CALGARY — The Calgary Stampeders will try to avoid losing back-to-back games for the first time in three years on Monday night when they host the unbeaten Toronto Argonauts.
It’s Calgary’s first game in 10 days, leaving the defending Grey Cup champions with plenty of time to stew over last week’s 29-11 loss to the Montreal Alouettes.
“The important thing is that we take advantage of the rest that we got, take advantage of the extra time to prepare and go out and play a good football game,” said Stampeders coach and general manager John Hufnagel.
Calgary could easily be winless. The Stampeders needed a 50-yard field goal on the final play of their season opener to beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 24-23.
Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell has had a slow start to the season, throwing just one touchdown pass while being intercepted three times. His touchdown to interceptions ratio was 22-to-8 last year.
“It starts with me, being a second-year guy and having the year we had last year,” said Mitchell, who was the Grey Cup most valuable player last season. “As the quarterback, the guy that touches the ball every play, that’s how I feel. I feel like it’s my job to go out there and make sure that as an offence, we do take that next step. Make games easier on our defence.”
Mitchell gets a big weapon back this week in wide receiver Jeff Fuller.
Fuller had nine catches for 164 yards in Week 1. He missed last week’s game with soreness in the same knee which he had season-ending surgery on last October after tearing the MCL.
“I feel like that was probably my last setback. It wasn’t anything tweaked or re-injured or anything, it was just the wear of the first game, the first time playing a complete game on it,” Fuller said. “But no pain at all now, I’m 100 per cent.”
Mitchell says Fuller’s size makes him difficult to defend.
“When you have one-on-one’s with that guy, it’s easy to take shots with him because he’s a guy that does have great ball skill,” said Mitchell. “He has a great knack for catching it at its highest point and that’s a big thing for receivers. Some guys like it to fall down to their arms and that’s when DBs make plays.”
While Mitchell ranks near the bottom of the league’s quarterback rankings, at the very top is Toronto’s Trevor Harris.
The 29-year-old quarterback has put up back-to-back solid performances filling in for veteran Ricky Ray. Ray is expected to be sidelined another month after off-season rotator cuff surgery.
Harris is 54-for-65 for 614 yards and seven touchdown passes with only one interception. That’s a lethal 83.1 completion percentage.
“I have receivers that all the quarterbacks in the league would probably die for, and our offensive line has held up really well,” said Harris. “It’s been a perfect storm for me to walk into and just be a small piece to the puzzle of what everyone else is doing.”
Argonauts coach Scott Milanovich knows his team has its work cut out for them against Calgary.
“It’s always easier to get your team up after a disappointment so I have no doubts that as the defending champs, they’ll be ready to go,” said Milanovich.
It’s the third of five consecutive games away from Rogers Centre to start the season for Toronto, who don’t play at home until August 8 because of the Pan Am Games.