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CFL Preview - Calgary (3-0) at Edmonton (4-0)



From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Thursday, July 24, 9 p.m. (ET).

GAME NOTES: The last of the unbeatens get together in Edmonton Thursday as the Eskimos host the Calgary Stampeders at Commonwealth Stadium in the first installment of the Battle of Alberta.

Edmonton has taken the field every week thus far in 2014 and has come out on top in all four outings, already equaling their entire win total from last year when they finished a miserable 4-14, picking up that fourth victory in the final week of the regular season.

Last week the Eskimos routed Winnipeg on the road, 26-3, marking the strongest defensive effort by Edmonton since the squad stifled Saskatchewan in Week 15 of the 2011 campaign, 17-1.

Odell Willis scored the first points of the meeting when he returned an interception 17 yards for a major in the opening quarter for the Esks, setting the tone for a dominating effort by the Edmonton defense as it held the hosts to just 241 yards of total offense.

Willis, who added a sack in order to move to four on the season in that department, was named the CFL Defensive Player of the Week following his dominating performance.

Quarterback Mike Reilly hit on 18 of his 31 pass attempts, leading to 192 yards and a score, while being intercepted once and sacked four times. Any other time the sack total may have been a concern, but when you consider Reilly was the top rusher for either side with 96 yards on 10 carries, it is understandable.

Also giving the visitors a lift was kicker Grant Shaw who knocked through all four of his field-goal attempts and finished with 14 points, helping to offset the fact that Edmonton was flagged for 14 penalties and sent back 125 yards, more than twice the amount of the Blue Bombers (eight penalties for 56 yards).

While Edmonton was shooting down the Bombers, Calgary was pitted against Hamilton in a tight Week 4 battle that eventually ended with the Stamps squeezing out a 10-7 victory, thanks to a 39-yard field goal by Rene Paredes in the fourth quarter, representing the only points tallied in the period by either club.

Calgary, which was also stymied by penalties (12 for 120 yards), survived as Bo Levi Mitchell hit on 20-of-35 for 201 yards. The lone major for the hosts came courtesy of Brad Sinopoli who galloped 26 yards into the end zone in the second quarter on his only rushing attempt of the meeting. For Sinopoli, a converted quarterback who had the option to pass on the play, it was the first TD of his CFL career.

In a league where scoring generally dominates the headlines, Friday's outcome marked the lowest point total in a Calgary win since the team defeated Saskatchewan by a score of 6-5 way back on Aug. 22, 1979.

Through three games, Calgary has surrendered a mere 30 points, including just a single touchdown, in getting off to the best start since 2000. The 30 points permitted is the lowest total after three games for the Stamps since the 1971 campaign.

Making the start by the Stamps all the more impressive is the fact that they are getting it done with a new starting quarterback, while missing their most valuable weapon in running back Jon Cornish. Unfortunately, while Calgary was hoping to get Cornish back on the depth chart for this week, the latest news indicates that he has taken a step back in his recovery from a concussion suffered a few weeks ago and will again be watching from the sidelines.

With Cornish still not at 100 percent, the burden again lies on Mitchell who is now 6-0 as a starter. Should Mitchell come out on top yet again, he will tie former Stamp signal caller Jeff Garcia's CFL record for consecutive victories to begin a career.

Edmonton owns a 123-89-3 mark in the all-time series, taking into consideration only regular-season bouts stretching back to 1949. However, Calgary has captured the eight most recent meetings in the Battle of Alberta, the team posting seven straight victories in Edmonton.

This is the deepest into a campaign that these two squads have met with unblemished records, the previous occasion being 35 years ago when both teams were perfect after two games.

Willis can certainly give the Stamps a jolt on the defensive side of the ball, but without Cornish the task will be that much tougher this week on the road.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Edmonton 26, Calgary 23

07/23 11:37:17 ET

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