10 observations from Calgary Stampeders win over host Roughriders
REGINA – A win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders is always going to feel good for the Calgary Stampeders.
But a 37-10 win when you’re listed as the sizeable underdog and are missing your starting quarterback, starting running back and are fielding a group on defence with a tonne of new names?
Yeah, the Stampeders (2-1) were feeling themselves on Saturday night.
Here’s a bunch of observations from Saturday’s big win:
1. TRE, TRE, TRE
It’s best to just get this out of the way, but Tre Roberson is no longer emerging as a star in the CFL. He is a star.
His two interceptions on Saturday brought his season total to five, through only three games.
That’s as many interceptions as Anthony Orange had at the end of last year when he led the league.
Technically, Roberson is on pace to shatter the CFL record for interceptions in a season — Al Brenner holds that record with 15 in 1972 — and would finish the year with 30 if he keeps it up.
That won’t happen, of course. Opposing QBs are going to stop throwing the ball in his direction.
But one way or another, Stamps fans have the opportunity to watch the league’s best boundary corner playing at an incredibly high level week-in and week-out. That’s exciting.
Also, his wife could give birth “at any moment,” so there’s a very good chance his two interceptions won’t even be the most exciting part of Roberson’s week.
2. OK WITH ARBUCKLE
After coming in for the final two drives of the Stampeders’ comeback win over the B.C. Lions last week, Nick Arbuckle took over the starting quarterback duties on Saturday.
He was excellent, and anyone writing the Stamps off because they put Bo Levi Mitchell on the six-game injured list is probably reconsidering that thought.
Arbuckle completed 19-of-22 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns.
He looked calm and composed in the pocket, going through his reads and making good decisions. Nobody should be comparing him to Mitchell just yet, but everything we’ve seen so far from Arbuckle suggests the Stamps can win some games with him at QB.
He saved his best for last, too, as his touchdown passes to Eric Rogers and Reggie Begelton in the second half showed he’s got a serious killer instinct.
With Mitchell out for most of the summer, the Stamps are going to get a good, long look at Arbuckle. The early returns are encouraging.
3. O-LINE IMPROVEMENTS
When the offensive line plays badly, everyone notices.
When the unit plays well, it tends to open up the rest of the offence and the o-line gets overshadowed.
On Saturday, the Stamps offensive linemen played extremely well and took a big step forward from two shaky performances to start the season.
“The offensive line played their butt off,” said Stamps running back Ka’Deem Carey. “I’m telling you right now, this o-line is one of the best. You’re going to see it as we go into the season.”
Matched up against a star-studded and heavily-hyped Riders d-line, the guys on the Stampeders offensive line rose to the occasion. They opened up holes for the running backs and gave Arbuckle time and space to operate.
4. D-LINE STEPS UP, TOO
It’s been a hellish start to the season for the Stampeders d-line.
Already leaning on new faces heading into training camp, the unit’s been hit with a string of long-term injuries that had Stamps president/GM John Hufnagel making trades and bringing in free agents just to make sure they had enough bodies to play.
On Saturday, though, the d-line stepped up in a big way.
Cordarro Law, Mike Rose and Chris Casher combined for four sacks, while newcomer Jabar Westerman fit in well in his first game.
You win football games in the trenches, and despite all the injuries, the Stamps d-line did everything asked of it on Saturday night.
5. RUN GAME ON TRACK
Heading into Saturday’s game, the Stamps were averaging 36.5 rushing yards per game.
Against the Riders, they combined for 129 yards on the ground, even with starting running back Don Jackson out with a concussion.
Now, a big part of that is the job the offensive line did opening up holes. It would be unfair to say they were better without Jackson. He hasn’t had the room to work that Ka’Deem Carey and Terry Williams did in this victory.
But that one-two combo looked dangerous for the Stamps. Williams brings the speed and Carey is big and loves contact — although he’s pretty shifty out there, too — and if the Stamps are throwing both guys at defences, it’s going to make life very difficult for opponents.
6. LINEBACKERS ON POINT
Quietly, Cory Greenwood is leading the CFL in tackles, with 25.
The Stamps linebacker has a different skill-set than Alex Singleton, but he’s proving that the Calgary crew can survive without the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player of 2017.
On Saturday, the Stamps had to play without weak-side linebacker Wynton McManis, who has some fluid in his knee. Nate Holley stepped in to replace McManis, and together, Holley and Greenwood combined for 14 defensive tackles and were a big part of why Riders running back William Powell ran for only 50 yards on 14 carries.
Fraser Sopik, by the way, had four tackles and a sack of his own and looks like he’s really going to be an impact-maker.
7. WHO ARE THESE GUYS?
With the exceptions of Roberson and Jamar Wall, the Stampeders fielded a group of defensive backs who were all essentially in their first year as regular starters.
If there was concern about that before kickoff — and there was, trust me — there’s got to be optimism now.
Robertson Daniel looks like he’s a real find and picked up his first interception.
Raheem Wilson moved to halfback and impressed, while DaShaun Amos and Royce Metchie are going to be relied upon to play a lot of football this year.
Afterwards, defensive backs coach Josh Bell tweeted about wanting to see even more improvement going forward, but he’s got to be happy with the steps forward they’ve already taken.
8. BEGELTON UNLEASHED
Before the season, I picked Reggie Begelton to be a CFL all-star this season.
He didn’t exactly explode out of the gate in the Stamps’ first two games, but the 25-year-old really got going Saturday with 102 receiving yards.
His 76-yard touchdown was the nail in the Riders’ coffin.
Make no mistake, Begelton’s going to make an impact this year.
9. KEEP IN CHECK
It’s worth wondering whether the Stampeders proved how good they are Saturday, or if they proved how much work the Riders have to do.
It’s probably a bit of both, to be fair.
The Riders are now 1-3 on the season, with their only win coming against the brutal, winless Toronto Argonauts.
You can only beat the opponent that’s put in front of you, though, and the Stampeders laid a beating on the Riders.
There’s a bigger test coming up next weekend when the Stamps visit the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and we’ll have a much better idea of how good this team can be after that one.
10. ONE BACK
Maybe it’s because of the injuries or the way the Stamps were playing prior to the final three minutes of their win over the B.C. Lions last weekend, but there’s been a lot of doom and gloom surrounding the team so far this year.
With the win over the Riders, though, they’re now 2-1 on the season and are only one game back of the West Division-leading Edmonton Eskimos.
It’s a long, long season, and there’s no reason to draw too many conclusions from three games, but anyone expecting the Stamps to go gently into the night can probably start readjusting that expectation now.