The weather is getting cooler as we inch closer to the fall, but that didn’t stop a few teams in the CFL from heating up last weekend. In a season that’s had a lot of close games, Week 14 saw a few clubs flex their offensive muscles, with three of the four games having a winning margin of at least three touchdowns.
The Montreal Alouettes (5-7) kicked off the week’s slate of games with a convincing 31-10 home win over the B.C. Lions (8-3), a club that continues to struggle in the absence of star quarterback Nathan Rourke. That set up Saturday’s triple-header, which opened with the closest game of the weekend, as the Toronto Argonauts (7-5) edged the Ottawa Redblacks (3-9), 24-19, at TD Place.
What followed were two dominating performances, beginning with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (12-1) stomping the Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-7) 54-20 in the annual Banjo Bowl. The Calgary Stampeders (8-4) also showed no mercy to their biggest rival, doubling up the Edmonton Elks (3-10) 56-28 at Commonwealth Stadium.
John Woods / the CANADIAN PRESS
Brendan O’Leary-Orange snagged his firts CFL touchdown in the Bombers’ blowout victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Sunday’s Banjo Bowl.
There’s plenty to talk about on and off the field from Week 14, so let’s get into it with the latest edition of CFL Rundown.
1) Quarterback Antonio Pipken is clearly not the answer in B.C. After struggling in his first start against the Alouettes in Week 12, not even a bye week and a full week of practise with the No. 1 offence was enough to see even the slightest bit of improvement. And it certainly didn’t help that head coach Rick Campbell decided to pull him late in the first quarter, in favour of newcomer Vernon Adams Jr., only to put him back in for the second half.
2) Campbell has already announced Adams will start this week against Montreal, his former team. Let’s hope Adams, who was 1-for-3 passing for 17 yards on three drives Friday, can do more damage against a defence he used to practice against.
3) B.C. is now winless in two games without Rourke, putting a major spotlight on the club’s offence. Unless the Lions can figure out the mess that is their special teams, they won’t be able to hang with the talented West Division.
4) What does having a .500 record at home (3-3), a losing record on the road (2-4) and allowing more points than you score (321 to 315) get you in the CFL? A lot, if you’re in the East. Just ask second-place Montreal.
5) Turns out the Alouettes aren’t interested in finding a new owner — at least not right now — they just didn’t want Gary Stern as the face of their organization when it came to representing the club on the league’s board of governors. At least that was my biggest takeaway after listening to team president Mario Cecchini during an interview with TSN 690 in Montreal. Cecchini spoke emphatically about the estate of Sid Spiegel, which owns a 75 per cent stake, with Stern owning the other 25, aren’t interested in courting a new owner right now. He even went as far as saying when prospective buyers call, he tells them politely to take a hike. I imagine things will change come winter, but until further notice it’s apparently status quo over there.
6) After winning consecutive games for the first time all season, prompting some pundits to go as far as suggesting the Redblacks might even win the East, Ottawa returned to form this week. What’s worse is this one was on home turf, while the two previous games were on the road. The Redblacks extended their dismal stretch at TD Place to 1-21, with the most recent victory at home nearing a full calendar year.
7) We’re 14 weeks into the season and I still have no idea if the Argonauts are good or bad. They’re probably a bit of both. At 5-7 and a near lock to win the East, Toronto will likely have the benefit of having to win a single home game to punch their ticket to the Grey Cup.
8) Classy move by Bombers and Roughriders to wear a specially designed helmet sticker to honour the victims of the Saskatchewan stabbings over the Labour Day weekend. There was also a moment of silence.
9) The Bombers game was certainly the most lopsided we’ve seen in recent years against their prairie rivals, but that had as much to do with what transpired off the field as it did on. The Roughriders got hit with the stomach flu, with reports suggesting as many as 15 players and eight coaches being affected. There were only about five players that didn’t see action, and for a while there Saskatchewan managed to keep it close. Battling a stomach bug can be a dangerous game when wearing white pants.
10) It was nice to see Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea protect his most important asset, pulling QB Zach Collaros from the game in the fourth quarter. O’Shea has often taken an old-school approach, opting to keep his star players in despite the game being out of reach. We saw that a lot with Collaros and Andrew Harris in the past, despite the Bombers having plenty of lopsided games.
11) Dru Brown came in and promptly led the Bombers to a scoring drive, connecting with Brendan O’Leary-Orange, who registered his first CFL touchdown. There were some whispers about the Bombers running up the score at that point, but meaningful reps for your backup are more important than risking hurting another team’s feelings.
12) The Roughriders are below .500 for the first time this season, good enough for fourth in the West. Lucky for them the East is awful, and so are the Elks.
13) Congrats to Roughriders QB Cody Fajardo and wife Laura for welcoming a baby boy, Luca, to the world. Fajardo left practice Tuesday to cheers from his teammates, with Laura giving birth in the early-morning hours on Wednesday. Mom and baby are doing great, and the rumour is Luca has already been added to the team’s neg list.
14) Speaking of the Elks, not to be outdone by the Redblacks, Edmonton extended its losing streak at Commonwealth Stadium to 14 games. That ties a CFL record for the most consecutive losses on home turf.
15) After the game, Chris Jones said he was embarrassed for the organization, for the coaching staff and for the players. He also vowed to go through the film and determine which players want to be here and which don’t. Jones owns a lot of this, as both the GM and head coach. And I’m told players aren’t happy there, which is obvious when your leader treats the season like one long training camp.
16) The Stampeders will finish second in the West, which should be solidified over the next couple weeks with back-to-back games against the Lions. They’re the only team I can see giving the Bombers a real run for their money, despite being 0-3 against them this year.
17) Congrats to the talented Daniella Ponticelli out of Regina for becoming the first ever female to call play-by-play of a Canadian university game. She was even able to do it in her Canadian hometown of Winnipeg, too, where she called the University of Regina Rams and Manitoba Bisons.
18) Finally, one last shoutout to Sara Orlesky, who called her final CFL game from the sidelines and will now transition to her new job with the Winnipeg Jets. She got a massive send off from across the league, and she deserved every minute of it.
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.
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