Stamps' hold on West lead tenuous

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:27 PM ET

John Hufnagel figures every team has ups and downs, peaks and valleys.

Right now, his Calgary Stampeders are down in the valley, having lost three of four games.

So where does that put the Stamps when they hit the flatland of Saskatchewan?

“I’m concerned about the results of three of our last four games,” Hufnagel said a day after the 46-19 loss to the Montreal Alouettes on Thanksgiving.

“You need to work your way out of it. That’s what we need to do. We need to do it in a short amount of time with the impact this next game will have.”

Not only was the 27-point loss the worst defeat this season for the Stamps, it opened up an opportunity for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Had the Stamps won, they could have clinched the CFL’s West Division with a win Sunday in Regina. As it stands, the Riders (9-5) can take control by equalling the Stamps record and holding the tiebreaker with three games remaining.

When the Stamps return to the field Wednesday, expect this to be treated like a playoff week by the coaching staff.

“We have a huge game this (Sunday),” Hufnagel said. “We know what it’s all about. It will likely determine who finishes in first place even though there’s more football after this. For us to have a chance to finish in first, we must win this game.”

The Riders were the ones who started this run for the Stamps by beating them 43-37 in overtime Sept. 17.

The Stamps have lost in much different ways. They couldn’t stop the deep passing game of the Riders, as Andy Fantuz and Weston Dressler had TDs of more than 60 yards.

Then the offence was just flat in the following 29-10 loss to the B.C. Lions.

And Monday, it couldn’t carry in the momentum of a 46-21 win over the Alouettes one week earlier.

The key problem was early turnovers and a second-half pick-six. Hufnagel said pressure was a major contributing factor in quarterback Henry Burris committing four turnovers.

Early on, the Stamps didn’t protect their QB well enough.

“Twice, individuals got beat,” said Hufnagel of his offensive line. “Another time, the running back went the wrong way. It was a combination of things. They are an excellent pass rushing team. We knew that going into the first game. We were able to get better protection in the second half (in the second game), but at that point, it was too late.”

Clearly, frustrations started boiling over with the Stamps, and it showed when receiver Ken-Yon Rambo started fighting with Alouettes defensive back Billy Parker. Fellow receiver Romby Bryant jumped in to the mix, and both he and Rambo were ejected.

“I’m always concerned when players are disqualified,” Hufnagel said. “In truthfulness, I spent a lot of time last week in my talks with players I talked about self-control. This isn’t what the team is all about.”

Extra points

Stamps LB Juwan Simpson (knee) is quite sore, but the coaches hope he can start this week … HB Milt Collins (rib) is questionable to play in Regina.

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca


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