Howell's heroics go for naught

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

All season long, Markus Howell has edged closer and closer to breaking through the punt coverage.

The speedy Canadian finally found a the perfect opening yesterday and burst through, turning defenders inside out in failed attempts to bring him down.

But the Calgary Stampeders returner was in no mood to celebrate despite scoring on a 57-yard punt return in a

30-21 West semifinal loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The score was the Calgary franchise's first punt return touchdown since Wane McGarity did it early in the 2003 season against the Toronto Argonauts.

"Usually when things like that happen, it can jumpstart your team," said the veteran receiver. "We didn't have that and it killed us."

Calgary's offence was lifeless in the second quarter when Roughriders punter Luca Congi booted the ball into Howell's waiting arms and he took it to the house for a 10-5 lead.

Later in the same quarter, Howell had another opportunity and found a similar hole, taking the ball back 40 yards as Congi knocked him out of bounds at the Saskatchewan 29-yard line.

The Stamps converted the play into a touchdown a few plays later as Howell could be credited with both scores.

"Hats off to our special teams," Howell said.

"We played great there but the other two phases didn't show up.

"I told you all year our punt return cover guys do a great job putting their hands on people and giving me a lane.

"All I needed was a crease because me and (fellow returner) J.R. Ruffin have plenty of speed.

"When I catch the ball in the air, I get moving and that's what happened."

The only blemishes for the Stampeders on special teams came later in the game when Roughriders defensive tackle Nate Davis got his hand up and blocked a Sandro DeAngelis field-goal attempt.

That play gave Saskatchewan some momentum to complete a 16-point comeback.

"We wanted to stop the special teams mishaps and when we did that, we were able to take control of the game," said Roughriders receiver Jason Armstead.


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