Something has to give Thursday night.
The Toronto Argonauts host the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Rogers Centre in a battle of two struggling teams. Both sport 1-6 records with the Argos having lost six straight games.
The contest could become a test of wills as Toronto and Saskatchewan boast the CFL’s worst two offences and defences. The Riders are last overall in scoring (21 points per game) and giving up a league-high average of 32.7 points.
Toronto isn’t much better, ranked second-last in scoring (22.9 points per game) and points allowed (30.7). And the Argos are dead last in the CFL in yards allowed (404.8) and rushing yards allowed (124 per game).
Trouble is, the Riders have the CFL’s second-worst run game (93.3 yards per game) but are fifth in passing (269.1 yards per game).
Riders’ quarterback Darian Durant was 24-of-34 passing for 325 yards and two TDs in last week’s 45-35 loss to Calgary. But he also had two interceptions, giving him a league-high eight this season.
Toronto’s Cleo Lemon had a stellar performance in a 37-32 road loss to Hamilton on Saturday, completing 26-of-36 passes for a CFL career-high 368 yards and three TDs. And tailback Cory Boyd ran for 73 yards and a TD on 18 carries after missing four games with a knee injury.
But with Orlondo Steinauer making his debut as Toronto’s defensive co-ordinator, the Argos surrendered four TDs and over 400 total offensive yards versus Hamilton while managing but one sack and no turnovers.
Saskatchewan’s Wes Cates has been sidelined with a sprained ankle since the club’s 27-24 win over Montreal on July 24 but Hugh Charles has been a dependable replacement, averaging a sparkling 6.7 yards per carry.
There are just two games in the CFL in each of the next two weeks as the league stages its annual pre Labour Day bye weeks. B.C. travels to Edmonton on Friday, with Hamilton, Winnipeg, Calgary and Montreal all off.
Next week, Winnipeg hosts Hamilton while Montreal travels to Calgary.
CFL TAUNTING: It seems some CFL players just can’t be content with delivering a hard, bone-crunching hit.
On Thursday night, Montreal linebacker Ramon Guzman laid a vicious lick on Edmonton tailback Jerome Messam during the Alouettes’ 27-4 home win. The six-foot-two, 232-pound Guzman effectively snuffed out the attempted screen play and emphatically put the six-foot-three, 245-pound Messam to the ground.
But then Guzman tarnished the fine effort by standing over the fallen Messam and visibly taunting his opponent. Messam got right back up and spoke to Guzman, but amazingly the Alouettes player wasn’t flagged for his antics.
Two nights later in Hamilton, Toronto defensive back Lin-J Shell laid out receiver Chris Williams on an incomplete pass over the middle in the second quarter of the Tiger-Cats’ 37-32 victory. But like Guzman, Shell didn’t stop there.
Standing over a prone Williams, Shell bent over and taunted him. This time, Shell was penalized for taunting along with Hamilton’s Avon Cobourne.
These are by no means isolated incidents.
In fact, they’ve have become so commonplace that TSN analyst Jock Climie, a former CFL receiver, delivered a fabulous rant during halftime of the Toronto-Hamilton game Saturday night regarding players taunting one another as well as performing choreographed TD celebrations.
Football is indeed a physical, hard-hitting sport and hard hits are certainly valued in the game. They can often be momentum changers and provide a team with a huge and timely lift.
Intimidation is also a part of football, that’s a given. But there’s no room for someone demeaning or mocking a fallen rival. Such antics cheapen the game, plain and simple.
That’s why the CFL should clamp down hard on taunting. Offending players should be flagged at the very least, and maybe also fined. Right now there’s too much inconsistency regarding this matter.
Young football players watching games on TV see the pros acting this way and those actions will filter down to the minor football ranks. There’s already an alarming occurrence of taunting in Ontario summer leagues, for example, leaving many to believe younger players are merely re-enacting behaviour they’re seeing on television.
Taunting might not be a major player safety issue like head hits, but it’s still a very important one that the CFL should attempt to get a firmer grip on.
POWER BASE: The East Division holds the balance of power in the CFL so far this season.
Eastern teams are a combined 9-5 in head-to-head meetings this season with their West Division rivals. Winnipeg and Montreal lead the way with identical 3-1 records while Hamilton is 2-2 and Toronto is 1-1.
East teams were 2-0 last week after Montreal beat Edmonton 27-4 and Winnipeg got past B.C. 30-17.
Calgary is 2-1 versus Eastern squads while Edmonton is 2-2. Saskatchewan is 1-2 — its only win coming against Montreal — while B.C. is 0-4.
Saskatchewan is in Toronto on Thursday in the only East-West matchup this week.