Stamps can claim West Division title with win over Bombers

Oct 15, 2014 - 3:40 PM Winnipeg, MB ( - An opportunity to clinch first place in the West Division is there for the taking on Saturday, as the Calgary Stampeders pay a visit to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Investors Group Field.

The Stamps enjoyed some time off last week after securing a spot in the postseason, thanks in part to a 31-24 triumph over Saskatchewan back on Oct. 3. The victory was the second in a row and the eighth in nine games for a Calgary group that has been leaving the competition in its wake.

Against Saskatchewan in Week 15, Drew Tate continued to run the offense while Bo Levi Mitchell remained sidelined with an injury. Tate converted 16-of-29 passes for 194 yards and two scores through the air, not to mention scoring twice on the ground for a Calgary squad that generated 333 yards of total offense, but allowed 434 to the Roughriders.

The Stamps also hampered their own efforts by committing 14 penalties for a loss of 122 yards, but countered those mistakes by capturing three interceptions. After 14 games Calgary is showing a turnover margin of plus-14, easily the best mark in the league, while Winnipeg is at the other end of the spectrum with minus-14 in that department.

Not only does Calgary have the best record in the league this season with just two defeats, the squad has also been untouchable after bye weeks since John Hufnagel took over as head coach in 2008, going 7-0 in such opportunities.

As for the Blue Bombers, they currently sport a record of 6-9 which, had they been a member of the East Division, would place them in a near-tie for first place with three other clubs that currently have 12 points, but have played one less game.

Winnipeg was part of the second game on Thanksgiving Day, but they had very little to be thankful for as they succumbed to the Edmonton Eskimos on the road in a 41-9 onslaught. The Bombers trailed 40-0 in the third quarter before they managed to get kicker Lirim Hajrullahu close enough to knock through a 43-yard field goal. Hajrullahu added conversions from 31 and 26 yards in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.

Held to only 277 yards of total offense, the Blue Bombers started with Drew Willy at quarterback, but he finished only 4-of-9 for 23 yards before leaving late in the second quarter with a hand injury. Despite seeing limited time, Willy was sacked four times by the Eskimos.

Stepping in to take over the offense was Brian Brohm who hit on 18-of-33 pass attempts for 219 yards and an interception. In addition to shuffling the quarterback spot, the Bombers found that they had very little coverage when it came to running the ball, as the squad gained a mere 35 yards on 11 attempts. Take away a 15-yard run by Paris Cotton and it was clear that keeping the ball on the ground was not the way to go.

Unfortunately, running the ball has not been a strength for the Bombers at any point this season, as the team brings up the rear with a mere 71.5 ypg, less than half of what Calgary generates (143.6 ypg) as it leads the league in that department thanks to the efforts of Jon Cornish who is second in the league in rushing with 817 yards on 106 carries, despite starting just seven games.

While the Bombers do have former Arizona standout Nic Grigsby on the roster, with his 744 yards and eight rushing TDs on 162 carries, he did not play last week and has failed to get into the end zone in his last three appearances.

Calgary boasts the top scoring offense in the league to this point with 28.0 ppg, while the Blue Bombers find themselves in the bottom half of that category with 22.2 ppg. Unfortunately, while there are times when Winnipeg's offense shows some promise, the defense typically torpedoes that effort by giving up 27.1 ppg, second-most in the league behind only Toronto (27.9 ppg).

In terms of the all-time series between the clubs, Calgary is ahead by a count of 102-89, taking into consideration only regular-season meetings dating back to 1945. The Stamps, who close out their regular season on Nov. 1 by hosting Winnipeg, won the most recent meeting at home last October by a score of 38-11.

A league-best 6-1 on the road this season, Calgary has defeated the Bombers nine straight times. The last victory for Winnipeg in the series was back on July 10, 2009.

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