Opening week offers sloppiness for CFL fans

The opening week of the CFL regular season was hardly a ringing endorsement to the usually wide-open, offensive Canadian game.

The opening week of the CFL regular season was hardly a ringing endorsement to the usually wide-open, offensive Canadian game.

Granted, three of the four games were close and ultimately decided in the fourth quarter.

But the contests featured a total of 28 turnovers and 81 penalties that resulted in sloppy, often haphazard play.

Saskatchewan and B.C. combined for a whopping 15 turnovers and 12 combined sacks in the Roughriders’ season-opening 28-24 victory Thursday night.

The following night, Winnipeg and Edmonton combined for 25 punts in the Eskimos’ 19-17 victory while Toronto and Hamilton surrendered a combined 12 sacks in the Argos’ 30-17 win to kick off the ’09 campaign Wednesday evening.

Surprisingly, there is no mention of the most single-game turnovers in the CFL’s record book.

But the two 12-sack contests are just one behind the league mark of 13, established by the Edmonton Eskimos and Toronto Argonauts in 1993.

And the seven combined lost fumbles in the BC-Saskatchewan contest was one short of the league record established in a game between Ottawa and Hamilton on Oct. 23, 1971.

Lions quarterback Buck Pierce had a performance to forget, accounting for six turnovers himself (four fumbles, two interceptions).

Forty-eight of the 52 points scored in the game were set up by turnovers.

Afterwards, Lions coach/GM Wally Buono — the second-winningest coach in CFL history — called the loss, “embarrassing and humiliating.”

What’s more, stellar kick-returner Ian Smart suffered a hamstring injury and is expected to miss the Lions’ home opener Friday night versus the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Even the Grey Cup rematch between Calgary and Montreal in the nightcap Wednesday was a sloppy affair with eight turnovers.

So it was only fitting that Chip Cox’s 81-yard fumble return TD late in the fourth quarter cemented the Alouettes’ 40-27 victory.

• The Winnipeg Blue Bombers inducted all-star slotback Milt Stegall into their Hall of Fame on Thursday.

“The fans of the Blue Bombers and the CFL have been very privileged to have witnessed the accomplishments of Milt Stegall,” Bombers president Lyle Bauer said in a statement.

“As impressive as Milt has been on the field, he has been equally impressive off the field and that is a tribute to him as a person.”

Stegall spent 14 seasons with the Bombers before retiring following the ’08 campaign and becoming a football analyst with TSN.

Stegall, the CFL’s outstanding player in 2002, is the league’s career leader in touchdowns (144), receiving touchdowns (144), receiving yards (15,153), most touchdowns in a season (23 in ’02), most receiving TDs in a season (23 in ’02) and most yards per catch in a season (26.5, ’97).

• The Montreal Alouettes’ season-opening 40-27 road win over Calgary was much more than just redemption for losing to the Stampeders in last year’s Grey Cup.

Last year, Montreal was 0-3 against the Stampeders, including its 22-14 loss to Calgary in the CFL title game at Olympic Stadium.

While the Alouettes finished atop the East Division with an 11-17 record in 2008, they were a dismal 3-5 in games against West Division rivals.

And how Montreal fares against Western clubs will dictate just how quickly the team gets out of the gate this season. Four of the Alouettes opening five games this season are against West Division foes.

• Former quarterback Marcus Crandell is rejoining the Saskatchewan Roughriders as an offensive assistant coach, head coach Ken Miller announced Tuesday.

Crandell spent 11 seasons in the CFL with Calgary, Edmonton and most recently Saskatchewan, throwing for over 17,000 yards and 82 touchdowns.

Crandell will work primarily with the team’s quarterbacks.

“After bringing Marcus in as a guest coach this year and watching him work with our young quarterbacks, we knew we had to find a spot for him on our staff,” Miller said in a release.

Crandell, along with wife Mona and sons Carmelo and Darius, make Regina their year-round home.

• The Edmonton Eskimos placed tailback Jesse Lumsden on the nine-game injury list, the team announced Tuesday.

Lumsden, 26, suffered a dislocated shoulder after colliding with Winnipeg Bombers linebacker Siddeeq Shabazz in the Eskimos’ season opener.

Lumsden’s shoulder has already twice required surgery to repair previous damage.

The six-foot-two, 228-pound Lumsden signed with Edmonton as a free agent after four seasons with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The Burlington, Ont., native rushed for 584 yards on 87 carries (6.7-yard average) with five touchdowns last season for Hamilton.

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