Andrew Bucholtz

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Andrew Bucholtz is a Canadian football blogger for Yahoo! Sports.

  • Ricky Ray and the Argonauts soar against Saskatchewan, swamping the Riders 48-15

    Ricky Ray led the Argos Saturday, but his teammates also stepped up in a big way.What do you do when your high-expectations team, coming off a season where they had the best record in the East Division and hosted the East Final, falls 45-21 to last year's cellar-dwellers in their opener? Go out and beat the reigning Grey Cup champions 48-15, obviously. Saturday's home win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders marked a heck of a rebound from the Toronto Argonauts, and one that suggests they could be in for the great year many expected after all.

    Interestingly, the star of this showing was one of the few players who did perform well in the opener against Winnipeg, quarterback Ricky Ray. Ray completed 27 of 38 passes (71.1 per cent) for 283 yards and two touchdowns without an interception against the Bombers, and he was even better against the Roughriders Saturday, completing 29 of 37 attempts (78.4 per cent) for 407 yards and three touchdowns without a pick. His dissection of the Riders' defence (which itself looked incredible in a 31-10 home win over Hamilton last week) was superb, and it involved him hitting multiple receivers; Chad Owens led the way with 159 receiving yards and a touchdown on 11 catches, but Andre Durie had five receptions for 77 yards, Jason Barnes had four for 39 yards and a touchdown, Spencer Watt had three for 53 and John Chiles collected 46 yards on two catches. That ability to quickly analyze defensive coverage and spot the open receiver is a key part of what's made Ray such an accurate and dominant CFL passer, and it showed Saturday.

    Read More »from Ricky Ray and the Argonauts soar against Saskatchewan, swamping the Riders 48-15
  • Chip Cox finished off a great pick-and-lateral play in Montreal's win Friday.Turnovers that lead directly to scoring plays are unusual enough, such as Edmonton Eskimos' cornerback Patrick Watkins' forced fumble, return and touchdown Friday night, but what's even more amazing is when the defence makes a pass of its own off a turnover. That's what happened in the Montreal Alouettes' 24-9 win over B.C. Friday afternoon though, with Montreal defensive tackle Scott Paxson picking off Kevin Glenn, then lateralling to linebacker Chip Cox for an Alouettes' touchdown:

    That's impressive awareness from Paxson, as most players' first reaction after an interception is just to run as far as they can. Paxson saw defenders closing on him, though, and noticed the smaller and faster Cox was open, which led to an easy Montreal touchdown. A lateral like this does carry some risks, as if Cox had missed or dropped it, B.C. might have recovered themselves, but with the amount of space he had, that wasn't a particularly bad chance to take. Cox is well-known for his good hands, too; he's had 20 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries over his career, and has produced six touchdowns from those opportunities. He's speedy as well, and actually competed in track as well as football at Ohio University.

    Read More »from Video: Unusual pick-and-lateral led to a big Alouettes’ touchdown, but not by a big man
  • Eskimos' head coach Chris Jones (seen June 28) might have improved his team's chances with a third-down gamble Friday (Darryl Dyck photo/The Canadian Press.)Friday night's CFL game between the Edmonton Eskimos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats was perhaps the most thrilling of the season so far, featuring plenty of back-and-forth play, lead changes, and even a final drive that saw Hamilton stopped inside the five-yard line. However, with one different decision from Edmonton head coach Chris Jones, the Eskimos might have won this one much more comfortably. On Edmonton's final drive, with his team up 25-24 and the ball on the Tiger-Cats' eight-yard line, Jones elected to kick a 15-yard field goal when facing a third-and-inches. That led to Hamilton getting the ball back on their own 35 with a chance to win, and they made it inside the Eskimos' five before being stopped. Kicking the field goal worked out in the end, but going for it might have been the smarter move.

    The argument for the field goal is that doing so meant Hamilton needed a touchdown to win instead of a field goal, and that's a valid point. However, there were only 48 seconds left when Edmonton kicked the field goal. If the Eskimos had gone for the first down instead and succeeded, that should have let them kill the remaining clock with kneeldowns. (There's a 20-second play clock in the CFL, and the clock should start when the ball's ready to be snapped when the previous play was a run or a completed pass. If Hamilton had had two timeouts remaining, they could have gotten the ball back even after an Edmonton first down, but they had already used at least one, so kneeldowns should have killed it.) Both moves in this situation carry a pretty good chance of winning for Edmonton, of course, but it seems quite likely their chances might have been even better with a more aggressive third-down approach.

    Read More »from The Eskimos’ decision to kick a field goal on third-and-inches almost came back to bite them
  • Video: Patrick Watkins saved the day for Edmonton with forced fumble, recovery and TD

    Patrick Watkins' forced fumble and touchdown return Friday proved vital to the Eskimos' comeback.One of the Edmonton Eskimos' biggest offseason moves was signing free-agent cornerback Patrick Watkins, and that move paid off spectacularly in Friday's 28-24 win over Hamilton. The Eskimos trailed during much of this game, but Tiger-Cats' starting quarterback Zach Collaros left the game late in the first half after taking a hard hit from Odell Willis, and that led to Jeremiah Masoli replacing him. Hamilton was still leading 24-14 with less than nine minutes left when Masoli rolled out on a designed quarterback run; he picked up some yards, but Watkins then met him, stole the ball and took it the other way for six points:

    Patrick Watkins forced fumble, TD return vs. Hamilton from CFL Fan on Vimeo.

    What's impressive here is that this isn't what you usually see from a defensive player against a quarterback. Most of the time, when a quarterback's running like this, a defender's going to try and hit him as hard as he can. Watkins smartly recognized that Masoli didn't have a great hold on the ball, though, and so instead of flying in, he stayed on his feet and just ripped the ball away. Launching himself into a tackle might have been more typical, and it might still have caused a fumble, but it wouldn't have resulted in an easy touchdown return like this.

    Read More »from Video: Patrick Watkins saved the day for Edmonton with forced fumble, recovery and TD
  • Kevin Glenn and the Lions come up very short against the Alouettes and their pass rush

    Kevin Glenn took plenty of sacks Friday, including this one from Alan-Michael Cash.It was the Montreal Alouettes who entered Friday night's game with questions about their quarterback, but coming out of it, more questions along those lines are going to be targeted at the B.C. Lions. Kevin Glenn, acquired at the draft to be a viable starting option while Travis Lulay recovered from offseason surgery, has been anything but good so far, following up a 251-yard, two-touchdown, four-interception showing against Edmonton last week with a 122-yard, no-touchdown, two-interception game against Montreal Thursday. B.C.'s eventual 24-9 loss wasn't all on Glenn, of course, but the Lions' quarterback play is perhaps their biggest issue at this point, and it's something that will need to improve dramatically for them to have any chance of making it to or winning the Grey Cup at home this year.

    The thought in the minds of many was that Glenn, a long-time CFL veteran who did very well filling in as a starter with Calgary over the last couple of years, would look better this week after he'd had some time to adjust to the Lions' offensive personnel and coordinator Khari Jones. That wasn't the case, though. Glenn's subpar yardage total was problematic enough on its own, but he also wasn't efficient Friday, completing just 13 of 25 passes (52.0 per cent). He made bad decisions too, often overlooking open receivers, and his second interception in particular came from a terrible decision. Unless Glenn improves dramatically, it's hard to see him keeping the Lions' starting job for too long.

    Read More »from Kevin Glenn and the Lions come up very short against the Alouettes and their pass rush
  • Can the Tiger-Cats overcome their Week One struggles Friday against the Eskimos?

    Ticats' QB Zach Collaros spent a lot of time on the ground against Saskatchewan. Will his line protect him better in Edmonton?The Hamilton Tiger-Cats' season got off to a poor start last week thanks to a 31-10 loss to Saskatchewan, one where they were outplayed on most fronts and received a particularly bad performance from new starting quarterback Zach Collaros. Heading into Friday's game in Edmonton against the Eskimos (10 p.m. Eastern, TSN/ESPN3), they're under plenty of pressure to turn things around. That's not going to be easy, though, especially given that the Eskimos got off to a good start of their own last week with a 27-20 road win over the B.C. Lions. What will the Tiger-Cats need to change in order to get a better result?

    The first and most important alteration may be improving the protection in front of Collaros. He was sacked 10 times last week in Regina, and was under pressure on countless other occasions. The line that will try and protect him this week looks a bit different from the one that didn't do so well last week, as left tackle Joel Figueroa is out with a lower-body injury; that's caused right tackle Brian Simmons to shift to the left side and rookie Dominic Alford to start at RT. However, the interior line (LG Steve Myddleton, C Tim O'Neill and RG Greg Wojt) remains the same, and those guys are going to have to step it up. As Hamilton head coach/general manager Kent Austin told Terry Koshan of The Toronto Sun this week, the Tiger-Cats need to give Collaros more time to make his throws:

    Read More »from Can the Tiger-Cats overcome their Week One struggles Friday against the Eskimos?
  • Demond Washington (7) made plays both on defence (seen here against Kierrie Johnson) and on special teams against Ottawa Thursday (Joe Bryska photo/Winnipeg Free Press).Much of Thursday night's game against the Ottawa Redblacks didn't go well for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Redblacks got off to a hot start, scoring three first-quarter touchdowns and leading 21-7 after 15 minutes of play, and they looked able to hang onto that lead until the start of the fourth quarter. Then, Bombers' returner Demond Washington took a kickoff and did this:

    That's a remarkable return, and one that involved Washington going a long way across the field as well as down it. He received the kickoff to the left side of the left hashmark, and at first, it looked like that was where the return would come. However, that side filled up with Ottawa players, and Washington started to cut across the field behind a wave of blockers instead. His blockers did a terrific job of not letting anyone through too quickly, and he used speed, agility and direction changes to fool tacklers once he got to the sideline. It was a great return overall, and one that illustrates why Washington's

    Read More »from Video: Demond Washington’s 96-yard kickoff return touchdown turned the tide for Winnipeg
  • Quarterback Troy Smith will need to be more accurate for the Alouettes to win Friday.While there are 24 players on the field at any given time, the CFL is still a quarterback-focused league. With only three downs, a strong passing game is critical to an offence's success, and accuracy is perhaps the most vital part of a CFL passing game; incomplete passes really hurt in this league. Those incomplete passes were a huge part of the Montreal Alouettes' offensive struggles in a 29-8 loss to Calgary in Week One, and unless quarterback Troy Smith is able to improve his accuracy substantially, they may hurt the Alouettes again in their clash with the B.C. Lions Friday (7 p.m. Eastern, TSN/ESPN3).

    Smith attempted 41 passes against the Stampeders, but completed just 18 of them. That's a completion mark of 43.9 per cent, which simply isn't good enough in the CFL. It's below what Smith did last year, too; his 52.6 per cent mark then was still well below the CFL average, but it wasn't bad for a guy in his first CFL season. Instead of building off of that, though, Smith appears to have regressed so far, and he isn't even picking up good yardage totals; he collected just 154 passing yards against Calgary, with no touchdowns and an interception, and many of those came in garbage time after the game had been decided.

    Read More »from As the Alouettes prepare for B.C., the key question is if Troy Smith can improve his accuracy
  • Redblacks come up short against Bombers, but show plenty of potential in the process

    Henry Burris (1) and the Ottawa Redblacks couldn't quite beat Winnipeg Thursday.It wasn't perfect, and it didn't result in a win, but the Ottawa Redblacks' impressive performance Thursday in a 36-28 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers suggests there might be a better season ahead for this team than many expected. The Redblacks got off to an incredible start in their first regular-season game, scoring three first-quarter touchdowns and leading 21-7 at the start of the second quarter, but they couldn't keep their offensive production up and couldn't hold off the charging Bombers forever. Still, they had the ball in the final minute with a chance to tie the game, on the road against a Winnipeg team that's looked very good so far this year. That in and of itself is impressive for an expansion team, and it may suggest that their first win may not be that far off.

    Ottawa's defensive performance on the night had great moments, despite the team allowing 36 points. (Six of those came on a 96-yard kick return from Deon Washington, so the defence was only really responsible for 30 points.) Bombers' running back Nic Grigsby did have three rushing touchdowns on the day, but he was held to 62 rushing yards on 14 carries. That's just an average of 4.4 yards per carry, which isn't bad at all. The pass defence was a little weaker, with Winnipeg quarterback Drew Willy throwing for 307 yards with a 63.6 per cent completion percentage, but they did pick him off once and didn't allow him to throw a touchdown pass. All in all, that's not a bad night, especially for an expansion team's defence, and it's better than the established Toronto Argonauts' defence looked against Winnipeg in a 45-21 loss last week. Moreover, their play was crucial to the Redblacks leading 25-24 after three quarters, and might have done enough for a win if they'd gotten more offensive support.

    Read More »from Redblacks come up short against Bombers, but show plenty of potential in the process
  • Alouettes' linebacker Kyries Hebert was fined for a hit on Jon Cornish.Another season, another debate over CFL discipline. The league's disciplinary system, which results in fines for most infractions, has drawn plenty of criticism in the past. It's likely to do so again this year, if Thursday's decision to fine (but not suspend) Montreal linebacker Kyries Hebert for a hit on Jon Cornish in the Alouettes' 29-8 loss to Calgary last week. Here's the hit in question:

    That's an awfully vicious hit in general, but worse, it involved Hebert bashing Cornish in the head with his arm. Sure, it was difficult for Hebert to track Cornish down from behind, and the clothesline he gave him may have been accidental, but it had significant results. Cornish lay motionless for minutes while an ambulance was summoned onto the field, and although he was able to walk off under his own power, he told media after the game "I was knocked out." Meanwhile, Hebert's action was clearly seen as problematic by the on-field officials: he was given a 25-yard penalty and ejected from the game. Concussions are a huge issue in this league, one that could potentially even lead to lawsuits, and the CFL has to take a strong stance against hits to the head that often cause these kinds of injuries. It's not clear if fines like this (the maximum amount, which Hebert was fined, is half of a game cheque) will be enough to stop this behaviour.

    Read More »from CFL hands Kyries Hebert maximum possible fine for hit on Jon Cornish, but doesn’t suspend him

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