The Calgary Stampeders bounced back in a big way Saturday, recovering from last week's home loss against Toronto to thump the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 35-11 in Guelph. It was a much more lopsided match than the 26-22 victory the Stampeders pulled out in the game between these teams two weeks ago in Calgary, and it showed how they're improving as they head towards the postseason. The Stampeders are back atop the West with a league-best 10-3 record now, and apart from a lacklustre first quarter that saw them outscored 1-0, they dominated this one. If they keep playing like this, they're going to be a tough team to beat.
What was particularly impressive here was the showing from the Calgary defence. Hamilton's offence has been somewhat hit-and-miss this season, of course, but when they're clicking, they're very dangerous. They weren't at all Saturday, and that was largely thanks to an excellent defensive effort from the Stampeders in both scheme and execution. Calgary picked off Tiger-Cats' starter (and former Stampeders' quarterback Henry Burris) three times and intercepted replacement Dan LeFevour twice more, and they held the two quarterbacks to 134 and 112 passing yards respectively. The Hamilton offence was more effective on the ground, where C.J. Gable collected 132 yards on just 13 carries (10.2 yards per carry) but Calgary pulled far enough ahead that the Tiger-Cats had to start throwing more and more. When they did, the Stampeders' defenders were ready and waiting.
The Calgary offence also got it done Saturday, though, despite their slow start. The Stampeders' offensive hero was running back Jon Cornish, who collected 114 yards on 15 carries (a 7.6 yards per carry average) and added 15 receiving yards on two catches, but quarterback Kevin Glenn was also effective, completing 17 of his 26 passing attempts (65.4 per cent) for 238 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Wide receiver Jabari Arthur had a great game as well, hauling in four balls for 103 yards and two touchdowns, and fellow wide receiver Maurice Price starred despite his sore hip, catching two passes for 53 yards and a touchdown. Even quarterback Drew Tate made an impressive cameo, rushing four times for 20 yards and a touchdown. It wasn't as dazzling an offensive show as we've sometimes seen from these Stampeders, but it was a very effective one.
With the win, Calgary moves past B.C. into sole possession of the West Division lead. The Lions are still just a game back though, so the clash in two weeks between the teams could pay a critical role in determining who gets that vital first seed and its accompanying first-round bye. Before that, though, the Stampeders get to host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who are reeling following Friday's 53-17 loss to the Lions. If Calgary can keep this impressive run of form going over the next two weeks, the Stampeders could have the inside track on the West Division's top slot. It won't be an easy road, but if their defence and offence keep performing the way they did Saturday, they might well pull it off.