CFL Previews - Week 7 - August 8-9
From The Sports Network
By Greg Xenakes, CFL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
TORONTO ARGONAUTS (3-2) AT MONTREAL ALOUETTES (2-3)
DATE & TIME: Thursday, August 8, 7:30 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: The Dan Hawkins experiment in Montreal lasted all of five games, and now the Alouettes head into Week 7 of the 2013 campaign with general manager Jim Popp taking to the sidelines when the team hosts the Toronto Argonauts on Thursday night.
Hawkins, who previously coached at the college level with Boise State and Colorado, saw the Als turn in just two wins in five tries during his brief tenure and even though the squad posted a 32-27 victory over Edmonton in their most recent outing on July 25 and three of his players were selected for a weekly CFL award after Week 5 action concluded, it still was not enough to keep Hawkins from being cut loose.
Hawkins, who most recently spent time as an analyst after departing Boulder, took over the Als in February, taking the spot vacated by Marc Trestman who was hired away by the NFL's Chicago Bears.
It is not uncommon in the CFL to see a general manager take over as a head coach and with nearly two decades with the club it makes sense that, at least for the time being, Popp is again filling the position. For Popp, this marks the third time he has taken over as head coach for Montreal, the other two instances coming in 2001 when he replaced Rod Rust and five years later following Don Matthews.
Overall, Popp has a regular season record of 10-13 and is 1-3 in the postseason.
More news to come out of Montreal since the last time the Als actually played a game was delivered on Aug. 2 when it was announced that linebacker Jordan Verdone was placed on the nine-game injured list after sustaining a knee injury against Edmonton the last time out.
Even worse was the announcement that came three days later when the team lost slotback Jamel Richardson for the remainder of the season after suffering a torn LCL and ACL in his left knee during Sunday's practice. Richardson, who has led the team in receiving yards in three of the last five seasons, has totaled 197 yards receiving on 18 receptions this year.
But back to the Alouettes on the football field.
The club snapped a three-game slide late last month with their five-point victory over the Eskimos, thanks in large part to the efforts of running back Brandon Whitaker who gained a game-high 162 yards and scored once on 24 carries, while Edmonton as a group produced just 69 rushing yards in the affair.
Anthony Calvillo converted 19-of-29 passes for 202 yards and another major, his scoring pass going to S.J. Green for six yards in the first quarter as the team built up a 20-6 halftime advantage and then held on down the stretch.
Named the CFL Special Teams Player of the Week, kicker Sean Whyte hit all six of his field goal attempts and finished with 20 points overall for the Alouettes.
On the other side of the ball, Kyries Hebert was named the league's defensive player of the week after registering 10 total tackles, including two sacks, while Shea Emry logged a pair of interceptions in order to earn Canadian Player of the Week honors.
While the Als cornered the market on off-the-field news after five weeks of play, Toronto probably had the story of the week when, even with a backup quarterback and running back, the Argos completely dominated the visiting British Columbia Lions last Tuesday night by a final of 38-12 at Rogers Centre.
With signal-caller Ricky Ray on the shelf with an injury and Chad Kackert joining him in civilian clothes on the sidelines, Toronto inserted Zach Collaros under center and lined up Curtis Steele behind him and the squad didn't miss a beat. In fact, Toronto was one point shy of matching its season- high for points while also holding a foe to a season-low.
Collaros, making his first CFL start, missed on just four of his 25 pass attempts, leading to 253 yards and three touchdowns. The young quarterback was sacked twice and did lose a fumble, but overall his performance was very strong. Giving Collaros even more reason to feel comfortable in the pocket was Steele who ran the ball 12 times for 74 yards and two scores, adding a team- best five receptions for another 35 yards.
All-everything performer Chad Owens caught four passes for 47 yards, but accounted for just 54 yards on punt/kick returns. The top offensive force in the league for the last several years, through five weeks of play Owens led the CFL in combined yards with 907 and was tops with 39 receptions for 427 yards, but he's only made it into the end zone once on those catches.
While everyone on the defensive side of the ball for the Als will be trying to slow down Owens, the sprite Hawaiian will have to keep tabs on where linebacker Kyries Hebert is lining up after being recognized as the top defender in the league for the month of July. Hebert enters August having logged seven sacks already and 31 stops overall. But, in addition to Hebert, Montreal also has Chip Cox who owned the most tackles in the league after five games with 39, almost half of his entire total from a year ago (82).
In 2012, the Argos won the first meeting between the squads by a score of 23-20 on the road in late July, but Montreal responded by posting victories in both September (31-10) at home and then three weeks later at Rogers Centre (24-12), which means the all-time series now numbers 108-83-3 in favor of Montreal and taking into consideration only games played during the regular season dating back to 1946.
The teams are set to face off against each other at least three more times this season, with back-to-back matchups taking place during a five-day span in early September. In Week 19 Toronto will host the Als in the regular-season finale as well.
With lackluster play and now injuries piling up all around the Alouettes, to expect the home team to survive this or almost any other meeting is a huge stretch.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 27, Montreal 18
SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (5-0) AT CALGARY STAMPEDERS (4-1)
DATE & TIME: Friday, August 9, 9:00 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: The top two teams in the CFL get together on Friday night in Calgary, as the Stampeders play host to the undefeated Saskatchewan Roughriders at McMahon Stadium.
Saskatchewan remains the only undefeated team in the league after five weeks of action and, because the teams met up last month, Calgary is not that far behind with a mark of 4-1 after taking care of everyone else on the schedule.
Sporting the top offense (36.6 ppg) and the stingiest defense (17.4 ppg), the Roughriders have managed to get the job done even with Drew Willy filling in for an injured Darian Durant at quarterback the last time out in a 32-20 triumph over Hamilton on the road on July 27.
Making just his third career start, Willy showed no signs of backing down as he threw three touchdown passes, all coming in the second quarter, and finished with 269 yards overall at Alumni Stadium in Guelph. Kory Sheets gave Willy plenty of reason to feel comfortable in the pocket as the running back raced for 140 yards on 25 attempts, which means he has now gained at least 130 yards in every game this season.
Durant is on the mend, but his full recovery will take some time, yet he is optimistic that he can step up and play against Calgary this week. However, should circumstances change for the signal-caller, who now needs just 422 passing yards to reach 20,000 for his CFL career, Willy is ready and willing to take over in the huddle.
Last season, Durant threw for close to 3,900 yards, tossed 20 TDs and was picked off 12 times, but so far this year he has yet to be intercepted on 107 attempts and continues to lead the league in passing majors with 12, which is why his efficiency rating after five games is off the charts (136.9).
As for the Stampeders, they too were without their regular starter at quarterback the last time out, instead relying on Bo Levi Mitchell to come in and save the day in their 37-24 victory against Winnipeg on the road on July 26. Mitchell, at the top of the depth chart over both Drew Tate and Kevin Glenn, used the opportunity to complete all but four of his 33 pass attempts, leading to 376 yards and three touchdowns, one each to Greg Carr, Anthony Parker and Marquay McDaniel.
Also having a strong game for the Stamps was running back Jon Cornish who not only produced a game-high 88 yards on 16 rushing attempts, he also caught six passes for another 87 yards, both of which were game highs as well.
Also earning high marks for Calgary yet again was kicker Rene Paredes who piled up 18 points on five successful field goals and three PATs. Not only did Paredes surpass the CFL record of 30 straight field goals, set by Paul McCallum just two seasons ago, his run now stands at 34 and counting heading into the team's sixth game of the season.
Needless to say, Paredes has been unflappable thus far in 2013 and for his efforts was named the CFL Special Teams Player of the Month for July. Also earning kudos for the month was Cornish who was named the top Canadian player based on his 501 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 77 attempts, as well as another 137 yards and a score on 14 catches coming out of the backfield.
While Paredes and Cornish will again be at the top of the depth chart for their respective positions entering this week, the same may not be said for Mitchell even though he was nearly perfect the last time out.
Recovering from a forearm injury, Tate has been given the green light to return as the starting quarterback, assuming all goes well during practices leading up to Friday's contest. An import from Iowa, Tate has completed 73.1 percent of his pass attempts in 2013, leading to five touchdowns and just one INT.
Also earning league-wide recognition for his early accomplishments with the Roughriders Sheets, named the CFL Offensive Player of the Month for July, is by far the most productive ball carrier in the league with his 712 yards, leading to four touchdowns, on 118 attempts. With such an impressive start to the campaign, many are wondering whether or not Sheets can keep up the pace and possibly challenge the single-season rushing record of 2,065 yards set by Mike Pringle back in 1998 with Montreal.
These clubs clashed during the second week of the season, with the Riders obviously getting the upper hand with a 36-21 decision at home. In that contest, the hosts scored in every quarter and at the same time shut out Calgary in the second half, en route to the comfortable victory.
Controlling the action for nearly 36 minutes, the Roughriders ran 20 more offensive plays as Durant hit 26-of-34 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns, while Sheets rumbled for 133 yards and a major on the ground for the victors.
While Saskatchewan was comfortable with running the ball 29 times in the meeting, the Stamps did so just 13 times, leading to just 58 yards. Tate and Glenn combined to hit 23-of-32 passes for 272 yards and a pair of scores, with each being sacked once and the latter tossing an interception.
Despite the loss in the first encounter of the season, Calgary still owns a 119-89-9 advantage in the all-time series, taking into consideration only regular-season bouts staged since 1945.
The teams are set to meet each other once more during the regular season on Oct. 26 back here in Calgary.
Regardless of whether or not the regular starters at quarterback will be able to make a go of it this week, both of these teams have shown that their respective backups are more than capable of getting the job done. With that being said, until the Riders are taken down they still have to be considered a favorite even when they are on the road.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saskatchewan 31, Calgary 24.
2013 Sports Network Predictions: 15-7; Last Week's Predictions: 1-1.
08/07 11:22:51 ET