The biggest party in Canada is set to take place this Sunday in Toronto. The 100th Grey Cup, otherwise known as the National Drunk, takes place in the largest city in the Dominion, as the Calgary Stampeders take on the hometown Toronto Argonauts, at the sold out Rogers Centre. (It is very rare that sold out and Rogers Centre are used in the same sentence.)
Both teams are red-hot coming into this game. The Stamps have won 6 straight, including thrilling playoff wins over Saskatchewan and BC. The Argos have won 4 straight, which includes playoff wins over Edmonton and Montreal.
The Stampeders have plenty of weapons on offence. Quarterback Kevin Glenn has had a superb season for Calgary, completing 66.7% of his pass attempts for 4,220 yards, 25 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. While his interception rate is still high, Glenn has to be credited for showing leadership and poise, during rough stretches. Glenn did not play in the West Semi Final against Saskatchewan, but was pressed into action in the West Final against BC, after Drew Tate suffered a broken forearm. Glenn was excellent against the favoured Lions last week, completing 15 out of 24 passes for 303 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. Glenn has plenty to prove as well. Back in 2007, Glenn led the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to the Grey Cup game, but was forced to miss the contest, due to a broken arm. The Bombers lost the game, and Glenn thought he would never get another chance. This is Glenn’s chance at redemption.
What helps Glenn is a strong running game. Jon Cornish led the CFL in rushing, gaining 1,457 yards on the ground, while scoring 5 touchdowns to boot. The Kansas graduate did have his issues this season. From calling out his offensive line earlier in the season, to mooning the Saskatchewan crowd, Cornish did show immaturity and selfishness early on. However, Cornish grew up and started to find his game. No one denies Cornish’s talent, and he will be an integral part of the Calgary offence.
The Stamps have no shortage of receivers to throw to. Slotback Nik Lewis led the CFL in receptions with 100, was fourth in the league in receiving yards 1,241, and third in touchdowns, as he found the end zone 10 times. Lewis has been held in check in the postseason though, making only 5 catches for 32 yards in 2 games. Lewis hasn’t escaped controversy either. Before last week’s game, Lewis went to Twitter to make an obscene comment regarding OJ Simpson and his late wife Nicole. Lewis offered a half-hearted apology, and is banned from Twitter until the end of the playoffs.
The deep threat in the Calgary passing game is Romby Bryant. Although he did struggle with the case of the dropsies, Bryant did record 55 receptions for 678 yards and 2 touchdowns. Bryant’s speed can give opposing secondaries fits, and he proved that in the Western Final, scoring on a 57 yard bomb to aid Calgary to victory.
Marquay McDaniel and John Forzani are other options in the passing game. McDaniel caught 53 passes for 744 yards and 3 touchdowns. Forzani, the son of legendary Stampeders slotback Tom Forzani, caught 29 passes for 512 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Calgary’s defence is a solid group, ranking third in the CFL, allowing 23.8 points per game. Defensive end Charleston Hughes was second in the CFL with 11 sacks. Defensive halfback Keon Raymond is second in the CFL with 5 interceptions. Linebacker Juwan Simpson led the Stamps with 82 tackles. These three players are keys to the Stamps defence. Hughes will have to put pressure on Argos quarterback Ricky Ray. Raymond will be asked to cover Chad Owens. Simpson’s assignment will be to shadow Argos running back Chad Kackert.
For the Argos, Ricky Ray will need to be in top form. The former Edmonton quarterback, who won 2 Grey Cups with the Eskimos had a great season, completing 68.6% of his passes for 4,059 yards, 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Ray is terrific between the 20 yard lines, but he has difficulties in the red zone. Ray will need to lead the Argos to touchdowns, instead of settling for field goals, to give Toronto any chance to win the game.
There is no doubt about Chad Owens ability. The Hawaii grad, is having a brilliant season for Toronto, catching 71 passes for 1,588 yards, and 6 touchdowns. Owens speed is also used in the return game, as he averages 22.4 yards on kickoff returns, and 10.8 yards on punt returns., including a 59 yard punt return for a touchdown in the East Semi-Final against Edmonton. The Flyin’ Hawaiian broke the CFL record with 2,510 all-purpose yards this season. Owens is a multi-purposed threat, that needs to see the football as many times as possible, for the Argos to win.
Another threat in the passing game is Andre Durie. The York University grad, caught 70 passes for 842 yards and 5 touchdowns. While Owens will have to deal with double teams and extra attention, it will be up to Durie and company to step up their games.
The running game is centred around Chad Kackert. The New Hampshire alum, replaced the troublesome Corey Boyd midway through the season, and pounced at his opportunity. Kackert rushed for 638 yards and 5 touchdowns. Kackert saved his best game for last week, rushing for 139 yards and a touchdown on just 13 carries. The Argos are hoping that Kackert can carry over last week’s performance to the biggest stage.
Defensively, the Argos play a bend but don’t break defence. They will give up yards, but excel at holding teams inside the red zone. Cornerback Patrick Watkins and safety Jordan Younger shared the team lead with 5 interceptions apiece. Watkins is an ideal cover corner with ball skills, while Younger is a veteran safety, known for his smarts and his ability to read the play.
The Argos don’t put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, as they finished dead last in quarterback sacks. Rookie defensive tackle Armond Armstead led the team with 6 sacks on the season. The Argos will need to find a way to put more heat on the quarterback, and force Kevin Glenn into mistakes.
The Argos did win both games against the Stampeders this season, however both games were early in the season. These two teams haven’t seen each other since August 18, and both teams have gone through significant changes since then. The Argos will have home field advantage, but that will mean the pressure will be on Toronto to win. I think the Stamps came together last week against BC and Glenn will prove his point on Sunday. Close game but Calgary wins 31-26.
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