Playoff prep a fumble fest

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

All week, they called it a tune-up.

Even though last night's meeting with the Montreal Alouettes counted in the standings, anybody and everybody involved with the Calgary Stampeders really saw it as preparation for the Nov. 11 playoff game.

Based on their performance through much of the uninspired 33-32 loss, the Stamps are in playoff form.

Unfortunately for those believing in horsepower, that's not a good thing.

Seeing as the Stampeders gassed the semifinal in each of the last two years because of a steady stream of turnovers, their spotty performance last night on the McMahon Stadium turf doesn't bode well.

Sure, it looked great on the first series. Fantastic, actually.

But after opening the tilt with a seven-play, 93-yard touchdown drive that featured Joffrey Reynolds for 66 yards and ended with Ryan Thelwell's 24-yard touchdown reception, the problems began.

Reynolds, especially, began the tragic comedy of errors.

The Stamps' next possession ended on the first play because the 1,000-yard running back fumbled the ball. The same thing happened on the following series, too, to the horror of the announced crowd of 29,247.

Yeah, that's the same Reynolds who put two balls on the turf in the 2005 playoff loss and one last fall.

It didn't end there for him, either.

After that, Reynolds was long gone from being the first choice for quarterback Henry Burris in the offence.

Even when the faith was back, Reynolds couldn't put it back in order, dropping a pass late in the second quarter when there was nobody within 10 yards of him.

Hey, even the fan wearing Reynolds' No. 21 jersey in the promotional race for Bow Valley College dropped her books. Twice.

"Definitely frustrating. No player wants to hurt the team," Reynolds said. "I take pride in playing hard every down and it was just one of those things that happened."

For the Stamps, though, the miscues didn't stop there.

Burris, whose goal was to find his form well enough to be rested in next weekend's season finale, showed signs but wasn't on his mark.

In a sport where ill-timed errors are the difference between winning and losing, the bad side of Smiling Hank came up at the wrong time.

With six seconds remaining in the first half -- and the Stamps on the verge of pulling ahead before the break after the offensive unit dawdled to get to the line of scrimmage -- Burris made an ill-advised throw into the end zone that pretty much fell into the hands of Etienne Boulay.

That was the first of Burris' three interceptions.

"It took us a while to get in synch," Burris said. "We came out and hand a good drive (to start), but once the turnovers happened, it was like we fell out of synch right away.

"I wasn't making throws as crisp as I can, I was overthrowing touch passes -- things like that. That's stuff we have to get together before we get this run going. I'm pretty sure with hard work, it'll happen."

At least it was a team-wide horror show until the late push to come back and win.

There was the asinine roughing-the-kicker infraction on Kevin Garrett on the first drive of the second half that led to a field goal -- one of all too many penalties, which is the season-long peril of this club.

Ryan Thelwell was downed by a turf snake when he appeared destined for a TD.

And on defence, there isn't enough space to itemize what all went wrong facing an Alouettes team that quite simply isn't that good.

Thankfully, they have one more game to tune up before Remembrance Day.

Head coach Tom Higgins hopes the B.C. Lions -- in a whole different league than the Als -- will help the Stamps get their engine purring.

"The opportunity to learn lessons is running out on the 2007 Calgary Stampeders football team," Higgins said.


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