CFL Preview - Toronto (3-3) at Calgary (3-3)
From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
DATE & TIME: Saturday, August 18, 7:00 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: With parity being a running theme in the CFL through the first seven weeks of action, a couple of squads sitting at 3-3 cross paths on Saturday, as the Calgary Stampeders host the Toronto Argonauts at McMahon Stadium.
Both clubs have split their first six games of the 2012 campaign and for Toronto that means being in a three-way tie for first place in the East Division with both Hamilton and Montreal. Displaying an identical record, Calgary is tied with Saskatchewan for third overall in the West Division, just one game behind both Edmonton and British Columbia.
Calgary, which has yet to put together consecutive winning efforts, dumped Hamilton on August 9 in a 31-20 final on the road. The top scoring program in the CFL at 31.0 ppg, Calgary was paced by Jon Cornish who not only galloped for a career-high 170 yards and scored once on 20 carries coming out of the backfield, he also caught a team-best six passes for another 47 yards for the visitors. Because of his efforts, Cornish was not only named the Canadian Player of the Week, he also earned Offensive Player of the Week in the CFL as well.
Kevin Glenn hit on 15-of-28 passing for 141 yards and a major as well. Backup quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and wide receiver Romby Bryant both contributed with rushing touchdowns in the second half to help with the offensive effort.
Toronto should be well rested since a poor showing against British Columbia back on August 6 when it came up short in an 18-9 loss to British Columbia at home. Ricky Ray and the rest of the Argos offense struggled as they generated a mere 252 yards on 72 snaps, the signal-caller completing 25-of-34 for 215 yards while pulling himself off the carpet four times and tossing three interceptions. If not for kicker Swayze Waters and his three successful field goals, the effort would have been even more dire as Toronto saw a two-game win streak come to an end.
Toronto has had a couple of lackluster scoring efforts so far this season and that has led the squad to seventh in the league in overall scoring at 23.0 ppg. Now in his 10th CFL season, Ray had his worst game with his newest team the last time out, his efficiency rating at just 52.9. Ray is still completing close to 70 percent of his pass attempts, the top number of any regular starter in the league, but with his team tied for the fewest rushing touchdowns (three) in the league, he is having to shoulder most of the offensive burden.
Trying to make an impact in any way he can, Chad Owens continues to be inserted into the offense and is again the top player in the league in terms of combined yards with 1,460 already. Owens, who is well on his way to reaching 3,000 combined yards for the third straight season, is currently third in the league with 465 receiving yards, scoring three times on 35 receptions.
The Stampeders have their own receiving specialist in Nik Lewis who is second in yards (484) and first among all players with 43 catches and seven touchdowns. Already having scored two more touchdowns than he did all of last season, Lewis was rewarded late last week with a contract extension that could keep him in a Calgary uniform until he decides to retire.
Lewis, who began his CFL career with Calgary back in 2004, has registered at least 1,000 receiving yards in all eight of his campaigns leading up to this year. Averaging better than 14 yards per catch, Lewis needs just 284 more yards to reach 10,000 for his career.
While the Stamps put much of their faith in Lewis, Toronto had been attempting to exploit defenses by handing the ball to Cory Boyd who currently leads the league in rushing with 447 yards on 82 attempts. However Boyd, who has scored only twice on the ground thus far, was just released by the team on Sunday as the squad opted to move in a different direction as far as their style at running back was concerned.
With Boyd no longer in the picture, the Argos apparently have decided to give the starting nod to Chad Kackert who, after running for 349 yards and four touchdowns last year, has carried the ball just twice for minus three yards in 2012.
Toronto won the first meeting of the season between the teams back on July 7 by a score of 39-36 at home. In that contest the Argos scored in every quarter, but it was a 28-yard field goal by Noel Prefontaine as time expired that pushed the hosts into the win column. Controlling the ball for more than 36 minutes, the Argonauts were led by Ray who threw for 407 yards and two touchdowns, shaking off a couple of interceptions, while Boyd tacked on a game-high 101 yards and a score on 20 rushing attempts. Glenn completed 15-of-19 passing for 172 yards and two scores, but he was also sacked three times and threw a pair of picks in the setback for the visitors.
In terms of the all-time, regular-season series between the squads, Calgary is ahead by a slim 41-40-1 margin dating back to 1945. However, the Argos have stepped up and taken four straight decisions.
The change in running back may give the Argonauts a bit of a spark for the time being, but the team will only go as far as Ray can take them so it is up to the quarterback to come to terms with his poor effort the last time out and fix the issues.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 27, Calgary 23
08/15 11:08:38 ET