Friday, July 24, 2009

CFL: Lions-Stampeders preview and live blog

It's getting close to the end of the work week as we know it, and that means it's time for one of my favourite moments each week in the summer; a B.C. Lions game. The Leos are hosting the Calgary Stampeders tonight in the second game of TSN's Friday Night Football doubleheader (the early game is Toronto against Winnipeg). I'll be live-blogging the B.C. - Calgary game here and at Sporting Madness. Kickoff is at 10:30 Eastern/7:30 Pacific. Read on for my game preview!

This should be a good one. Both the Lions and the Stampeders got off to poor starts, and they both sit at 1-2 after three games. That's not what many had expected, as the Stampeders are the defending Grey Cup champions and the Lions went to the West Final last season. Still, they've both struggled early on, so both sides will be eager to get back on track tonight.

Calgary may be in good shape to do that. After a 40-27 thumping by Montreal in Week
One and a 42-30 defeat against Winnipeg in Week Two, the Stampeders responded with an impressive 44-9 win over the Toronto Argonauts in Week Three. Now, Toronto's far from the league's best, but that's still the largest margin of victory in the CFL this year. Calgary looked back in Grey Cup form, and that should help them tonight. There's a good reason five of the six writers at The Score's The Red Zone blog picked the Stampeders in this one (the lone exception was D.J. Bennett).

B.C. was not as impressive last week, but they did get it done. After losing an error-filled season opener in Regina 28-24, they were embarrassed 31-28 at home by the traditional CFL doormat, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and fell to 0-2. This past week, they didn't get off to a great start in Edmonton, but an injury to quarterback Buck Pierce sent in Jarious Jackson and he got it done in fine style, completing 19 of 28 passes for 362 yards and four touchdowns without a single interception and leading the Lions to a 40-22 victory. He was unanimously selected as the CFL's offensive player of the week for his efforts, joining teammate and frequent target Paris Jackson (outstanding Canadian) on the week's list of awards.

Jackson may have won the unanimous approval of the voting committee, but he wasn't able to win the starting job. Despite Jackson's almost-flawless performance in relief, head coach Wally Buono has elected to go back to Pierce tonight [Lowell Ulrich, The Province]. Still, Pierce is notoriously fragile and sometimes ineffective, so I wouldn't be surprised to see Buono make a change mid-game if the offence isn't running smoothly.

In my mind, though, Jackson should be the starter tonight. It doesn't even have to be a slam at Pierce; he suffered "concussion-like" symptoms last week and has a long history of concussions, so why not let him rest a bit more? If Jackson started and failed, Pierce could come in in relief. If Jackson succeeded mildly, the old order could be restored in the Lions' next game. If Jackson played well, then he could have been anointed as the starter.

To me, this is a dangerous move from a health perspective as well as a football one. I've written pretty extensively on concussions over the past few years, and putting a player back in this soon seems like something that would be frowned upon by many medical experts given Pierce's concussion history. The Lions' offensive line hasn't been great this year either, so expect Pierce to get hit at least once tonight. The problem with multiple concussions is each tends to make you more susceptible to future concussions, and they often get more damaging as you go along. That's another reason why starting Pierce tonight is concerni, in my view.

In any case, it will be a fascinating game to watch. There are plenty of storylines to follow, from RB/KR Ian Smart's return to the Lions' QB situation to the Stampeders' attempts to get back into form. Come join me here for the live blog at 7:30 P.M. PST!

Related coverage:
- Ullrich has a nice piece on the Lions' motivation [The Province]
- Matt Sekeres has a good pre-game story on the rivalry between the teams [The Globe and Mail]
- Another good preview piece from The Canadian Press []
- Check out Brian Wawryshyn's post on his Alberta road trip [BC Lions Den]
- Ullrich and Province sports editor Jonathan McDonald hosted an excellent game-day conversation on the Lions this morning [The Fifth Quarter]

1 comment:

Jordie Dwyer said...

Judging from the highlights on last night's news....
I'm guessing the Lions game wasn't one of your "favourite" moments???