Hufnagel not happy

The Stampeders defensive line practices at McMahon Stadium last week. (Sun Media/Darren...

The Stampeders defensive line practices at McMahon Stadium last week. (Sun Media/Darren Makowichuk)

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:38 AM ET

No surprise at the tightness in the CFL's West Division standings.

But fresh from a couple of days off to start the Calgary Stampeders bye week, GM/coach John Hufnagel admits there is some shock over his team's 3-4 start.

"What I didn't expect is us only to have three wins -- but that's where we're at," he said yesterday of the defending Grey Cup champs.

"We have to understand that there is a sense of urgency when we do reconvene, and start winning our share of football games.

"I think that the learning curve is over for our football players."

Until now, learning and improving has been a patient theme. Urgency is now at the forefront.

And while Hufnagel mentioned last week there's no need to panic, the team's performances in the last few games have left some fans feeling exactly that.

After a late loss at home against the Saskatchewan Roughriders and a last-second defeat at the hands of the hated Eskimos in Edmonton, the Stampeders have shown a frightening tendency to give up big plays at the worst possible moments.

"Two of the last three games, we have not been able to finish the job at the most crucial time of the game, which is at the end of the game," Hufnagel said.

"We need to solve that problem."

Unless Hufnagel brings in new blood after the bye, a porous run defence hampered by injury isn't about to get any healthier.

The Stamps are sitting at the bottom of the league in net rushing yards against (835) and average against per game on the ground (139.2).

Opponents are averaging a staggering seven yards per carry against the Red & White defenders, who made early strides in the sack category, but have since been sieves when the ball is handed off.

Attitudes need an adjustment, too -- any confidence coming from the fact they are the defending champions should be long gone by the time the players get back from their break.

Healing bumps and bruises is a big part of the bye week, but there is another important aspect of the time off after such a disappointing start to the season.

"Probably more important now, get their minds healed up." said Hufnagel, who stopped short of saying his team was a little fragile after starting with such high expectations.

"We have to understand where we are as a football team. It's not where we want to be. When we come back to work, we have to have one unified goal and be focused on that goal -- which is to win football games."

Loaded with offensive talent, the Stamps need to find balance to accomplish their goal of a return to the playoffs and another trip to the Grey Cup.

Scoring more touchdowns and points than any other team, while allowing the fewest majors against and sitting second in points allowed by opponents, it would seem they're closer to pulling it all together than their sub-.500 record indicates.

While the players visit family or hit a hot spot somewhere to get away from the game this week, coaches are looking at all their options for improvement.

In the meantime, Hufnagel hopes his players are making proper decisions during their off-week.

He had them hit the scales before they left to instill one important message of discipline that has to be carried into the second half of their schedule.

"You try to make sure they understand though it's a break, it's not a vacation," Hufnagel said. "They're still required to get in the weight room, get some running in, so they come back fresh, but not out of shape."

That's the only way to get a currently underachieving Stampeders team back into shape in the West Division standings.


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