By Jason Langvee
Week 12 of the 2015 CFL season has come and is now in the books along with a ton of standout performances. With 6 weeks left in the season, now is when we start to see the contenders break away from the pretenders. This week we saw sunshine contrasted with rain, but more clearly we saw games of summer give way to games of fall that the bipolar month of September so often brings us fans of Canadian Football. In Toronto, the Argo’s looked to avenge a labour day classic loss against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. In Winnipeg, we saw the infamous Banjo Bowl, and all of the sideshows that go along with it. In Edmonton, the battle of Alberta took place on an evening where the environmental elements all but strapped on the pads to oppose both squads. Finally, in BC the Lions hosted the Ottawa REDBLACKS at home in a game that showed the West what we’ve all been thinking; the East is for real this season. It was in that game that we find our RIVALUS Featured Player, but before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s look at what happened this week in the CFL:
In a highly anticipated rematch between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and their QEW rivals in the Argonauts, it was once again the Tabbies who would come out on top of the match. Despite a huge game from rookie Argos receiver – Tori Gurley, the boatmen struggled to put up consistent offence against Hamilton’s voracious defence. While only Justin Hickman, and Craig Butler were able to record sacks on Argo’s QB Trevor Harris, the Ticats provided relentless pocket pressure which resulted in Harris uncharacteristically tossing 2 interceptions. On the other side of the ball, Zach Collaros looked as versatile as ever as he moved his launch points seemingly on a whim. Collaros benefitted from the exceptional play of players like Terrell Sinkfield Jr., as well as his favourite target of 2014; Luke Tasker. The two receivers combined for 180 yards of offence in the air, which accounted for the majority of Collaros’ 254 total passing yards. Hamilton swept the season series at Toronto by a score of 35-27.
The week’s second game pitted rivals Winnipeg and Saskatchewan in the infamous Banjo Bowl, which happens annually following the labour day match-up between the two western teams. Saskatchewan looked to control the game’s pace early on thanks to immense defensive pressure coming from the Roughriders’ all-star defensive line, laden with names like Chick, Hall, George, and the newcomer Monroe. This game’s story though came by way of Winnipeg’s own newcomer; Matt Nichols. With Drew Willy sidelined, and with uncertain performances from QB’s 2 and 3 (Brohm and Marve, respectively), the Blue Bombers were simply looking to weather the storm until Mr. Nichols became available. Winnipeg wasted no time, and in his second week with the team, Matt started. Although his performance was not perfect, Nichols did what is often so difficult in pro sports; learn quickly. Nichols needed to come in and not only pick up a new playbook, but learn new terminology, with different personnel in a different environment. All it took was a few minutes of football for the new pivot to begin producing big plays like that of Nick Moore who was spotted down field by Nichols for a 64-yard play. Thanks to the new starter in Winnipeg, the Blue Bombers took the Banjo Bowl by a score of 22-7.
In a game that might go down as the wettest of 2015, the Edmonton Eskimos hosted Calgary as they tried to snap a mental barrier that is their Alberta rivalry. For one reason or another, the strength of the Eskimos has seemed to take a backseat to Calgary’s prowess in seasons past. This time around though, Mike Reilly made sure his squad would not be understated. With sheets of rain falling at a constant rate, both Bo Levi Mitchell and Mike Reilly struggled to accurately pass the ball (with Mitchell completing 25/41 passes, and Reilly making 22/40). The difference between the two performances though, was that Mitchell’s 25 completions tallied to a respectable 244 yards, whereas Mike’s 22 passes resulted in an enormous 352 passing yards, and 3 touchdowns. It seemed with Reilly back in the fold, the Eskimos were able to utilize more of their offensive weapons. Adarius Bowman and Kenny Stafford were the prime examples of that with the two of them combining for 213 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. By game’s end the Eskimos were able to keep the Stampeders’ offence off the field enough to close the game with a score of 27-16.
In the week’s final match-up between BC and the Ottawa REDBLACKS, there were a few questions on fans’ minds. Most notably, with Lulay out, could John Beck produce enough offence to quiet the league sack leaders in Ottawa’s defence? The answer to that question at this time is no, as Ottawa’s defensive line found all sorts of space and time around Beck. With names like Capicciotti, Shologan, and Hopkins clogging up the running lanes, and DB’s like the 2011 Most Outstanding Defensive Player – Jovon Johnson making interceptions, Ottawa’s defence is undoubtedly the strongest it’s been in 2 years of existence. We still haven’t talked about the RIVALUS Featured Player this week. Well, let’s start because Jeremiah Johnson owned his performance at BC Place, and his team won thanks to that effort.
Looking purely at the numbers, Jeremiah Johnson had an electric night on Sunday. Johnson rushed for 106 yards over 6 carries. On top of that, he was also used steadily as a check-down receiver coming out of Ottawa’s backfield, a position which saw him catch another 5 balls for 41 receiving yards. In this match-up, it was the case of BC giving Johnson an inch (or 2.54 centimeters), from which he would take a mile (don’t make me keep doing math). A keen eye will note that any successful CFL offence is always coupled with a productive running back. That doesn’t mean that those running backs produce big numbers in every game they play, but rather, they succeed in every assignment they are given. When Johnson wasn’t running or catching against BC, he was blocking. Veteran QB; Henry Burris was able to throw for 317 yards against BC’s defence, and that was achieved thanks to the triple threat that Johnson provides: blocking, running, and catching (in that order). Jeremiah Johnson owned his performance against the BC Lions and for that reason, he is the CFL’s RIVALUS Featured Player for week 12.