Fans 'Howell' after big return

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

Imagine for a moment, Stampeders fans, how dreadful the first half would have been if not for Markus Howell.

For the Stamps and their faithful at McMahon Stadium, the opening 30 minutes was one disaster after another. Poor offence was the biggest problem, but so was the inconsistent defence and a penchant for bad penalties.

Thankfully for the hosts, Howell gave a reason to rise with his 96-yard punt return touchdown early in the second quarter.

It was the lone -- and badly needed -- spark.

"That's exactly what I'm trying to be, especially when things aren't going well on the offensive side of the ball," Howell said after the club's 33-21 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. "Special teams are one-third of this game here in Canada, and I get about six returns a game.

"Anyone can go to the house, so I was glad to help out."

Help out? It was a ray of light in the sea of dread.

With an offence under the helm of quarterback Akili Smith, the Stamps achieved a whole lot of nothing. With two first downs, there were fears the club's punter Duncan O'Mahony would wear out his foot booting the ball away.

Players were leaving the field after those underwhelming two-and-outs with their heads hanging.

And everybody could see it.

"You're right -- that's not a good sign," Howell said. "Any time you can pop something like that, it sends a jolt of energy through the sideline.

"It's too bad Saskatchewan did a great job on the next series, going down field and scoring."

The play was also a much-needed boost for Howell, too.

He was panned for having the drops early in the year.

Now, on the heels of running for the franchise's first regular-season punt return touchdown since 2003 (Wane McGarity) and the second longest in franchise history (the record is 105 by Jessie Branch against Toronto in 1964), Howell is confident about his job again.


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