Stampeders don't learn

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

Minutes before halftime, alarm bells started ringing on the West side of McMahon Stadium.

There was no fire but the Calgary Stampeders should have taken it as a warning sign.

Don't turn the ball over, don't take stupid penalties and, most of all, don't treat that 16-point lead like it's insurmountable.

Unfortunately for the Stampeders, they did none of that and allowed the Saskatchewan Roughriders to come back and win the West Division semifinal 30-21 yesterday.

Just like a year ago when Calgary blew a 14-point lead against Edmonton, turnovers killed the Stamps offence.

Henry Burris threw four interceptions and fumbled once, Joffrey Reynolds also lost the handle on a reception and the Roughriders blocked a Sandro DeAngelis field goal.

"You can just rewind the tape and watch it from last year," said Burris, who finished 16-for-32 passing for 198 yards.

"It was the same situation. I can't have those turnovers. The picks and a quarterback sneak (when he fumbled).

"The 'Riders had good pressure on me on two interceptions because I was throwing off my back foot."

Add in a turnover on downs and the Stamps ran their total to seven, which is one more than last year when the Eskimos came back to win the West semifinal here and eventually claim a Grey Cup title.

Things were going great for the home side just before the halftime gun when Burris went in on a one-yard touchdown plunge.

But Saskatchewan quarterback Kerry Joseph quickly responded and drove his team for a 22-yard passing score to a wide-open Matt Dominguez.

Then on the first offensive play of the second half, 'Riders running back Kenton Keith found a hole and scampered 74 yards to make it a two-point game.

With the Stamps doing nothing on offence, the 'Riders took the lead early in the fourth quarter on a Luca Congi 41-yard field goal, then sealed it for good when Keith ran in from 14 yards for his second touchdown.

That sent the 12,000 to 15,000 Roughriders fans in attendance wild.

"We had a slow start but were able to come out well in the second half," said 'Riders receiver Jason Armstead.

"We wanted to help our defence but couldn't.

"This is the best thing for me right now. It's my first time in the playoffs right now and I love it.

"This is like a home atmosphere here today. They came out for us and we performed for them."

Saskatchewan now travels to B.C. to face the Lions Sunday in the West final, with the winner moving on to Winnipeg for the Grey Cup the following Sunday.

The Roughriders will have to improve in a few areas if they hope to get there.

Stamps kick returner Markus Howell scored on a 57-yard punt return touchdown and set up another score with a 40-yarder.

But Howell was the only one making things happen for the Stamps as Reynolds was held in check (55 yards rushing) and receiver Nik Lewis and Jeremaine Copeland combined for eight catches for 99 yards.

"It hurts and I'm probably hurt the most," said a weeping Copeland afterwards.

"I don't know what next year brings.

"The little line for contracts comes into effect. I know I'm one of the highest- paid guys in the receiving corps and across the league.

"I'm hoping I stay in Calgary and don't have to leave on this note. If it goes another way, I had a great time when I was here.

"I just wish I could have won a ring here. It's going to be rough this off-season."

The biggest change could be the coach, as Tom Higgins has suffered back-to-back playoff disappointments at home following strong regular seasons.

"Our personal expectations weren't met," Higgins said.

"I take full responsibility for what happens because the buck has to stop somewhere."


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