Stamps catchin' some confidence

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:27 AM ET

The start was sluggish and the opponent made a mistake at the end to essentially hand over a victory.

But the Calgary Stampeders are focused on the positives of a 23-20 victory over the Toronto Argonauts Friday night at Rogers Centre.

The visitors improved to 4-4 by dodging overtime when the Argos opted against trying about a 58-yard field goal to tie on the game's final play.

"It's a growing process," said Stamps head coach John Hufnagel.

"We have more young players than we ever expected to have. This is a confidence builder for this team. It was necessary and we accomplished it."

After letting opponents rush for an average of 144 yards in the previous seven games, the Stamps made a few changes for the trip to Toronto and those moves seemed to work.

Newcomer Tim Johnson started his first game at middle linebacker and led the team in tackles, while 300-lb. defensive tackle DeVone Claybrooks plugged the middle on rushing downs during his first game.

The other change was taking Malik Jackson and converting him to wide-side linebacker from defensive end and his size was an advantage there.

The Stamps held Jamal Robertson to just 19 yards on seven rushing attempts, and the Argos were forced to do dump-off passes to their running back an astounding 11 times instead of throwing deep.

"The run game was much better. They tried to run early and didn't have much success, so they went away from it," Hufnagel said.

"There is still room for improvement with our pass rush. We got two sacks and didn't give up any for them. That went in our favour.

"But more often than not, Cody (Pickett) had times when he wasn't pressed. You want to pressure a young quarterback and make him give us the ball back. We had chances in the first two series, and we weren't able to hang onto them. He settled down and played a good game.

Coming off a two-week break, the Stamps offence didn't get much going in the first half and quarterback Henry Burris seemed out of sorts.

Burris was just 6-of-13 passing in the opening 30 minutes for 75 yards, but Hufnagel gave credit to the Argos defence and how well they adjusted to the game plan.

But in the second half, whenever the Stamps needed points, Burris was able to move the ball. He hit the endzone twice on passes to Jeremaine Copeland, who is on a major-per-game pace this season with eight.

The defensive performance is especially impressive considering cornerback Brandon Browner went out at halftime with a knee injury.

The Stamps moved Dwight Anderson across to Browner's spot, while Keon Raymond stepped in at wide-side corner.

Browner, who played on a broken ankle during last year's Grey Cup, doesn't believe the injury is overly serious, but he's going for an MRI anyway.

"We will have an MRI to make sure we know what the injury is, but I think I will be alright," Browner said.

"It doesn't feel like a bad one. It feels more like a sprain. I tweaked it.

"I was able to get up and run on it and I can still walk. It's not swelling up. For precautionary reasons, (trainer Pat Clayton) wanted me to come out."

This win was similar to Game 8 of 2008, when the Stamps scored a go-ahead touchdown in Vancouver and the defence shut down the Lions' final attempts with an interception.

"The same thing happened last year when we lost two in a row," Hufnagel said. "Our defence was on the field with a chance to win a game and we came up with the victory.

"There are still game-to-game issues, but I liked what I saw from the defence. It's not like it can't still be improved, but the positives are there."

IAN.BUSBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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