CFL reporter Mark Masters looks back at the week that was.
LABOUR DAY COMES EARLY
For the first time since 1995, the Toronto Argonauts will not play in Hamilton on Labour Day. While many fans are disappointed the tradition will not continue this year, the Argos and Tiger-Cats did their best to recreate the holiday intensity on Saturday at Ivor Wynne Stadium. “It was a Labour Day game before Labour Day,” said Ticats quarterback Kevin Glenn, who led Hamilton to a 37-32 win in a game that included 20 penalties. “There was some rowdiness,” Ticats offensive lineman Marwan Hage said. “It was a classic Argos-Ticats game. No matter what the records are or when it is, it’s going to be a fight. It lived up to all the other games.” The crowd of 24,347, about 5,000 shy of capacity, showered the field with chants of “Argos suck!” throughout the night, but not everyone was impressed by their antics. “Hamilton fans, very disappointed in you,” Argos offensive lineman Taylor Robertson said on twitter. “Poor trash-talking this year. We expected better.”
BACK-UP BOMBERS PICK UP THE SACK
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers defence continued its strong play on Saturday with four sacks and three forced fumbles during a 30-17 win over the B.C. Lions. The Bombers improved to a league-best 6-1 despite missing starting defensive tackles Doug Brown (foot) and Dorian Smith (ankle). “We just tried to make the best of the situation,” defensive end Jason Vega, who had a sack and forced fumble, told the Winnipeg Free Press. “We just tried to switch things around so that we could meet the ratio and still rush the passer. Our coach put us in a position to be successful and that’s what we did.” While Odell Willis had his six-game sack streak snapped, fellow defensive end Kenny Mainor registered two sacks bringing his season total to six in four games.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A TEAM MAKES
Being traded from the one-win Roughriders to the defending Grey Cup champion Alouettes was quite a shock for 30-year-old Luc Mullinder. The defensive end, who spent the last eight seasons in Saskatchewan, was moved last week in exchange for receiver Dallas Baker. “The difference between winning and losing is preparation,” Mullinder wrote on his twitter account after joining Montreal. “Eye-opening day today.” Mullinder, who was benched by the Roughriders for a couple games earlier in the season, later explained his comment was not meant as a criticism of Saskatchewan’s coaching staff. “Wasn’t intended to be a dart,” he tweeted. “I have done it one way for awhile now and seeing something new was exciting.” He later added, “On a new team … have a fresh new slate, feeling like a new person.”
Argos halfback Lin-J Shell levelled Chris Williams with a big hit during Saturday’s game, prompting the Ticats receiver to drop a pass. Then, while Williams lay on the turf, Shell bent down and had a few words with Hamilton’s receiving yards leader, which led to a taunting penalty. “Offensive players get to celebrate all types of stuff in the end zone when they score,” Shell said. “I should be able to smack somebody and get in his face and let him know that I’m here. I didn’t know it was going to get called. If I had known they were going to call that, I would have turned around and done my celebrations elsewhere.”
LOOKING FOR ANSWERS
The Saskatchewan Roughriders have struggled in all three phases of the game while stumbling to a 1-6 start. But, unlike other teams that have recurring problems, Saskatchewan’s trouble spot seems to change each week. In some games the offence cannot move the ball while in others, such as Friday’s 45-35 setback at home to Calgary, the defence cannot get enough stops. “If you have the answer to that, I would appreciate it if you tell me,” head coach Greg Marshall said when questioned about the inconsistent play. “We did a lot of good things offensively, but we didn’t have a good night defensively. We’ve kind of flip-flopped. We started that way at the beginning of the year and got things turned around defensively. We got things sorted out on offence, and then we reverted back to the first two weeks [on defence]. I’m sure not what the magic answer is, but we’ll keep looking.”
The Edmonton Eskimos receiving corps has been devastated by injuries in recent weeks. Jason Barnes (fractured ribs) and Marcus Henry (concussion) were both hurt in Thursday’s loss in Montreal while Fred Stamps (abdomen) and Adarius Bowman (rib) were already sidelined. “The injuries definitely have an impact on myself and the offence,” quarterback Ricky Ray said. “These are the guys who are playmakers and the guys you develop rhythm with, develop timing and confidence with and when this happens it’s tough.” Eskimos general manager Eric Tillman has brought in reinforcements, signing Prechae Rodriguez on Friday before adding Dobson Collins on Monday. Rodriguez started the year in Montreal, but was let go by the Alouettes in July after appearing in just one game. Collins had 14 receptions for 217 yards in six games with the B.C. Lions this season, but also dropped a number of passes, which led to his release.