Stamps go for third down

IAN BUSBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:32 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Nothing is sweeter to the Calgary Stampeders than McGill Stadium in August.

The students aren't back in school yet, the weather is nice and the atmosphere is electric when 20,000 people pack the college campus.

In each of the past two seasons, the Stamps have come into Montreal after an average opening to the campaign. When they hit the field at McGill, things start to open up on offence, the defence tightens down and special teams become, well, special.

So head coach Tom Higgins is hoping the trend of the past two years repeats when Calgary takes on the Alouettes tonight (5:30 p.m., TSN).

"It's a bit of coincidence," said Higgins. "I would like to tell you why Henry Burris likes to play at McGill.

"Maybe our team likes the fans, who are so in-your-face and supportive of the home side. There are some things you can put your finger on and others you can't. This one you can't.

"We would like to think our teams are well prepared and have the ability to play well here."

In 2005, the Stamps were 3-4 and floundering in Burris and the new ownership regime's first year with the team.

Then their new quarterback and kicker stepped up and caused some sparks. Burris led the offence down into field-goal range and DeAngelis kicked a 38-yard game winner.

Last year, the Stamps were 5-4 and coming off a home win over Montreal when they ran three of Craig Dickenson's trick plays -- a fake punt, fake field goal and onside kick -- to win one of the most entertaining matches of the CFL season.

DeAngelis, who kicked a game-winner against Montreal last year and is coming off another one last week, said the Stamps look forward to every August trip to Montreal. It's almost the highlight of the season.

"The intimate atmosphere at McGill has a lot to do with it," DeAngelis said. "But really Montreal is the standard everyone wants to judge themselves by.

"They've been to five of the last seven Grey Cups, so you get a bit fired up to play here against them because they are so great. Just seeing their players brings out the best in the Calgary Stampeders."

Both of the past two seasons, the win in Montreal has helped put the Stamps on the way to great things in the second half of the regular season.

In 2005, after leaving Montreal, the Stamps won seven of their next 10 to host a home playoff date. Last year, they won three of their next four to set up another second-place finish.

Burris, who was runner-up to Hamilton's Jesse Lumsden yesterday for offensive player of the week, feels that with a 3-3 record, the Stamps are just starting to find their groove.

This may be the back end of a two-game road trip, but the Stamps did get to go home after Saturday's win over Edmonton.

Earlier this season, the Stamps were on the road for six nights and two losses in Saskatchewan and Toronto.

"The first third of the season had a lot of ups and downs," said Burris. "We were shuffling, trying to get guys in good spots. We were getting used to a new system on offence.

"There are a lot of things we needed to learn quickly.

"We had to go through a couple of games where they took it to us really good in Saskatchewan and Toronto.

"That allowed us to grow quicker."


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