Suffering a bad trip

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

Every weary traveller recognizes the symptoms of a road trip that plummets off the map.

There's the bloodshot eyes, slumped shoulders and grumpy disposition, all telltale signs of another trek from hell.

Those are precisely the characteristics the Calgary Stampeders exhibited in the locker-room Saturday night in Winnipeg that suggest these guys just can't stand taking their act on the road.

And it's been a bugaboo all season for the 10-8 CFL club, which considers itself a Grey Cup contender, yet won just twice this year playing out of a suitcase.

The glaring shortcoming while wearing road whites was evident again Saturday night in Winnipeg as the club fell 28-13 to the Blue Bombers.

The Stamps' last road win was two months ago in Montreal, a dilemma that needs to be fixed should the club harbour hopes of returning to Winnipeg next month to challenge for the Cup.

"I feel like we came out to Winnipeg and wasted our time because we didn't get anything accomplished," said defensive end Rahim Abdullah. "We didn't get the 'W,' which was important, but we didn't get the win on the road, which was the most important thing.

"It does us no good to win at home every time if we can't get it done on the road. If we want to get to the Grey Cup, we have to learn how to win on the road."

The Stamps host the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West semifinal Nov. 5, with the winner travelling to Vancouver to play for the division title.

The Green Machine is an almost equally pitiful 3-5 away from Taylor Field, making them underdogs when they arrive at McMahon Stadium in two weeks time.

The Stamps aren't taking the Roughies lightly, yet can't help but thinking ahead to a West Coast road game.

It's a contest their track record suggests would be nearly impossible to win.

"It's like we have two different teams," Abdullah said. "One team that plays at home, that is the prideful Calgary Stampeders, and one team that goes on the road with some guys who don't show up."

The Stampeders finished the regular season 10-8, one less win than last year when they also clinched second place, powered by an impressive 6-3 mark away from McMahon Stadium.

How has the CFL's best road team turned into one of the league's most submissive visitors, packing two points as a gift for the grateful hosts?

Head coach Tom Higgins says he has no idea, although he's hopeful the team's woeful road record is irrelevant. Of some benefit, come Nov. 5, is the experience of faltering in last fall's semifinal.

"Our regular season's over and when the playoffs start, throw all the records out the window, they don't mean anything," Higgins said.

"The only difference this year is that we have a team with a lot more playoff experience."

They should also be fielding a more solid defence than the one that served up 151 yards to Charles Roberts, the CFL's reigning rushing king.

Defensive lineman Sheldon Napastuk (knee) along with linebackers John Grace (calf) and Cornelius Anthony (ankle) didn't make the trip to Winnipeg. All three are expected back for the playoffs. Scott Coe, one of the linebackers that looked helpless trying to corral Roberts, is wondering what the team lacks on the road.

"It's a bad feeling because we have to learn to win on the road ... the trip to the Grey Cup is on the road for us," Coe said.


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