Saturday & Sunday at the Grey Cup

By Nelson Hackewich

Editor’s note: Our friend, fellow CFL fan (Saskatchewan, but try not to hold it against him) and favourite uniform concept designer Nelson Hackewich was kind enough to share some of his thoughts and experiences at this year’s Grey Cup Festival in Edmonton. This is the second of two recaps on all the great stuff the festival had to offer. (here’s the first) Thanks Nelson! Super jealous!

Better late than never, right?

Grey Cup Saturday

Saturday started with the traditional Calgary pancake breakfast and the Grey Cup parade. A little underwhelmed watching the parade, so when the ‘Rider contingent walks by, I step off the sidewalk and join the parade!

A couple of wheatheads with the one and only Pinball Clemons

After the parade, we all head over to the TSN booth to see the live hits of Grey Cup Saturday. While stopping inside to warm up we bumped into the legend, Pinball Clemons. And of course made the TSN coverage.

Yeah, a lot of green…

It was a short day at the Nissan Street Fest as we prepare notes and dig up dirt on both teams for the game tomorrow. Here’s what was seen, heard and researched:

  • The Stampeders were not to fond of the playing surface today at Commonwealth Stadium. Bo Levi Mitchell considered the turf to that of Ottawa’s in last year’s Grey Cup and Eric Rogers saying “If the game was today, we wouldn’t be able to wear cleats out there.”
    When the Redblacks players were asked about the conditions of the turf, most said they were used to it, as they play on a similar surface at home.
  • Calgary will already make history tomorrow, playing in a team-record third Grey Cup in a row. Last teams to play in three GCs in a row? Montreal 2008-10, Hamilton 1984-86, Edmonton 1977-82, Montreal 1977-79.
  • The Redblacks are playing in a Grey Cup for the third time in the last four years, a first for any Ottawa club since the late ’60s (1966, ’68 & ’69).
  • This will be the fourth time Calgary and Ottawa have met in a Grey Cup, with Ottawa winning in 1968 and 2016, while Calgary won in 1948.

The coaches

  • Dave Dickenson is looking for his first Grey Cup as a head coach, and trying to avoid becoming the first head coach since 1956 to lose three Grey Cups in a row.
  • Rick Campbell looks to get his second Grey Cup. He would become the 20th head coach to win multiple championships.

Teams head to head:

  • Calgary holds a 7-1-2 regular season edge over Ottawa since 2014; Ottawa has the 2016 GC win, however.
  • The last time these teams met in the Grey Cup, they combined for 852 passing yards – by far the most in Grey Cup history (#2, 777 yards in ’89)

Season series:

  • Calgary outscored Ottawa 51-17 – with the gap (+34) made up of points off of Turnovers primarily (26 of Calgary’s 51 points).
  • Trevor Harris did not complete either game and has passing totals of 135 and 93 yards with 3 INTs and 0 TD passes.
  • Bo Levi Mitchell passed for 251 and 166 yards with 3 TDs, 3 gains of 30+ yards and one INT.
  • Don Jackson rushed for 186 yards (Max 102) on 30 carries for one TD. William Powell had 140 yards.

Grey Cup Sunday

Game day was full of generally a pro-Ottawa crowd, with CFL fans in sight from morning breakfast across the street at the hotel to the train to the stadium.

Arriving at the stadium at about 1:30pm (three-and-a-half hours before kickoff), we took in some of the tailgate parties, then headed into the stadium to walk about.

Two hours prior to kickoff it was a balmy 2° and the field conditions looked absolutely perfect. The Redblacks took the field for warm-up to a thunderous ovation, while it seemed the Stamps were only backed by those from Calgary and some die-hard western Canadian types who dislike our current prime minister.

The Reklaws belted out “Long Live the Night” and with an iconic Snowbirds fly-over, Grey Cup 106 was under way!

The game wasn’t much to write home about until Terry Williams had a record 97-yard punt return touchdown on a now slippery Commonwealth Stadium field, sending Stamps fans into a frenzy. If you watch the highlights, the most impressive part of the return (besides his speed on ice) is the fact he almost fell on his own. No doubt an absolute game-changer.

In the end, Bo Levi Mitchell and the Stamps got the monkey off their back, outlasting the Redblacks to win the Grey Cup.

Yeah, yeah. They won. (photo CFL.ca)

Overall, Edmonton knows how to throw a party! From the street festival, to the $300k+ 50/50 jackpot, to meeting old friends and making new ones, there was tons of great CFL and Grey Cup buzz all week long, as it should be.

Can’t wait for Grey Cup 107. See you next year, Calgary!

Thanks for reading!

Follow Nelson on Twitter at @NelsonHackewich.

Follow us on Twitter at @DefendTheR.

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The @20YardEndZone Podcast – #GreyCup Edition

The 20-Yard End Zone Podcast – Grey Cup Edition!

The guys discuss the CFL’s East and West Finals – two very different contests – and preview the 104th Grey Cup match-up between the Ottawa Redblacks and the Calgary Stampeders. Footloose shares some Grey Cup memories, looking back at the CFL’s first Grey Cup festival in 1948. This week’s guest interview is News Talk 770 and Calgary Stampeders radio host Dave Rowe. Dave and Footloose have a fun chat about what we can look forward to on Grey Cup Sunday.

Thanks for listening!

@DefendTheR

Stampeders School Redblacks

By: Santino Filoso

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On the heels of last week’s embarrassing loss, the Redblacks rolled into Calgary for what was a semi sort of “homecoming” for a number of players and coaches, including Jon Gott (#63), J’Michael Deane (#64), Eric Fraser (#7), Justin Phillips (#44), Chris McCoy (#96), Henry Burris (#1), Don Yanowsky (STC), Mike Gibson (OC) and Rick Campbell (HC). Unfortunately for R-Nation and the former Stampeders, the Redblacks left McMahon Stadium without the win, dropping their record to 1-5.

Pre-Game:

– Confused people watching the CFL for the first time tune in to see the Redblacks decked out in their dazzling black and white road uniforms while Calgary sports their home red and black threads

– The CFL’s official twitter account does everything it can to ensure Ottawa fans are feeling optimistic

– The Redblacks finally win a coin loss, their first correct guess of the season

1st Quarter:

– D.J. Harper (#28) rumbles 21 yards after fielding the opening kickoff to the Redblacks 34 yard line

– Ottawa’s achilles’ heel rears it’s ugly head as poor special teams coverage and tackling results in Jock Sanders returning Brett Maher’s 58 yard punt 52 yards

– Facing 3rd and 2 on the Redblacks 8 yard line, Campbell gets Campbelled as Calgary dials up a fake FG and Stamps QB Bo Levi Mitchell breaks Antoine Pruneau’s (#6) arm tackle for the 8 yard rushing TD

– Following a short catch by Henry² (Marcus Henry #16), the Redblacks punt

– Burris runs a limousine past the line of scrimmage before throwing the ball and gets flagged for an illegal forward pass

– Jermaine Robinson (#32) makes the coaches wonder why they didn’t play him sooner as he flies around the field, throwing thundering hits on back to back plays

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Here comes the boom!

2nd Quarter:

– The pocket collapses before any receiver creates separation and Burris gets sacked

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“Why can’t we just be on the same page?!”

– Scrambling under heavy pressure, Mitchell’s throwaway is nearly picked off by Robinson

– Two plays later Mitchell makes no mistake as he hits Jeff Fuller for a 17 yard TD

– Redblacks respond with a promising 7 play drive featuring runs by Burris and Chevon Walker (#29) and catches by Carlton Mitchell (#88) and Henry² but the drive comes to an abrupt end when Burris is picked off

– Stamps make the most of Burris’ gift when Marquay McDaniel catches a 22 yard TD, 21-0 for the horsemen

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Keith Shologan (#74) blows up Mitchell on the play, making him pay the price for his TD throw

– Dobson Collins (#80) makes a short catch before Henry² doesn’t, forcing the Redblacks to punt

– Jasper Simmons (#31) intercepts Mitchell and returns it 29 yards before being tackled

– Walker punches the ball in from the 1, finally putting the Redblacks on the board

– Anthony Parker takes the ensuing kickoff 45 yards to Ottawa’s 51 yard line

– Mitchell strings together a few passes and puts a dagger in the Redblack’s chances of a comeback with a late 1st half TD to Jabari Arthur; 28-7 for the team wearing (but not named) red and black

3rd Quarter:

– Pruneau and Simmons continue to tackle everything in sight

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– Wallace Miles (#84) and Matt Carter (#85) make catches of 19 and 5 yards respectively

– Burris throws his 2nd interception of the game but makes the tackle so I guess he atones? #effort

– The defense limits the damage to a 12 yard Rene Paredes FG

– Burris shows off his arm strength and caps off an 8 play, 75 yard drive with a 32 yard TD pass to a streaking Miles

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Can can can you do the can can?

– Eddie Elder (#5) picks off Mitchell but the refs unexplainably flag Robinson for pass interference, negating the potentially momentum tipping interception

– It’s small consolation but Justin Capicciotti (#93) gets a sack

– Rob Maver punts 53 yards for a rouge

4th Quarter:

– Maher caps off a 4 play, 64 yard drive with a 32 yard FG

– The Stamps chew up nearly 5 min of clock and tack on a 40 yard FG

– Walker trips up Burris, giving Charleston Hughes the easiest sack of his career

– Thomas DeMarco’s (#17) 3rd down pass falls incomplete, turning the ball over on downs

– Stamps extend their lead by three with another field goal

– Carter gets behind the Stampeder defence and makes a 60 yard catch, getting tackled at Calgary’s 3 yard line

carter

– The Redblacks proceed to shoot themselves in the foot when Collins is flagged for asking for a flag, Gott is flagged for a false start and Scott MacDonell (#83) catches a TD pass but is flagged for being offside

– On 3rd down Burris overthrows Miles on a corner route

Final Score: 38-17 for the Calgary Hitmen

Key Stats:

Henry Burris went 20-of-29 for 281 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs

Chevon Walker had 8 carries for 22 yards and 1 TD

Wallace Miles had 5 catches for 102 yards and 1 TD

Jasper Simmons had 9 tackles and 1 INT

Closing Thoughts:

 The Redblacks were always going to be in tough against what is probably the best team in the CFL. Though they gave up more points than last week’s loss, I think the team has more positives to take away from this week’s film review. This loss isn’t a reflection on the Redblacks’ effort, as it’s evident from watching that the players are giving their all, but instead highlights a lack of execution by certain players at key moments. Just by reading his stat line you can assume Burris had a decent game, but it’s a bit misleading as he struggled in the first half, only picking up 58 yards. Promising drives were killed by timely drops and flags but Wallace Miles continued to build off his strong performance last week and seems to be creating chemistry with Burris. Aside from his 1 yard TD, Chevon Walker was a complete non factor, averaging 2.7 yards per carry. You’ve gotta wonder how much of that is on the offensive line, who also struggled with keeping Burris upright, forcing him to rush throws and scramble more often than you’d like to see a 39 year old QB run.

Defensively the Redblacks had some stand out performances; Jasper Simmons played like a man possessed, maybe being a new Dad has given him a bit of extra motivation. 1st round pick Antoine Pruneau rewarded the coach’s decision to start him with 8 tackles and was constantly around the ball. But the real revelation of the night was the play of Jermaine Robinson, who laid the lumber on a few guys and nearly picked off a couple of passes, it’s safe to say he’ll be starting next week.

It was another sloppy game for the special team’s coverage, as they gave up a 52 yard punt return along with 45 yard kickoff return. The Redblacks can talk about not being an expansion team all they want, but the fact of the matter is that good teams have good coverage, and this issue has plagued them since their 1st pre-season game. Penalties were another headache as once again the Redblacks gave up over 100 yards in flags, drawing 12 flags for 131 yards. Maher rebounded from last week’s nightmarish outing by going 1/1 on FGs and averaging nearly 49 yards a punt.

Though the Redblacks lost once again, they continue to remain the playoff hunt simply due to the fact that everyone else in the East is also struggling. If they can get a win next week at home against an Eskimo team that hasn’t yet experienced the ferocity of R-Nation in person, it would set them up nicely for the 2nd half of the season when nearly every game is against an Eastern team. Remember to be LOUD and PROUD at Lansdowne on Friday!

@RedBlackGade

CFL Mascots 101: What they didn’t tell you in the media guide

By: Santino Filoso

Welcome to Defend the R’s first annual (and completely unbiased) CFL Mascot Power Rankings. We’ve got the inside scoop on all the things left off the mascot scouting report. If you thought you knew everything about these cuddly mascots, prepare to be surprised!

THE EAST:

4) Jason (Toronto)

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Jason brings up the rear in what can only be described as an extremely weak mascot division. This cartoony Argonaut suffers from multiple personality disorder. He carries a sword, wears a futuristic space helmet, only has three fingers and looks like he’s been trying to pinch a loaf since the start of the Trojan War. Jason needs to seek professional help. And if you’re an Argos fan, please encourage him to get it next time you see him fishing on Lake Ontario.

3) T.C. and Stripes (Hamilton)

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T.C. and Stripes, the love children of Tony the Tiger and Tigger, are the tamed pussy cats who can be found patrolling the Hamilton sidelines. T.C. , which cleverly stands for Tiger Cat (man, they got some thinkers in Steeltown), has been leading purrs of “Oskee Wee Wee” since the mid 80’s. Sadly, this feline’s best days are behind him and like John Henry giving way to the steam-powered hammer, it’s only a matter of time before Stripes (get it — tigers have stripes!) replaces him.

2) Touché and Blitz (Montreal)

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These identical unilingual twin birds representing the Als are a stretch at number two but by default they can’t rank any lower. Like junkies searching for their next hit (of worms), these birds have been known to draw flags for illegally entering the field. Lastly (and most worryingly), though they claim to be birds, Touché and Blitz have never been spotted airborne, leading many to question their true nature.

1) Big Joe Mufferaw/Grand Jos

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The gem of the East division’s mascots, this dashing lumberjack can do it all; whether it’s chopping down trees, exterminating rodents (he’s looking at you, Gainer), bird hunting, or causing French language controversies, Joe’s the man for the job. When he’s not being serenaded by R-Nation at TD Place, Joe can be found log running down the Rideau Canal or in Mattawa, where his winter home is.

THE WEST:

5) Gainer the Gopher (Saskatchewan)

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Though Alberta has successfully and meticulously prevented rats from entering the province, their watermelon hat-wearing neighbours to the east have fully embraced rodents – even selecting one to represent their fabled name-stealing team. Gainer, which is an anagram of Regina, struggles when trying to count to 12, and has two cousins named Leonard and Goof (seriously) who sometimes make watching the Green Riders lose a family affair.

4) Leo the Lion (BC)

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Leo is a lion who tragically can’t roar. When he’s not meowing to pump the crowd up, you can find the feline practicing ballet and avoiding Ralph.

3) Punter and Nanook (Edmonton)

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They say opposites attract, and boy oh boy is that ever true when it comes to the Eskimo Empire. You can’t expect a lot out of your offense when one of your mascots is a ‘roid raged football named Punter. The yin to Punter’s yang is Nanook, a polar bear who moved South to avoid the melting Arctic ice floes and because he heard so many good things about the sushi in the West Edmonton Mall.

2) Buzz and Boomer (Winnipeg)

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Ever since they flew the coop in Chicken Run, these poultry have been living large. The loveable duo never stop hatching plans to entertain the Winnipeg faithful because they know their team won’t.

1) Ralph the Dog (Calgary)

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You have to give respect where respect is due, and despite always looking like he just woke up, Ralph deserves all the praise he gets. As the CFL’s first and oldest mascot, Ralph has been eating Eskimo pies, chicken Alouette and gopher gumbo long before any of the other mascots showed up. Despite showing his age, this pooch is still top-dog in the West.

Where do you rank ’em? Let us know in the comments below!

 @RedBlackGade