Blue Bomber Report Record: 4–1–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

It's been fun since Day 1

Hordes of highlights, loads of lowlights through first half

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It was one of those 'Oh-no-he-didn't' catches. A diving, one-handed stab at a pass at the back of the end zone that Montreal Alouette receiver S.J. Green somehow pulled in while a sporting nation scrambled for the perfect superlative to describe it.

And so, if we had to pick one moment that best describes the first half of the CFL season it says here you have to rewind to Game 1 of the campaign, way back to Canada Day in Regina.

Grey Cup rematch. Alouettes vs. Saskatchewan Roughriders. Green does his thing by latching onto an Anthony Calvillo pass for a two-point convert in a 54-51 overtime loss to the Riders in what became an instant three-down classic.

Make no mistake, there have been some dandy games and moments in the weeks since then -- and some awful football as well (see: Eskimos, Edmonton) -- through the CFL's summer months.

And so with meat of the CFL schedule on the horizon, Free Press football writers Ed Tait and Adam Wazny decided to take a peek back in the rear-view mirror at the first half of the season:

 

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Tait: The resurgent Toronto Argonauts: Yes, we know they're in a two-game tailspin right now that could see all the warm and fuzzy vibes from their 5-2 start crash and burn. But, remember, this is a franchise that has won just SEVEN games over the last two seasons.

Wazny: Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Tough to find anyone who thought the 2010 team would have a worse record then the 2009 edition. Lo and behold, here we are today.

 

BEST MOMENT:

Tait: Hamilton SB Dave Stala's soccer-style TD celebration against Saskatchewan. Forget Villa, Messi or Ronaldo... Stala's handiwork was spectacular and has already drawn close to 1.1 million views on YouTube.

Wazny: Green's OT catch against the Riders seems like a lifetime ago but is highlight-of-the-year material.

 

WORST MOMENT

Wazny: Stala's TD celebration against the Argos Monday. Poor execution by teammates resulted in a complete bungling of a good meme. Good help is hard to find.

Tait: Winnipeg QB Buck Pierce's dislocated elbow injury on Labour Day Sunday. The Bomber pivot had so many rooting for him to stay upright, but the look of anguish on his face as he was taken off the field was enough to make your stomach turn.

 

BIGGEST BUST

Wazny: The Edmonton Eskimos: Some picked them to challenge for the Grey Cup. At 2-7 and coming off of a 47-point loss to their provincial rivals, the bottom is fast approaching.

Tait: I'm with Wazoo on this. It's not just that the Esks are 2-7, but they are an awful 2-7. Get this: the average margin of defeat in their seven losses is 20.6 points. Yuck.

 

THE MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER AWARD PICKS

 

OUTSTANDING PLAYER

Wazny: QB Anthony Calvillo, Montreal: Here's a stat which shows his dominance -- pass attempts, 288; interceptions, three. But forget the numbers and recall how the Als looked against B.C. without Calvillo. There's your reason.

Tait: QB Kevin Glenn, Hamilton: Heard some snickers when we trotted out the ol' Bomber pivot in our pre-season picks, but we'll stick to our selection here. Ticats have won four straight and No. 5 is at the centre of that charge.

CANADIAN

Wazny: K Paul McCallum, B.C.: The guy is 20-for-21 in field goals. He's delivered when called upon.

Tait: SB Andy Fantuz, Saskatchewan: Top Canadian receiver currently with 42 catches for 559 yards and three scores. Watch those numbers spike upwards in the second half.

DEFENCE

Tait: LB Malik Jackson, Calgary: One of those all-over-the-field linebackers who doesn't get enough pub.

Wazny: S James Patrick, Saskatchewan: The seven picks are impressive; the return yardage (164) is outstanding.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Tait: KR Marcus Thigpen, Hamilton: Already three kick-return scores. A threat to score every time he touches the ball.

Wazny: KR Jovon Johnson, Winnipeg: Slow start, but he's rounding into form. Leads the CFL in punt return yardage (501) and two TDs.

ROOKIE

Wazny: RB/KR Marcus Thigpen, Hamilton: Single-handedly kept the Ticats interesting through their 1-4 start. His 1,100 combined yards ranks fourth in the CFL.

Tait: Ditto on Thigpen, but only because Argo RB Cory Boyd doesn't qualify (played one game for Denver in 2008) and the Bombers' Terence Jeffers-Harris -- our pre-season pick -- is out with a high-ankle sprain.

 

OFFENSIVE LINEMAN

Wazny: OT Josh Bourke, Montreal: Steady as they come, will break Scott Flory's five-year run as the Als' top hog.

Tait: OT Ben Archibald, Calgary: What was supposed to be a concern is now one of the Stamps' strengths. And Archibald is a key cog at left tackle.

 

DEVELOPING TRENDS TO TRACK

These numbers courtesy CFL HQ:

CFL attendance is down slightly to 28,322 per game;

TV ratings on TSN and RDS are up nine per cent;

A good chunk of games -- 44.4 per cent -- have been decided in the final three minutes;

Kick-return TDs are on a record pace with 12 total or one every three games;

QBs are loving the coach-to-helmet radio receivers -- CFL pivots have completed 62.9 per cent of their passes (the record is 62.7, set in 2008);

Scoring is up five per cent to 53.9 points per game; an increase of 15 per cent from 2006.

RBs are productive on more-limited touches: there have been 38.3 rushing plays per game, the second-lowest total ever, but the average gain is 6.1 yards, a record.

 

THREE DEVELOPING STORY LINES

 

1. What happens with the stadium debate/mess in Hamilton? Can the city and Ticats kiss and make up?

2. Will the TD Atlantic game in Moncton, N.B., later this month spur expansion into the Maritimes? Lots of talk since the days of the Atlantic Schooners in the early '80s -- that concept never got off the ground -- but still no ownership group has stepped forward.

3. Can the stadium projects on the prairies -- the digging underway here and the grandiose plans in Saskatchewan -- help springboard the Bomber and Roughrider franchises to longtime financial viability?

 

THREE SECOND-HALF PREDICTIONS

Wazny:

1. The B.C. Lions will find four more wins and beat out Winnipeg and Edmonton for the final playoff spot.

2. Calgary QB Henry Burris will finish with 25 interceptions. No one will notice because he'll have 45 TD passes.

3. Struggling Toronto QB Cleo Lemon will finally be replaced by another pivot. Ricky Ray.

Tait:

1. Bombers will go 5-4 in the second half of the season to finish 7-11 and become the first East Division squad to cross over into the West playoff picture.

2. The Ticats will close the gap on the Alouettes and push for first. Circle Oct. 22 -- Hamilton at Montreal -- on your calendar.

3. The Eskimos will hire Eric Tillman as their new GM and he'll begin cleaning house immediately, although Richie Hall will survive until the end of the year before being pink-slipped.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 10, 2010 C4

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