s your starting quarterback,” said Dickenson.
The pulling of Cody Fajardo during the Roughriders’ game against BC means coach Craig Dickenson is at least considering that he needs a change at the pivot spot, with Saskatchewan’s offence continuing to limp along these past few weeks. Will Dickenson go so far as to move Mason Fine up to QB1?
After two solid games by Ottawa’s Caleb Evans, we saw the young quarterback struggle in the two that have since followed, and that means REDBLACKS’ head coach Paul LaPolice is almost certain to hand things over to Nick Arbuckle for this week’s rematch against Edmonton. Isn’t he?
In Toronto, head coach Ryan Dinwiddie has shown no wavering when it comes to his starter, McLeod Bethel-Thompson. But successive second half offensive stalls have Argo fans howling to see more of Chad Kelly. It’s hard to imagine the rookie QB gets the start against Hamilton on Friday, but might we see more of him outside of short yardage sneaks? Is the elevation of Chad Kelly about to get underway?
BONUS TAKEAWAY: Now I know what a Lisfranc sprain is and I wish I was still in the dark on that.
THE MAN SIMPLY CAN’T HELP HIMSELF
The Bryan Burnham highlight circus cannot be stopped. Another ridiculous touchdown catch for the veteran BC Lions’ receiver on Friday night, a one-handed beauty, reminiscent of another he made agains the Ticats, in Hamilton, back in 2017. He just keeps on doing it and when asked ‘how?’ after the game, he just smiled and told TSN “it’s hard to describe ‘cause it’s just instincts.”
“When the ball’s in the air, things kinda slow down for me and… yeah,” he said, pausing and smirking again, “just caught it.”
Bryan Burnham won’t break the magician’s rule of telling you how the trick was done and it’s not that he’s holding out. It’s just that he has no idea himself, really.
And I don’t wanna know, anyway, as long as the highlight reel keeps getting bigger.
YOU CAN PEAK TOO EARLY EVEN IF YOU PEAK QUITE LATE
Both the Hamilton Ticats and the Montreal Alouettes proved that, on Saturday, within moments of each other.
That sure was a beauty of a touchdown toss that Trevor Harris threw to Reggie White Jr., allowing the Als to surge ahead with a 26-25 lead, post convert. But it was a one-play, 45-yard drive that ate up almost no late-game time and left more than two minutes on the clock. The Ticats had time to brew up a probable game-winning field goal attempt from Seth Small, which they got. But they, in turn, left 37 seconds on the clock, and two passes later, Harris had the Alouettes in field goal range, with David Cote hitting the winner from 48 yards out and – this time – zeroes on the clock.
“Well it’s never boring in the CFL, I can tell you that,” said Harris to TSN after the game.
If you’re gonna peak late, peak really late. It’ll make life so much easier. Less entertaining, for sure. But easier.
BONUS TAKEAWAY: Another way to make your life easier, I’d suggest to the Alouettes, is NOT to take 13 penalties for 176 yards, including almost 100 in the third quarter alone. I guess you can get away with that when the other guys take 10 for 125, though.
BONUS BONUS TAKEAWAY: Do not tell Michael Domagala that kickers have it easy. Domagala was roughed three times in this game, twice while punting and a third on a ‘tourist’ hit while covering a kick-off.
MAYBE A FLAME?
Edmonton receiver Derel Walker has spent a large part of the season, so far, looking frustrated and forgotten. Overthrows, dropped balls, fewer targets than he’s been used to over his career.
And on Friday night, in the Elks’ win over Ottawa, it was kinda looking the same for a good chunk of the game. In the end, Walker’s numbers from that game are pretty modest; 3 catches for 36 yards. But it’s the next number on the stats line that has to be a relief for the veteran and that is 1 TD catch. His first of the season. Walker had zero TD catches in 2021, in eleven games. And with the 2020 season being cancelled due to COVID, it means this was Walker’s first TD since September 20, 2019, when he was a Toronto Argonaut, ending his personal drought after 21 games.
“Been a long dry spot for Derel,” said Edmonton Head Coach Chris Jones afterward. “Hopefully that sparks some more in the future.”
The Elks already have Kenny Lawler doing his thing. He catches the pass or he doesn’t because he was interfered with and the flags fly. Imagine if they now have a kick-started Derel Walker to add to the mix.
THIS IS A SIMPLE GAME
Edmonton running back Ante Milanovic-Litre’s halftime interview reminded me of that great moment in Bull Durham when manager Joe Riggins says “This is a simple game. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball.”
Milanovic-Litre basically answered a question about the Elks turning things around by saying they ought to get a good return on the kick-off, drive down the field, and then score. Which they did. And the Elks did it without any kind of lollygagging, which is good, because do you know what that would have made them? Of course you do.
AND FINALLY… Right now, there is no place on the field where you can hide from Derrick Moncrief.