Close loss put stamp on season

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

It isn't easy finding the low point in a season riddled with potholes but the Calgary Stampeders' 31-30 loss two months ago in Ottawa may have been where the team bottomed out. Dropping the club's record to 1-5, the crushing defeat after blowing a 15-point lead put the Stamps on a one-way street to nowhere this season.

When asked yesterday if the Stamps'

2-10 record would be any different had they held on that night, GM-head coach Matt Dunigan relied on simple math for an answer.

"Uh, 3-9," he responded.

"I don't know ... I can't go back and see into a crystal ball and see how (it would have) worked out. Certainly that was a game we felt like we should have had. We obviously didn't seal the deal there."

Maybe not but it certainly sealed the fate of offensive co-ordinator John Jenkins, fired before the team plane touched down in Calgary.

The Stamps led 29-14 with eight minutes remaining and could have used a win that night as a turning point in what has become a dismal season, potentially the worst in team history.

Who's to say the team could have salvaged some respectability had they won that night but Dunigan is more entrenched in the stark reality of a dismal 2-10 season than wondering what could have been.

"It was a game we felt like we controlled the first few portions and then it got away from us and everybody knows the outcome," Dunigan said.

Tonight's rematch at McMahon isn't exactly an opportunity to make things right. The Stamps need more than two points to get back into contention, trailing third-place Winnipeg by six points in the CFL West.

The Renegades, hosting the 2004 Grey Cup in two months time in Ottawa, were expected to contend for a playoff spot but have also run into some rough roads en route to the championship game.

After blasting out of the gates at 3-0, the 'Gades have just one win in the last nine outings, a gift from the Stampeders in late July.

QB Kerry Joseph missed three games with an ankle injury, including the win over Calgary, while his return has done little to revive the club's playoff hopes slipping to 4-8, three points behind Hamilton.

"It's been pretty tough, frustrating a little bit because we haven't been able to get the wins but the morale is still positive," said Joseph, who made his CFL debut against the Stamps on Canada Day last year.

"We still have a lot of faith in what we're doing we just have to execute and put a full game together."

In just their third year of operation, the Renegades have the added expectations of fans wanting to see the team in the Grey Cup game at Frank Clair Stadium in November.

"It's a lot of pressure and we'd love to be there, that's what everybody's expectations were but you never know how the season will turn out," Joseph said.

"Our main focus right now is to win a ball game and that's to win (tonight) and get back on track."

Ironically, neither of tonight's starting quarterbacks played the last time the teams met.

Stamps pivot Marcus Crandell had been replaced in the starting role by rookie Tommy Jones while Joseph's ankle injury left him sidelined in favour of former Stamp Darnell Kennedy.


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