Johnson: Stamps shake off stench of last B.C. meeting
Calgary was bulldozed 34-8 by a free-wheeling Travis Lulay back in July
It remains the one unsightly blemish, the lone mark of shame, on an otherwise honourable campaign.
“You come into every game excited,” said Jon Cornish, who piles up Canadian player-of-the-week honours the way Meryl Streep collects Oscar nominations, “but when you have the opportunity to right a wrong . . .”
And what a wrong it was.
Two-left-feet-on-the-dance-floor wrong. Chili-powder-in-the-cookie-dough wrong. Leather-and-fishnet at-Ascot wrong.
The acrid stench of that 34-8 pummelling the B.C. Lions administered to a sorry band of Calgary Stampeders on July 28th still hangs in the air, nine weeks later, like lingering fumes from a gas leak.
Moe didn’t slap Curly or Larry around any more thoroughly in Three Stooges shorts than Travis Lulay and the Leos slapped around the Stamps that Nyuk-Nyuk-Nyuk night at McMahon Stadium. The only thing missing was a two-fingered eye-poke as a coup de grace.
Lulay threw for 315 yards and three touchdowns. Calgary’s ace tailback Jon Cornish felt dumped by the curb and abandoned, finishing with a minus-one-yard rushing on a measly half-dozen carries. The home side committed the evening’s only two turnovers and found itself embalmed 31-3 over the final three quarters.
“Anything positive come out of that game?” reflected middle linebacker Juwan Simpson. “Yeah, getting off the field at the end.”
As painful as the Lion desecration had to be to endure, though, it’s proven over a larger, more representative sample size to be nothing so much as a wretched one-off. As proof, Calgary’s other four losses this season have been by a combined 17 points.
Not that it softens the sting much.
“That one,” brooded Simpson, “hurt. You can’t dwell on hurt but you’ve got to remember it.
“You have to keep it in the back of your mind from the standpoint of knowing how dangerous that group over there is. They can inflict a lot of damage if you let them. But saying that, we are a MUCH different team than we were back then.
“We’re much more together, all around. We’re more confident in ourselves and each other.
“Their team’s different, as well. They’re coming off a loss, so you know they’ll be fired up, ready. And we’re sure looking forward to it, too.
“That last one, man, I don’t know what you’d call it . . .
“But this, this I guess you could call the Clash of the Titans, in a sense.”
Hard to argue the hyperbole. First place in the West is the golden, glittering ring there for the grabbing as Stampeder coach John Hufnagel plays the ol’ shell game with his offensive line and the Lions sweat the health of receivers Geroy Simon and Arland Bruce and running back/returner Tim Brown.
“They just flat-out beat us last time,” sighed defensive end Kenny Pettway. “In every area you can think of. We’ve got to put our ‘A’ game on the field this time. Anything less won’t be good enough. That’s been pretty much proven.
“B.C.’s one of those teams that don’t give you much for free; very few mistakes. So to beat them, you’ve got to make less mistakes than they do and match them in intensity.”
For Simpson, the emotional fulcrum of the Stampeder resistance movement, the responsibility for executing a 180-degree U-turn at BC Place begins with his unit.
“That last game, as a defence, we stayed on the field too long, gave them way too many second-down conversions,” he griped. “Penalties and stuff. And that’s why I say we’re a lot different team. We’re a lot better on our conversion percentage, and that gives our offence the momentum they need and better field position.”
Certainly no one, either side, is daft enough to think Saturday at BC Place will be as comprehensively one-sided as July 28th.
Since the Mugging at McMahon, both clubs are 6-2.
“With them coming off the Sask game, a loss, they’re going to have a lot of fire in their belly,” cautioned Cornish.
“And our Edmonton game, after our Sask loss, really let us remember who we are as a team, what we can do offensively and defensively. Coming into this B.C. game . . . you know, I really think it’s going to be the best game of the year for us.
“You don’t get many opportunities where you have two teams in this type of situation.
“I’m really looking forward to us having the game I know we can.”
Nine weeks late, maybe. But right on time nonetheless.
George Johnson is the Herald’s sports columnist. E-mail him at email@example.com
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