West Division Final pits Roughriders against Stampeders
Calgary, AB (SportsNetwork.com) - It is the matchup that everyone expected to see when the 2013 season kicked off in the Great White North and now it is here. On Sunday afternoon at McMahon Stadium, the West Division Final will take center stage as the Calgary Stampeders play host to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Early on, Saskatchewan was the team to beat in not only the West Division but the entire CFL, as the squad opened the campaign with five straight wins and victories in eight of its first nine outings. But then there was a major shift in Saskatchewan, and the club dropped four in a row and ended up bowing in two straight to close out the regular season, which meant they were destined to play in the semifinals against British Columbia last week.
In that matchup, the defense stood up for the Roughriders at just the right times, holding BC scoreless in both the first and third quarters. Granted, the second period did appear a bit shaky as the Lions posted 17 points, but when it came down to it, kicker Chris Milo took care of the interests of the Riders with a field goal and a single to close out the 29-25 win at home.
Milo was responsible for a total of 17 points for Saskatchewan, hitting on all but one of his six field goal attempts as he carried his team to the next level. To no one's surprise, Milo was named the CFL Special Teams Player of the Week.
Quarterback Darian Durant, the CFL Offensive Player of the Week, managed to hit on 19-of-23 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns, both going to the reliable Weston Dressler, but at the same time the signal caller was sacked four times.
Then again, for as many times as he was taken down behind the line of scrimmage, Durant did not shy away from taking additional hits down the field as he was credited with six rushing attempts that led to an impressive 97 yards. Durant's efforts on the ground far outweighed those of running back Kory Sheets who finished with just 68 yards on 17 carries.
For as much as Sheets has been bragging about his superior running this season, particularly of late, his last few games have not been all that special. Granted, Sheets finished the regular season as the second-leading rusher in the CFL with 1,598 yards, leading to 12 touchdowns on 287 carries, but in the last two games he has produced a total of only 110 yards and been kept out of the end zone.
Sheets set the bar rather high for himself during the first half of 2013 as he gained at least 100 yards in the first six games and seven times in the opening eight, so you can see why his latest performances have been less than stellar by his own standards.
If it is not Sheets carving up defenses for the Roughriders this season, it has been Durant who was first in the CFL with 31 passing scores and third in passing yards (4,154), although his 61.2 percent accuracy was on the low end for accomplished starting quarterbacks.
As for the Stampeders, they ended up being the model of consistency in the West this season, at no point losing even back-to-back games. Kevin Glenn may be the quarterback of record most of the time for Calgary, but his numbers were not all that great as he threw for just 2,710 yards and 18 touchdowns. On a more positive note, the signal caller was picked off just three times and that was a big part of why the Stamps were tied with Saskatchewan for the best turnover margin (plus-19) in the league.
However, as important as Glenn may be, the player that most look to on offense has to be Jon Cornish who led the league in rushing with a staggering 1,813 yards on 258 carries. Cornish, who is clearly one of the best, if not the most elite Canadian in the league again this season, was also first in yards from scrimmage (2,157) and second in combined yards (2,298) behind only Toronto's Chad Owens, who has been a huge producer for the last several years.
Cornish was also first in the league in touchdowns with 14, scoring 12 times on the ground and adding two on receptions for a Calgary squad that finished first in the CFL with 30.5 ppg and was also second in points allowed (22.9 ppg).
In terms of their interaction during the regular season, these teams met a total of three times, with Calgary taking two of those matchups. The most recent of those clashes took place just a few weeks ago here in Calgary, as the Stamps captured a 29-25 victory. In that contest, the hosts started out slow, scoring just three points in the first quarter, but their production improved in every quarter as they eventually pulled out the win, thanks to a three-yard touchdown run by Cornish.
Cornish finished the outing with 109 yards on 20 carries, easily besting Sheets (42 yards), who was using the matchup as a measuring stick for himself and the Riders.
Part of the reason why Saskatchewan came out on the short end of the contest was because Durant was under constant pressure and was sacked seven times, while tossing an interception and just a single major. The combination of Tate and Glenn countered for the Stampeders as they converted 22-of-33 passes for 301 yards and a score.
The winner of this matchup will be back in action next weekend for a chance to take home the big prize, the 101st Grey Cup. One of these teams will be matched up against the survivor of the Hamilton/Toronto battle over in the East Division Final for the right to be called CFL Champion for 2013.
Calgary, which has won the cup a total of six times, but hasn't come out on top since 2008, lost to Toronto in the championship a year ago by a score of 35-22 at Rogers Centre. Saskatchewan's title drought has been slightly longer, with the team bringing home the trophy for a third time in 2007. The Roughriders made it to the final game in both 2009 and 2010, but each time bowed to Montreal.
11/13 11:22:44 ET