Punter working the angles

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:23 AM ET

REGINA -- The quarterbacks have stolen the headlines this week, for good reason.

But special teams could tip the scales in one club's favour today when the Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders hit the turf at Taylor Field.

The 'Riders boast one of the most dynamic and dangerous returners in the CFL in Corey Holmes, leading the league with 3,149 all-purpose yards.

Last week, he returned a punt for a touchdown against the Edmonton Eskimos, his third special-teams TD of the campaign.

The Stampeders, conversely, have spent most of the season trying to find a deep threat and feel they've found one in Terrence Wilkins, although a knee injury two weeks ago leaves him sidelined in favour of newcomer David Allen.

To handle Holmes, the Stampeders plan to angle punts out of bounds, sacrificing distance in favour of preventing damaging returns, said rookie punter Burke Dales.

"He's been dangerous all year and he's one of the top return men in the league," said Dales, who has never before set foot in the wind tunnel that is Taylor Field.

"The emphasis for me this week is to really be bang on with my directional punting. Out of eight punts, I'm looking to get four of them out of bounds entirely so that it gives our downfield guys a break, especially our defensive starters, and he won't get the long return.

"In all honesty, Holmes could be the X-factor in this game. If he gets a good break on a return, whether kickoff or punt, it could be the deciding factor in the game. If we can limit their return game, we have a great chance of winning."

Special teams co-ordinator Craig Dickenson said Allen, a former Jacksonville Jaguar, is slowly making the transition to the CFL game.

"He understands the rules already and all the different scenarios you have, we just have to do a better job blocking for him this week," said Dickenson.

"We're going to challenge him to be very aggressive and take every ball he can get his hands on."

Last week against Hamilton, Allen had two kickoff returns for 48 yards and a pair of punts for a modest 11 yards.

"Last week was my first time out there and it was a little different than what I'm used to but, after getting that first game and the feel of how the game feels, I think I have a better understanding of what will go on.

"We're just getting our timing down in terms of setting up the blocks. Special teams will make a big difference in this ball game."

Holmes is being touted in some corners as the CFL's most outstanding player this season. He was the team's nominee last season and would love to score a few more votes today.

In his first game against the Stamps this year, a 44-18 win for Calgary, Holmes had three punt returns for 24 yards while returning five kickoffs for 152, including a 42-yarder.

"I've been pretty consistent this year but it's all due to the guys around me," said Holmes, a Mississippi Valley State product.

"They have a lot of confidence in me and we still have a long season, still trying to get into the playoffs, and I'm a team guy.

"Right now I'd just like to see us get ourselves into position to win the Grey Cup. It's not about individual goals right now. At the same time, it's good to know people are thinking about me out there. We've just got to leave it in the voters' hands and whoever they vote for will be the right person."


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