Slots special one-two punch

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

It takes a baseball analogy to explain the Calgary Stampeders slotbacks right now.

There's a starter who takes the team into late stages, then a closer who finishes it off.

Coming off his worst statistical full season in the CFL, no one would expect Jeremaine Copeland to be doing his best Mariano Rivera impression right now.

Nik Lewis has zero touchdowns but more yards per game than Copeland, yet the 32-year-old veteran is cleaning up with eight majors.

If Copeland keeps up this pace, he would set a career high for touchdowns and his most yards since getting 1,757 with Montreal in 2003.

"The resurgence of the Super Slots ... ching, ching," said Lewis, although Copeland is the one cashing in.

"I don't think he had an off-year. He didn't get the ball much. This year started out the same way. When (Ken-Yon) Rambo went down, it changed.

"Look at the way he played in B.C. I wasn't there and Rambo went down (with a season-ending knee injury), Cope stepped up. He's been doing that all year."

Copeland has three two-touchdown games this season, all since Rambo was hurt, and won offensive player of the week honours for his 11-catch, 182-yard game in Edmonton.

The Tennessee product could also have won this past week for another two majors against the Toronto Argonauts, but Lewis took it instead for a 118-yard game and a wicked block on Zeke Moreno.

It was a great example of this theory. Lewis made a great 20-yard reception to get the Stamps in scoring range, and Copeland capped off the drive with the first of two TDs.

"He can take us down the field and I will finish it off," Copeland said. "Knock it right out of the park.

"Even if I wasn't getting touchdowns and we were still having a good year, I really wouldn't be complaining about it.

"Nik knows if we're still out there competing and holding it down for the super slots, that's all that matters."

When Ken-Yon Rambo was injured in Week 4 against the B.C. Lions, there was a question as to who would step up and replace the production of the CFL's leading receiver in 2008.

It truly has been a collective effort but Copeland is leading by example.

Veteran Ryan Thelwell is only three catches and 56 yards away from his totals of last season, despite missing two games with a hamstring injury.

Lewis is on a great pace despite missing a game as well.

Copeland is actually averaging virtually the same yards per catch (14.7 last season to 14.3 in 2009), but he's on pace for more catches than any season other than 2003.

Stamps QB Henry Burris argues the talk of Copeland's skills eroding, even before this resurgence in his numbers.

"Last year, there was a guy named Ken-Yon Rambo on his side who is a pretty good player himself," Burris said. "Cope contributed in many ways last year, but this year, we've had a chance to go at him even more.

"With Rambo not in there, more balls are going to different guys."

Copeland knew at the point Rambo went down it would be up to the veterans, and not other rookie replacements, to lead the way.

"Individually, we decided we had to step up a little bit," Copeland said.

"Things haven't changed too much but maybe we're getting more opportunities to make plays. We're taking advantage of them.

"We're not letting down our teammates. The only way we can make this team better is to make ourselves better and try to have a better year than we did last year."

That has already been done.

IAN.BUSBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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