Starting on the wrong foot

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:09 PM ET

The next outing is the Retro Game, meaning the Calgary Stampeders will be honouring the past.

Fittingly, the team will need to start playing the way they did in the most recent past, as in last season.

In winning the Grey Cup in 2008, the Stamps had an efficient offence and a solid defence. They played with emotion and were focused from the opening kickoff.

In the first two games of the new season, the offence has come out flat and the defence has endured bouts of bad luck.

Friday's 42-30 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers started off with a couple of those. The home team tried an onside kick to start the game and managed to recover it.

On Winnipeg's second drive, the Stampeders defence thought they had a turnover when safety Milt Collins stepped in front of a Stefan LeFors pass.

Collins was called for pass interference by bumping the intended receiver, and the Bombers scored a TD to go up 10-0. If not for that play, things may have turned out differently.

"That was tough," said Collins, who threw the ball down in disgust. "One of the refs said it was a judgement call and he said I ran through the receiver to get to the ball.

"A lot of veteran players told me you can make a play on the ball and you can have incidental contact. I think they made a bad call, but it's alright. We move on."

On Canada Day against the Montreal Alouettes, the Stamps were down 14-0 by the time they ran their sixth offensive play. The deficit was 10 when play No. 3 was run against the Bombers.

A few first downs early -- not even points -- would help give the Stamps defence a chance.

"It's been very slow," said Stamps head coach John Hufnagel of the starts. "It's been putting too much pressure on our defence right now. We need to stay on the field.

"We need to get better in a short amount of time (the team faces Toronto Friday).

"The slow start, plus the turnovers, plus the penalties, it's all part of the problem of being able to stay on the field."

Hufnagel said of the three Henry Burris interceptions in Winnipeg, only one was the quarterback's fault.

Despite Burris getting pulled with seven minutes left for Barrick Nealy, the loss won't be pinned on the pivot.

"Mama said there would be days like this," Burris said. "We have to band together as a team and work our way through it.

"This is stuff that happens early on in a season. Once we start making plays, you see some of the things that makes us successful. We have to find ways to string them together."

In two games so far, the Stampeders have committed nine turnovers, while the defence has six takeaways.

The Stamps also held the Bombers to just 282 yards total offence, but the total number of penalties is a huge concern.

Getting dinged for 132 yards on 15 flags is a team-wide problem and one that will certainly be addressed.

Collins is one of those offenders. He took three penalties for 62 yards.

"We need to do better in all phases, it's not just the offence," Collins said.

"We need to find ourselves. Our ego is down right now, so we need to practice hard and get back to working at the next opponent.

"It's tough being 0-2 coming off last year, when we won the championship. We have to regroup right now."

IAN.BUSBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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