Stamps should be wary

Jermaine Chatman intercepts a pass. (SUN/Stuart Dryden)

Jermaine Chatman intercepts a pass. (SUN/Stuart Dryden)

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:40 PM ET

OTTAWA -- The last time an Ottawa football team was a favourite, Russ Jackson was the starting QB and prepared by studying black and white game film.

While that might be a bit of a stretch, rebuilding the franchise has taken time.

The struggling Renegades have won just 17 games since being resurrected in 2002, hardly scaring CFL opponents.

Through that time they've claimed few believers, although that might be changing. The visiting Calgary Stampeders should certainly be wary.

In fact, Calgary hasn't taken two points from the Renegades since July 1, 2003 with Kevin Feterik as the starting quarterback.

The Renegades have earned a 3 1/2-point edge in the betting line tonight while gaining some respect across the league this year. Despite claiming just five victories last season (including two against the Stampeders), the 'Gades shocked Montreal in overtime two weeks ago.

A slim loss to B.C. last time out has some, including starting quarterback Kerry Joseph, convinced the team is more competitive than its record indicates.

"We've always believed in ourselves and can't worry about what other people believe," Joseph said yesterday.

"It all depends on what the people believe in this locker-room and within this organization and that's the attitude we've had.

"Our offence is still struggling and there's times when we just don't click but it's early in the season and the more games we keep playing, I think we're going to get better -- I think I'm going to get better."

Joseph is the engine that drives the Renegades. The team won just once last season during a half-dozen games in which he was injured while going 4-8 with him at the controls.

Joseph has completed 50 of 84 passes (59.5%) this season, including three TDs while giving up three interceptions. He might be most dangerous running the ball and leads the team with 152 yards rushing and three TDs.

Stampeders linebacker Brian Clark said Joseph's athletic ability makes it crucial to get to him early. With the Renegades allowing 16 sacks through three games, the Stamps expect to continue pouring on the pressure.

"He's one of those guys who's faster than he looks on tape," Clark said. "You get out on the field and see how big he is and strong he is. He's hard to take down. You got to hit him hard and tackle him well and you just can't let him make the big plays because that's what he feeds off.

"He looks like running back out there with the ball in his hand. He's not always running as hard as he can but he has different speeds. He know how to beat a lineman, he knows how to beat a linebacker. He's just a real good athlete."

On the other side of the ball, the visiting Stampeders offence hasn't lived up to early season expectations but that could all change tonight.

Starting quarterback Henry Burris, who has thrown just one TD in two games, claims the team had its best week of practice. Meanwhile, Ottawa has sacrificed the most passing yards this season.

"A few people have been trying to write us off already," Burris said after a brief workout at Frank Clair Stadium. "But that's one of the reasons B.C. and Toronto were in the Grey Cup last year, that people had written them off.

"We know what we're capable of doing. We know right now we have a good offence but we know we can be great. It takes 60 minutes of execution, so when you get in scoring range, you can't get scared. That's what we've been telling ourselves -- you can't get scared when it's time to put points on the board and have some fun."

The Stampeders have added to the mix newcomer Gerald Harris, replacing MarTay Jenkins at wide receiver, while running back/slotback Ronney Jenkins returns from a hamstring injury.

Receiver Jeremaine Copeland is convinced the Stampeders' struggling offence will soon begin living up to expectations, possibly tonight.

"Of course I'm expecting it," said Copeland, who leads the Stamps with 11 catches for 156 yards. "That's a great possibility. This week in practice we've had the best week we've had, including training camp, and everything looks good. Now it's just a matter of everyone going out there and executing."


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