Stamps defence riding high

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:30 PM ET

If the Saskatchewan Roughriders tuned in to Sunday’s sports highlights, they undoubtedly witnessed clips of Calgary Stampeders safety Milt Collins steamrolling a receiver on the Edmonton Eskimos’ first offensive possession.

It’s the rest of the game tape that should send the message.

The Stamps will return to the practice field Wednesday in anticipation of their West Final battle with the Riders, and members of the defence should be riding high in the saddle after what was one of their best performances of the season.

As Stamps cornerback Brandon Browner pointed out in locker-room after the semifinal victory over the Eskimos, “We want to play like that in Saskatchewan.”

Not a bad plan.

The Stampeders were a stingy bunch against their provincial rivals, limiting star gunslinger Ricky Ray and his cohorts to only 234 yards of total offence and just one touchdown.

Even more impressive, they prevented the Eskimos from grabbing the momentum with a deep strike or a long run.

Ray spotted a streaking Jason Barnes on the Eskimos’ first offensive possession, but Collins knocked the rookie receiver into next week, dropping his shoulder for a collision that undoubtedly left many fans wondering if the soft-spoken safety can stand up on skates.

On another play, speedy Efrem Hill nearly snuck behind the Stamps secondary but cornerback Dwight Anderson kept the pace and batted the ball out of his mitts at the last possible moment.

And Eskies running back Arkee Whitlock only managed three first downs and couldn’t cross the stripe on back-to-back goal-line attempts in the second quarter.

After the victory, defensive tackle DeVone Claybrooks made it clear that preventing game-changing plays will be key again this weekend against a Riders team that has averaged 32.3 points per outing in three meetings with the Red & White.

“As long as we don’t give up explosion plays, we will be a tough team to beat,” Claybrooks said. “When we play disciplined and everyone does their job, we’re a tough unit. We haven’t done that against Saskatchewan. We’ve given up the explosion plays in the run and the pass.

“We have to get ourselves together, chop wood and get back to work. We have a bunch of veteran guys who have been in big games so we know how to train. We will be ready.”

The Stamps certainly don’t need to be reminded the Riders can change the face of a game with one big strike.

During their first meeting of the season Aug. 1, Riders quarterback Darian Durant fired a 65-yard touchdown pass to slotback Chris Getzlaf with less than 90 seconds left on the clock as Gang Green marched to a 25-24 come-from-behind victory.

In the Oct. 24 rematch, Durant erased an eight-point deficit with a 25-yard major to slotback Andy Fantuz and a successful two-point conversion that forced overtime in an eventual 44-44 stalemate.

Two weeks ago, the host Roughriders had five plays of 20 yards or more in the first half en route to a 30-14 triumph and the West Division crown.

The Riders boast one of the CFL’s most dangerous defensive fronts, so Henry Burris and his offensive buddies will have a tough time putting points on the board at Mosaic Stadium. The key is making sure they don’t need to many.

“When you get into playoff football, the teams are good defensive football teams, and it may be a little tougher — more difficult — to score in that part of the field,” said Stamps head coach John Hufnagel. “You’ve got to keep knocking on the door and if you knock on the door enough, hopefully it opens a few times.”


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