No winners in blame game

RANDY SPORTAK, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 4:12 PM ET

The volleys, understandably, can go back and forth.

Out of the mess that was the Calgary Stampeders' latest folly, a 32-28 loss Thursday night to the previously winless Winnipeg Blue Bombers, came a big question: Who was to blame?

The defence is the easy retort. After all, that unit allowed a Bombers attack led by Ryan Dinwiddie go 74 yards in three plays in the final ticks of the clock for the game-winning touchdown.

The offence is the claim of the other side. After all, that group was practically a no-show until halftime and only scored 28 points against the squad that had surrendered the most points through the first four weeks of the season.

After yesterday's run-down on the practice field at McMahon Stadium, Stamps head coach John Hufnagel threw a wider net.

"I'm looking at a team not winning a football game," he said. "We were in a position to win and didn't win it. You have to turn over all the stones and find the answer."

Oh, there are plenty of stones. Plenty who are willing to throw them, too, at the club that fell to 3-2 on the season.

Let's start with the defence.

Dinwiddie may end up a CFL star, but a quarterback making his first regular-season start should have a tougher go than what he experienced.

(Calgary's Dave Dickenson, for example, had a horrific first CFL start, in which he threw one pick, fumbled three times and took a physical beating against the Toronto Argonauts in a 48-17 thrashing late in the 1997 campaign.)

Instead of facing a never-ending barrage of pressure and one punishing sack after another, Dinwiddie wasn't sacked a single time by the Stamps defence Thursday night.

The situation was most evident on the game-winning drive, when Dinwiddie fired a 12-yard pass to Charles Roberts, a 27-yard reception to Arjei Franklin and then the 35-yard touchdown strike to Romby Bryant.

Curiously, both Stampeders losses have followed the same script: A late comeback is ruined by a last-minute, long touchdown drive.

You'd think the defenders, no matter how many starters are on the shelf, would learn.

Not so fast, said running back Joffrey Reynolds.

"It's always easy to point the finger (at the defence), but that was a team effort, that loss," he insisted.

"The first half, especially the first quarter, we couldn't even stay on the field. What did we have, six plays in the first quarter? (Actually, it was seven plus two Burke Dales punts, but still not enough.)

"We were inconsistent in the first half and it came back to bite us.

"You can say, 'Coulda, woulda, shoulda and we had a chance to win at the end,' but it didn't happen."

Yeah, because the Blue Bombers marched down the field in half a minute. Winning teams, championships teams, slam the door in that spot.

"That's unfair," Reynolds countered. "There were plenty of opportunities in the first half where the score could have been out of reach by the time we got to the fourth quarter.

"You want to say defence wins championships, but the offence has to move up and down the field."

Instead, Calgary's offence sputtered and frittered away most of the first half, a pattern that's repeated itself all three games away from McMahon Stadium this season.

And a pattern that has everybody befuddled as to its cause.

"You really can't pinpoint it," said quarterback Henry Burris. "It's been mistakes. It's been penalties. We had a turnover. Pretty much, when those things happen, you're playing second and long, and it's pretty tough on second down when teams are playing umbrella (defence). You can't get over the top, so you need guys to break a tackle to get the first down.

"If we could have scored some points, maybe a field goal or a touchdown, in the first quarter, it wouldn't have come down to that.

"The problem isn't once we get going. The problem is getting going."

Especially on the road. At home, the Stamps have set early tones by scoring. Away from McMahon, though, it's been a struggle.

"Out of five games, three out of the five have been not as fast of starts as the other two," Hufnagel said. "Whether they're home or away, I think is irrelevant. We need to come out of the gate more consistently. It's not always going to happen, but you have to do it."

EXTRA POINTS

The Stamps are off today and tomorrow before they begin preparations for their Aug. 2 date against Saskatchewan, the first half of a home-and-home set with the defending Grey Cup champs.


Videos

Photos