Stampeders set sights on Lions

Nov 5, 2014 - 4:27 PM Vancouver, BC ( - The Calgary Stampeders, the top team in the CFL this season, aims to tie a team record for wins in a season when they challenge the British Columbia Lions in the regular-season finale at BC Place on Friday night.

Calgary, which is an impressive 7-1 on the road this season while BC is just 4-4 at home, would match the club record for victories at 15 with another triumph this week. The Stamps, who will host the West Division final on Nov. 23 for the right to advance to the 102nd Grey Cup Championship the following week, are also trying to avoid back-to-back defeats for the first time this season when they take the field on Friday.

After ripping off four straight wins, the team hit a snag during Week 19 action when it fell to Winnipeg, 18-13, at home. Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell played the entire game for the Stamps as he converted 13-of-22 passes for 138 yards and a score. But the Blue Bombers, who were out of the playoff picture, were closing up shop for the season so they had nothing to lose in a game that was dominated by kickers for the most part.

Certainly the Stampeders didn't do themselves any favors by being saddled with 14 penalties for a loss of 130 yards, and losing a total of five fumbles, but again the outcome was not something that would change when Calgary would be suiting up in the postseason.

As for the Lions, they had a chance to lock up third place in the West Division with a victory against Edmonton, but it wasn't meant to be as the visitors failed to show much effort at all in a dismal 37-3 final. Outside of a 21-yard field goal by Paul McCallum, almost nothing went right for the Lions as they saw their brief two-game win streak come to an end.

British Columbia was held to a paltry 161 yards by the Edmonton defenders, and did very little to challenge the hosts. Kevin Glenn started at quarterback for the Lions, but after hitting 9-of-17 passes for 68 yards and being sacked three times, it was clear that he was of little consequence in the outcome. The team inserted John Beck into the huddle and he proceeded to convert only one of his seven pass attempts for 27 yards.

If the Lions were looking for one bright spot in an otherwise dismal display, it came from linebacker Solomon Elimimian who took down Edmonton quarterback Mike Reilly along the sidelines for his 131st tackle of the season, establishing a new single-season record in the CFL. Elimimian, who now has 137 stops and is a whopping 56 tackles ahead of his closest competitor (Calgary defensive back Brandon Smith), broke the mark set by Edmonton's JC Sherritt just a few years back.

As great as Elimimian has been on a personal level, the BC defense has been riding along with him and is currently second in the league with just 306.9 ypg allowed. Because of the presence of Elimimian in the middle of the field, opposing quarterbacks have completed just 59.2 percent of their pass attempts, the second-best defensive mark in the league behind Edmonton at 55.3 percent.

On the offensive side of the ball, British Columbia is third from the bottom in scoring with just 21.4 ppg, a far cry from Calgary which is tops in that category with 28.1 ppg, thanks to the efforts of Mitchell and running back Jon Cornish.

Mitchell may not be the most aggressive passer in the league this season, but he has made very few mistakes. The gunslinger has tossed 21 touchdowns, against just eight interceptions and when you combine that with his 62.9 percent accuracy it turns into a league-leading 96.9 efficiency rating.

As for Cornish, who will most likely be sitting this meeting out after his head slammed to the icy turf in the last outing, he has run for more than 1,000 yards for the third year in a row, even though he has spent a considerable amount of time on the sidelines with some nagging injuries. His touchdown production has taken a hit because of his time off, coming up with only five rushing scores compared to 12 and 11 in 2013 and 2012, respectively, but he is no less valued because of it.

While Cornish again leads the CFL in rushing with 1,082 yards on 139 carries, the closest competition to him coming from British Columbia is an injured Andrew Harris (652 yards) who is sixth in the league even though he has not taken a snap since Sept. 27 when these two teams met, coincidentally.

During that Week 14 encounter, visiting BC scored the first points of the meeting on a two-yard TD run by Beck, but after that the offense for the Lions dried up in a 14-7 decision. Calgary, which also struggled to get into scoring position, had to instead rely on kicker Rene Paredes who made four of his six field goal attempts and finished with 12 points for the hosts.

That particular game also saw Drew Tate handling the quarterback responsibilities for the Stamps, converting 12-of-23 passes for 162 yards, while being sacked three times. Glenn and Beck were on the other side combining to hit 16-of-29 attempts for 140 yards and two interceptions as Calgary snapped a two-game slide in the series.

Winners of four of the last seven meetings, the Stamps are ahead in the all- time series, 98-80-5, but that's only with regard to regular-season matchups dating back to 1954.

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