Stamps Notes: Roberson racks up interceptions
There was a moment Saturday where Tre Roberson was on pace for 144 interceptions this season.
The second-year Calgary Stampeders corner had picked off Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Dominique Davis twice in the first quarter of their season-opening tilt and was looking like a man possessed by an almost supernatural need to get his hands on any football thrown in his general direction.
Roberson didn’t keep up that pace, of course. The Redblacks smartened up and the ball stopped coming his way.
Until, of course, Roberson came down with his third interception of the game — matching his total from 2018, when he was controversially passed up for the West Division’s Most Outstanding Rookie nomination.
“I just worked hard all off-season, I’m not even thinking about it,” Roberson said. “I just want to play the best ball I can for this team, always be prepared and just go out there and put everything on the line.
“I had a good study week and a great off-season, it all just came full-circle.”
But there’s a reason Roberson has been tipped to be an all-star this season. He had a pretty strong case last year and definitely should have earned the West Division’s Most Outstanding Rookie nomination.
With a year of Canadian football experience under his belt and an off-season to prepare for a big sophomore showing, everything would appear to be lining up for Roberson to turn a lot of heads and establish himself as one of the CFL’s very best boundary corners.
Speaking earlier in training camp, Roberson certainly wasn’t shy about his ambitions.
“Defensive player of the year, I want that,” Roberson said at the time.
Whether he’s in that conversation at season’s end or not, the Stampeders need Roberson to rise to the occasion this season.
They’ve got three new starters in their defensive backfield and there are sure to be some ups-and-downs.
On Saturday, though, the guys who played such a key part in winning the 2018 Grey Cup stepped up in a big way.
Roberson’s first interception came four minutes into the game and he caught a Davis pass on the Redblacks’ 31-yard line and ran it all the way to the 5-yard line.
Three plays later, Don Jackson punched the ball into the endzone and the Stampeders had their first touchdown of the season.
Roberson’s next interception was no less impactful, as he pulled-down another Davis pass at the Redblacks’ 52-yard line. Two plays later, Stamps QB Bo Levi Mitchell had found Juwan Brescacin for a long TD.
In the third quarter, it was longtime Stamps halfback Brandon Smith’s turn. While Roberson’s interceptions had set up touchdowns for the Stamps, Smith decided to do it all himself. Redblacks receiver R.J. Harris had bobbled a pass from Davis and Smith pounced and then ran the ball back 59 yards for a TD.
Figuring out how all the new pieces will fit has been the story for most of Stampeders training camp, but on Saturday Roberson and Smith provided a reminder that the veterans in the DB group are more than capable of changing a game all by themselves.
“Tough to waste that, I mean, that was a heck of a game for (Roberson),” Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson said shortly after the clock wound down and his team was left with a 32-28 defeat.
“We’ve seen it at camp, we’ve had trouble beating him at camp so I think he has really elevated his game. Just tough to waste that type of performance and not come out of here with a win.”
Heading into the season, the Stamps’ Canadian depth at defensive tackle wasn’t exactly a concern.
After Saturday, it might be.
Junior Turner went down with what appeared to be a left knee injury in the second quarter and did not return to the game, while Ese Mrabure did not return after halftime.
If either — or both — of them are out longterm the Stamps may need to go searching for reinforcements.
The Stamps played the entire second half with only four defensive linemen available and Derek Wiggan as the only Canadian.
“Just depth in general, it doesn’t have to be Canadian,” Dickenson said. “We’re running out of guys there and we’ve got to see what we’ve got, first off. We’ve got some guys in the building, hopefully, we’ll have to look around but this year the d-line was a concern coming in, lost (Folarin Orimolade) right away and lost two more today, I don’t know how long.”
Rookie Vincent Desjardins was made inactive right before the game and may have to step up way earlier than most expected him, but if both Turner and Mrabure are out it seems likely that the Stamps will need to go find someone new to come in.
Terry Williams, the Stamps’ kick returner and backup running back, also left the game with what appeared to be an injured right ankle in the first half and did not return.
Reggie Begelton took the majority of kick returns after halftime, but that’s definitely not something fans should expect to see much of going forward.
Alex Singleton was in the house to raise the Grey Cup championship flag prior to the game, and he received an appropriately wild reaction from the crowd . . . As promised, the Stampeders got their small celebration of last year’s championship out of the way before the Redblacks even took the field . . . Let’s be honest, Saturday looked like a season-opener. Neither team was as sharp as you can expect them to be at mid-season . . . Attendance at McMahon was 26,301 . . . Nila Kasitati does a lot of things well, but the Stampeders right tackle’s helmet sure does seem to pop off a lot . . . DaShaun Amos and Raheem Wilson both came up big in a few key moments. Amos prevented a Redblacks convert in the first quarter while Wilson stayed with his man and contested a nice Davis pass in the third, preventing a touchdown . . . Dwayne Norman and Nate Holley look like they might be absolute monsters on special teams this year.