Darian Durant used his legs to great effect against B.C. Sunday.It may have been more "The Wonder On The Tundra" than "The Rumble In The Jungle," but the Saskatchewan Roughriders' performance in a frigid 29-25 West semifinal win over the B.C. Lions Sunday thoroughly recalled Muhammad Ali's 1974 strategy against George Foreman. The Lions were all over the Riders for most of the first three quarters, piling up points, yards, and time of possession, but Saskatchewan made just enough big plays to hang around and hang around before busting the game open down the stretch as B.C. faltered. Curiously enough, too, perhaps the biggest factor in the Riders' win was the rushing ability of quarterback Darian Durant, who took great offence earlier this year when a fan on Twitter told him to run more. Durant used his legs to great effect Sunday, though, picking up massive yardage time and time again and particularly icing the game with several key runs on a late drive that led to a lead-extending Saskatchewan field goal and killed enough clock to force the Lions to get desperate down the stretch. It was a huge win for Saskatchewan, and those unlikely elements were crucial parts of why it happened.Read More »from Riders play rope-a-dope in West semifinal, and Darian Durant takes fan’s advice to heart
55 Yard Line
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Sun, 10 Nov, 2013 7:48 PM EST
- Chris Zelkovich | 55 Yard Line – Sun, 10 Nov, 2013 7:11 PM EST
Toronto Argonauts head coach Scott Milanovich feels pretty good about his team heading into next Sunday's CFL East final. But he'd feel a lot better if he had star running back Chad Kackert in his lineup.
Milanovich announced Sunday that Kackert, who injured his ankle in practice earlier in the week, will not play against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats when the bitter rivals square off at the Rogers Centre.``Chad's not going to be available for this game," Milanovich said, adding that he didn't know how long Kackert will be out.
That means either Jerious Norwood or Curtis Steele will start in a game that marks the first East final between the Ontario rivals since 1986. While both performed well during Kackert's previous absences, the Argos are definitely a better team with last year's Grey Cup MVP in the lineup.
Despite an injury-filled season, Kackert was Toronto's leading rusher this season with 480 yards and a 6.8-yard average. He also had 23 catches for 184 yards and provided solid passRead More »from Argos go into East final without security blanket Chad Kackert
- Chris Zelkovich | 55 Yard Line – Sun, 10 Nov, 2013 6:31 PM EST
It seems a tad silly to describe Sunday's CFL East semifinal as wild and crazy.
Based on a long history of CFL playoffs, that term is as redundant as referring to a Rob Ford video as shocking or a Henry Burris game as inconsistent.
But wild and crazy it was as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats advanced to next Sunday's East final with a come-from-behind 19-16 overtime win over the Montreal Alouettes at Alumni Stadium in Guelph, Ont.
There was something almost biblical about the setting. There was a gale-force wind, rain, sleet and everything but a plague of frogs. There was a bunch of turnovers, a bunch of missed field goals and some questionable coaching decisions with incredible defence and a few great plays mixed in for good measure.
In the end, there was a last-gasp 97-yard touchdown drive from an offence that appeared to have been given the last rites, a last-second field goal to send the game into overtime and the inevitable officiating controversy.
And to cap it off, rookie HamiltonRead More »from Ticats wake up just in time to grab spot in CFL East final
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Sun, 10 Nov, 2013 4:30 PM EST
Sunday proved to be a rough day for the Montreal Alouettes, as they came awfully close to winning the East semifinal against Hamilton, leading inside the final two minutes before giving up a crucial late touchdown to C.J. Gable, then tying the game with a last-second field-goal drive before losing in overtime. After the Alouettes could only notch a field goal, the Tiger-Cats came up with a touchdown and the 19-16 victory, leaving Montreal with thoughts of what could have been. However, the league's official website briefly gave the Alouettes the win. Via Emily on Twitter:
Read More »from Tiger-Cats win East semifinal, but CFL.ca briefly had the Alouettes triumphing…
Even the CFL doesn't care about the CFL. (Yes, that's CFL.ca) pic.twitter.com/XsbTNImS3Y
— Emily Dawn (@emilydawnlove) November 10, 2013
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Sun, 10 Nov, 2013 12:42 PM EST
The CFL's long been a league known for games in unusual weather, from the Mud Bowl to the Fog Bowl to the Snow Bowl, and Sunday's playoff games (live chat here) might add further entries to that. The East semifinal between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Montreal Alouettes takes place in Guelph, Ontario at 1 p.m. Eastern, and that one could be weird for reasons beyond weather, but there's also the chance of the elements playing a role. Guelph was seeing plenty of rain Sunday morning:
— Flag On The Play (@Flag_OnThePlay) November 10, 2013
Things appear to have gotten a little better during the teams' warmups, but the Yahoo! Weather forecast is still for light rain and wind this afternoon, which could make the passing game difficult for both teams. The wind is already having an effect:Read More »from Will rain and cold play a role in the CFL’s first round of playoff games Sunday?
Henry Burris and Bakari Grant needed a map to find Guelph earlier this year.The CFL playoffs kick off Sunday, and we'll have full live coverage of the East and West semifinals here at 55-Yard Line. The day starts with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats hosting the Montreal Alouettes (1 p.m. Eastern, TSN/ESPN3). That's an intriguing matchup, as it pits a Montreal team that's just starting to gel offensively with Troy Smith under centre against a Hamilton defence that's been up and down this year. On the other side of the ball, Henry Burris and the Tiger-Cats will have to contend with the Alouettes' dominant defence. This game also could be odd for other reasons. For one thing, it's being played in the Tiger-Cats' temporary home for this season, Guelph's Alumni Stadium, which only holds 13,000 people; that will likely make this the lowest-attended playoff game in almost 80 years. Beyond that, there are chances of weird weather and more.
The day's second game presents an interesting matchup as well, as the Saskatchewan Roughriders will be hosting the B.C. Lions (4:30 p.m.Read More »from CFL division semifinals live chat
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Sat, 9 Nov, 2013 5:39 PM EST
Continuing on with our Playoff Preview series, here's a breakdown of Sunday's West Division semifinal between the B.C. Lions and the Saskatchewan Roughriders (4:30 p.m. Eastern, TSN/ESPN3). We'll be live-chatting at 55-Yard Line during both semifinal games, so swing by here at 1 p.m. Eastern Sunday. Also check out our preview of the East semifinal and our gallery of potential impact players.
Saskatchewan offence: Four Rambo commercials.
At times, the Roughriders' throwback run-first offence has shone, with Kory Sheets paving the way on the ground and Darian Durant efficiently completing passes when teams stacked the box against the run. That offence took a major hit when Sheets went down with a knee injury, though, and although it's perked up slightly since his return, it hasn't quite regained its old form. The Riders averaged 28.8 points per game on the season, second-best in the league, but in their final five games (the span since Sheets' return Oct. 5), they averaged 26.2. Sheets has been picking up rushing yards, but not quite as efficiently as he was, and the passing game's effectiveness has particularly fallen off. Durant completed just 54.8 per cent of his passes for 202 yards with one touchdown and one interception in his final game of the season (a 29-25 loss to Calgary two weeks ago), while Sheets picked up just 42 yards on 11 carries (3.8 yards per carry) in that same game. The Saskatchewan offence also took another hit this week with the news that slotback Chris Getzlaf won't be able to play thanks to a knee injury. The Riders have offensive potential, but the question is if they'll be able to live up to it.Read More »from Playoff Preview: Will the Riders triumph at home, or will Lulay’s return spark the Lions?
- Chris Zelkovich | 55 Yard Line – Sat, 9 Nov, 2013 11:01 AM EST
If you look at recent history, Sunday's CFL East semifinal should contain more thrills, chills and fireworks than an Ed Hervey press conference.
After all, the last time the Montreal Alouettes and Hamilton Tiger-Cats met the game went down to final seconds. That was two weeks ago when the Ticats, having already cut into a big Montreal lead, scored on Brandon Banks' 107-yard missed field goal return to win 27-24.
Go back three years to the last time these two met in a playoff game and you'll find one of the most thrilling football games ever played. That East semifinal produced a league playoff record 96 points and ended with Hamilton upsetting the Alouettes 52-44 in overtime -- with the teams scoring 38 points in a wild fourth quarter.
But that was then and this is now. There are so many oddities in this game that just about anything could happen -- even more than in your average CFL contest. Here's a sampling of the strange things that could portend eerie possibilities:
The Terror of TinyRead More »from Five reasons why the CFL East semifinal could produce something strange
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Fri, 8 Nov, 2013 6:03 PM EST
Can Troy Smith lead Montreal to victory Sunday?We're bringing back our Playoff Preview series for the 2013 postseason, analyzing each matchup in terms of offence, defence and special teams and predicting a winner. Here's a look at the first semifinal game (1 p.m. Eastern Sunday, TSN/ESPN3), featuring the Montreal Alouettes in Guelph to take on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Also check out our preview gallery of potential impact players.
Montreal offence: Four Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks.
The Alouettes' offence was absolutely dreadful to start this year, which played a major role in the firing of Dan Hawkins, and it didn't get much better immediately even after that firing led to the elevation of Doug Berry to play-caller and the return to the West Coast principles that had worked so well for Montreal under previous head coach Marc Trestman (who left for the NFL this offseason). A large part of that was about the quarterbacks; once Anthony Calvillo went down in August with what later proved to be a season-ending (and potentially career-ending) concussion, Tanner Marsh and Josh Neiswander delivered inconsistent performances. Midseason signing Troy Smith, the former Ohio State quarterback who won the 2006 Heisman Trophy was elevated to the starting job late in October, though, and so far, the results have been promising.Read More »from Playoff Preview: Can Troy Smith and the Alouettes keep rolling in the East semifinal?
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Fri, 8 Nov, 2013 3:29 PM EST
Chad Kackert (44)'s injury in practice Friday may hurt the Argos' chances.The Toronto Argonauts aren't even playing this week thanks to the first-place finish that gave them a bye into the East Final, but their chances of going to the Grey Cup still may have taken a hit thanks to star running back Chad Kackert getting injured in practice Friday. Kackert, last year's Grey Cup MVP, missed over half of the Argonauts' games this year with various injuries, but was a key contributor for them when he did play; on the year, he has just 480 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 71 carries, but boasts a stellar average of 6.8 yards per carry, behind only Mike Reilly and Jon Cornish in those who ran more than 50 times this year. He also has been an effective weapon out of the backfield, catching 23 passes for 184 yards, and he was expected to be a crucial part of the Toronto offence in the postseason. That all may have changed Friday, though. Sportsnet's Arash Madani described Kackert's injury on Twitter, and it doesn't sound good:Read More »from Chad Kackert injured in practice, which could hurt the Argonauts’ East Final chances
Ed Hervey appears not to know about trade window, blasts Chris O’Leary, but says he’ll be “media-friendly” going forwardBy Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Fri, 8 Nov, 2013 2:51 PM EST
Eskimos' general manager Ed Hervey hasn't handled himself well this week.Those who feel Edmonton general manager Ed Hervey's job should be in jeopardy following the team's disastrous 4-14 season received substantial ammunition this week—from the man himself. Hervey went on Jason Gregor's show on TSN 1260 Tuesday and used his appearance to personally trash Edmonton Journal writer Chris O'Leary, interesting behaviour from a man who's often promised "not to kick dirt on anyone." Plus, he offered various odd defences of his actions during the season and seemed not to know about the post-Grey Cup trade window. The interview can be found on Gregor's website, with one particularly interesting part on the trade window coming at 10:39. Here's a transcription of that:Read More »from Ed Hervey appears not to know about trade window, blasts Chris O’Leary, but says he’ll be “media-friendly” going forward
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Thu, 7 Nov, 2013 6:10 PM EST
BC DL Adrian Awasom, seen with the Giants in 2006, said Incognito's hazing went too far.The mess surrounding Miami Dolphins' guard Richie Incognito, who's currently suspended by the team following the release of voicemails where he used racial slurs and threatened teammate Jonathan Martin's life (which may have been thanks to team coaches asking him to "toughen up" Martin) has made its way north of the border, with current and former CFL players weighing in on just how prevalent hazing, bullying and intimidation are in football locker rooms. Our Sandy Annunziata shared his take on that earlier, but it's worth passing on some other perspectives from across the CFL too. First, via Mike Beamish of The Vancouver Sun, veteran B.C. Lions have made rookies bring them donuts or breakfast sandwiches, but they see a line between that and the Incognito situation:
Last season, it was Josh Bell’s turn to submit to the Lions rookie “hazing” ritual by bringing breakfast sandwiches for the group.
“Whatever the OGs (old guys: Dante Marsh, Korey Banks, Ryan Phillips) asked you to bring -- doughnuts, Egg McMuffins -- that’s what you had to bring,” Bell said. “It’s all in fun. I did it. It’s just something that you do.” ...
Doughnut detail seems to have worked to [Cord] Parks’s advantage. The sticky-fingered cornerback ended the 2013 regular season with the second-most number of interceptions in the CFL (six).
“It costs him probably $10 a week,” Phillips said. “It’s fun, it’s cool. But to take it to a whole other level, where you’re disrespecting someone’s manhood, his family and what they stand for, it would never get to that point. It’s never happened here, or anywhere I’ve been.The line is drawn where it becomes disrespectful.”
Beamish discusses some hazing rituals he's seen, which have included tying players to goalposts and pouring water on them on their birthdays or getting rookies to shave their heads in unusual styles, but they're on a substantially different level than what's happened in the Incognito-Martin situation. Are things dramatically different in the NFL, though? The most interesting comments in Beamish's piece are from former New York Giants' lineman Adrian Awasom, currently a member of the Lions' practice squad. Some of the hazing that reportedly went on with the Giants seems more substantial than what's typical in the CFL, but Awasom said the Incognito situation is still far above what he's seen:Read More »from CFL players sound off on Richie Incognito, and football culture comes under the microscope
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Thu, 7 Nov, 2013 4:59 PM EST
Jamal Miles has proven difficult to bring down this year, as he was against Saskatchewan.It wasn't a great season for the Edmonton Eskimos, who finished 4-14 and fired head coach Kavis Reed Monday, but there were a few bright spots. One was the play of quarterback Mike Reilly, a high-profile offseason acquisition who lived up to the hype and turned in great performances despite the year-long struggles of his offensive line, the numerous illegal hits he took and his own team's decision to handicap him. Another was the showing from returner/running back Jamal Miles, a rookie out of Arizona State. Miles provided a great example of what he can do on returns in a win over Saskatchewan Saturday, as you can see from this video:
That's a remarkable 79-yard punt return for a touchdown, and what perhaps stands out about it most is the display of athletic ability Miles puts on. This isn't a play like Chevon Walker's 70-yard touchdown dash from the same weekend, where a deceptively-designed play left few players with a shot at him; numerous Roughriders have a chance to bring down Miles, but he's able to burst right through the crowd without being brought down. He shows off speed early on, bursting up the middle between punt-team gunners, then turns to elusiveness. The Eskimos do a great job of blocking, but there are still at least three players who come close to tackling him; Miles manages to evade them, though, working his way over to the sideline, staying inbounds and juking away from those who come after him. It's an outstanding return, and one that shows off what he can do. It deservedly led to his selection as our special teams player of the week.Read More »from Video: Jamal Miles’ return shows he’s one of the Eskimos’ few bright spots going forward
- Sandy Annunziata | 55 Yard Line – Thu, 7 Nov, 2013 1:23 PM EST
Richie Incognito. (Getty Images)This past week Miami Dolphins starting right guard Richie Incognito was suspended because of allegations of harassment, including but not limited to, racial slurs and death threats aimed at teammate Jonathan Martin. There is no question in light of the graphic voice mails and text messages attributed to Incognito, he crossed the line. There is no defence for an indefensible action. But then again, this is pro football.
The 'thinning of the herd' mentality has been tolerated in professional sports for decades. Offensive linemen are not immune to that primitive rite of passage. Quite the opposite. Where toughness, both mental and physical, are pre-requisites for success, lacking those qualities will always spell the end of a lineman's career.
Some have called Martin 'soft' and Incognito a 'bully'. But with its locker-room culture seemingly on trial, the revealing nature of pro football is that only one of those titles seems entirely insulting. Guess which one?
Incognito is a punk with aRead More »from Life on the O-Line: Richie Incognito situation demands locker-room justice
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Wed, 6 Nov, 2013 8:51 PM EST
Many pending free agents, including Winnipeg's Henoc Muamba, haven't re-signed yet.The CFL free agent market might seem set for a banner crop at the moment, but that could change dramatically by the time free agency actually rolls around in February. In Winnipeg alone, for example, there were 25 potential free agents as of late October, and plenty of other teams have numerous players set to test the free-agent waters. The numbers look higher than they have in the recent past, but that may not actually indicate that a lot of players are going to make it to free agency, and that's thanks to a particular wrinkle unique to this year—the Ottawa expansion draft, which is scheduled for Dec. 16. Kirk Penton of The Winnipeg Sun had an interesting note in a column last week (it's tough to track down online, but a print version is available here through The London Free Press, a fellow Sun Media paper) about the lack of pending free agents re-signed thus far, theorizing that teams have been negotiating extensions, but not signing them thanks to the chances of players being snapped up in the expansion draft:Read More »from Many pending free agents haven’t re-signed yet—perhaps thanks to the Ottawa Redblacks?
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Wed, 6 Nov, 2013 5:18 PM EST
Ricky Ray was named a divisional all-star despite playing just 11 games.The CFL's list of divisional all-stars was released Wednesday, and there's a particularly notable name headlining the East Division list—Toronto Argonauts' quarterback Ricky Ray. It's tough to dispute that Ray has played at a superbly high level this season, as he set a CFL record for the best season-long completion percentage (77.2 per cent) while throwing 21 touchdowns and just two interceptions. However, he only played in 11 of the Argonauts' 18 games, missing six thanks to injury and then sitting out the final meaningless one, which kept his yardage numbers down to 2,878, fourth-best in the league and over 2,000 yards behind fellow East Division QB Henry Burris (who led the CFL with 4,925 yards). Thus, there's a debate to be had about if Ray's peak was superb enough to mean he should get significant CFL awards (including this all-star nod) despite the limited number of games he participated in. The all-star voters (some Football Reporters of Canada members and all of the league's head coaches) have decided to reward peak performance over duration this time; will that happen again when it comes time to name the league all-stars and the CFL's Most Outstanding Player?Read More »from Ricky Ray’s selection as divisional all-star brings up a peak/durability debate that may affect MOP
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Mon, 4 Nov, 2013 6:27 PM EST
Chevon Walker starred against Winnipeg both in this July photo and this week.Football success is often about excelling in mental aspects of the game as well as physical ones, and that combination was displayed perfectly on Hamilton RB Chevon Walker's 70-yard touchdown gallop Saturday against Winnipeg. Walker's run, part of a 37-7 beatdown the Tiger-Cats laid on the Bombers, helped him earn our second star of the week, but it also illustrated his understanding of the game and his pure athletic talent. It involved both excellent deception that initially fooled the defence and breakaway speed that prevented them from recovering. Here's video of the run:
First, let's discuss the formation involved here. On the clip, TSN announcer Rod Black describes Hamilton's look as "a Wildcat or pseudo-Wildcat" formation, but that's not really true. The Wildcat formation proper involves a back running a sweep across the field prior to the snap as well as an unbalanced line, and neither element is involved here. Even the more popular understanding of "Wildcat" tends to involves a player other than a quarterback taking the snap, and that also isn't the case here; the ball is being snapped to Dan LeFevour, who is listed as a quarterback. The reason "Wildcat" has popped up in discussions of Hamilton's offence this year is that LeFevour is an excellent runner. Indeed, during his time at Central Michigan, LeFevour became the only NCAA player to accumulate 12,000 passing yards and 2,500 rushing yards and also became the second player (after Vince Young) to pile up 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a single season. He also has 317 rushing yards this CFL season and has mostly worked his way onto the field in more run-focused packages, so it's not surprising that teams and announcers are expecting the Ticats' snap receiver to carry the ball more when he's in. (It's notable that normal starter Henry Burris is also a run threat who has 298 rushing yards of his own this season, though.) That doesn't make it a Wildcat formation, though.Read More »from Chevon Walker’s 70-yard TD run illustrates the importance of deception and speed
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Mon, 4 Nov, 2013 2:29 PM EST
Rennie Curran (35)'s interception earned him top billing in Week 19's Three Stars.Here's another edition of our weekly Three Stars series, looking at the top offensive, defensive, special teams and Canadian players from Week 19's action.
First star/defensive player of the week: Rennie Curran, linebacker, Edmonton Eskimos: Curran has done a terrific job of filling in for injured middle linebacker J.C. Sherritt over the last few weeks, and Saturday was no exception. He made a game-high 11 tackles and added an interception that he returned 56 yards for a crucial early touchdown in Edmonton's 30-26 win over Saskatchewan. While there's bound to be plenty of turnover in Edmonton following a 4-14 season that's already seen head coach Kavis Reed fired, the 24-year-old Georgia product has made a strong case to be part of the Eskimos' organization going forward.
(Honourable mentions: Chip Cox, LB, Montreal; Henoc Muamba, LB, Winnipeg; James Rogers, DB, Hamilton.)Read More »from Three Stars: Rennie Curran, Chevon Walker and Jamal Miles shine brightly in Week 19
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Mon, 4 Nov, 2013 11:58 AM EST
Kavis Reed (L) is gone, but will Len Rhodes (R) call for Ed Hervey (C)'s exit too?A season-ending 30-26 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders Saturday wasn't enough to save the job of Edmonton Eskimos' head coach Kavis Reed, who the team fired Monday. Reed's dismissal wasn't unexpected after a 4-14 campaign that marked the Eskimos' lowest win total since they went 4-12 in 1964 and the second-lowest winning percentage (.222) in the franchise's history (the .125 mark they put up in a 2-14 1963 season is the only one worse) since their 1949 formation, and there had already been plenty of calls for substantial change in Edmonton. However, Reed's firing alone may not be enough to turn this team around, and the Eskimos and president/CEO Len Rhodes in particular should take a long, hard look at ditching general manager Ed Hervey as well.Read More »from Consequences finally strike in Edmonton, but will they end with head coach Kavis Reed’s firing?
- Andrew Bucholtz | 55 Yard Line – Sat, 2 Nov, 2013 5:21 PM EDT
Tim Burke and the Bombers were on the wrong side of a 37-7 blowout Saturday.The Winnipeg Blue Bombers' annus horribilis has come to an end, and in fitting fashion. The Bombers were plastered 37-7 at home by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Saturday, leaving their fans with little to celebrate except the possible acquisition of the top pick in the 2014 CFL draft. Of course, the season did have a couple of bright spots for Winnipeg, including the opening of Investors Group Field and the Banjo Bowl win over fierce rivals Saskatchewan, but by and large, it was a miserable failure. Thus, a blowout loss to a team that didn't even have playoff positioning to play for is an appropriate way to close it out.Read More »from Bombers’ season ends on sour note with 37-7 loss to the Tiger-Cats Saturday