Defence refuses to rest

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

The Calgary Stampeders had never surrendered less than seven points on Labour Day.

But these guys were more concerned with a piece of recent history.

During last week’s blowout of the Lions in B.C., the Stamps watched the hosts celebrate a couple of garbage-time touchdowns, taking the lustre off an otherwise dominant defensive performance.

It wasn’t going to happen in Monday’s Labour Day Lambasting at McMahon Stadium.

“All week, (defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones) was stressing that in order for us to get to the next level defensively, we have to learn to put teams away,” said Stamps defensive end Mike Labinjo. “Sometimes, you might get a little lax defensively, especially when there’s such a wide margin on the scoreboard, but all week, we were learning to finish.

“Clearly, you saw it tonight. We pretty much took the world away from them.”

Thanks to a couple of meaningless touchdowns in the final three minutes, the Stamps surrendered a season-high 35 points last weekend in Vancouver.

Monday’s 52-5 bloodbath will bring the average back down.

With star quarterback Henry Burris and several of his offensive cohorts already relaxing on the sidelines, most of the fans finished their beers and headed for the exits near the end of the third quarter.

The Stamps defence was going nowhere. As a result, the Eskimos offence was going nowhere either.

With about eight minutes remaining, Labinjo smushed Eskimos backup quarterback Jared Zabransky, forcing the visitors to punt — again — and to switch to their third-string quarterback.

Jason Maas didn’t exactly receive a warm welcome, getting sacked by defensive tackle Tom Johnson on his first snap and then, with newcomer Corey Mace close enough to see the plaque on his teeth, conceding a safety on the following play.

With less than two minutes left, Johnson apparently missed a whistle and stormed through the offensive line as the Eskimos were slapped with an illegal procedure penalty.

“We like to keep the points as low as possible, always,” said Stamps defensive halfback Brandon Smith. “It’s not about the stats, it’s about personal pride. We don’t like to give up touchdowns because, defensively, you give up touchdowns and give up points, we don’t want to start that trend.

“Just giving up five points, whether it’s the Labour Day game or a pre-season game or the championship game, that’s always good.”

Already the toast of the three-down ranks, this Stamps defence is getting better every game.

Thanks in part to a second-quarter injury to running back Arkee Whitlock, they limited the Esks to just five rushing yards Monday afternoon.

They only allowed 193 receiving yards and finished with six takeaways, including four interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

They made life miserable for starter Ricky Ray, then Zabransky, then Maas. But at least one quarterback — albeit, a retired one — was smiling after this one.

“They played excellent football today and I think they’re going in the right direction,” said Stamps head coach John Hufnagel. “I mean, I wouldn’t want to play that defence right now.”

Who would?


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