It is a good thing I am not a betting man. I would have lost on both CFL semi-final games. I thought Montreal and Calgary would be the winning teams.
During every game head coaches play a role on such matters as challenges, third down plays and kicking decisions. This column will mainly reflect on head coaching decisions and end with a few observations.
I thought Jason Maas showed more control on the sidelines than any game I can recall in the years he has been head coach of the Eskimos. He has been prone to visible agitation to conspicuous frustration when a play goes wrong or he thinks the officials made a bad call. On Sunday afternoon he was composed even when the Alouettes were making their fourth quarter comeback.
He did not use his challenge. It should be reserved for plays clearly wrong for the consequences of losing a timeout can be dire. Unlike Maas, Khari Jones and Dave Dickenson made questionable challenges that were each unsuccessful.
Jones, having not challenged a head high hit on his quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., picked a doubtful contact on Adams on a later play.
Dickenson’s challenge was even more puzzling. He challenged for alleged downfield blocking on a 14-yard completion from the Bomber 34 on the first Bomber offensive play of the third quarter. The risk / reward of the situation did not justify the challenge. A successful challenge would have meant the Bombers were first and 20 but would not stop the drive. Had it been later in the half I would have wondered if Dickenson felt he needed to try something to stop the momentum of the Bombers. Having already been unsuccessful on six of seven challenges this year Dickenson was consistent in having another unsuccessful challenge.
Where Maas looked collected all afternoon it was Dickenson who looked flustered on the sidelines. I appreciated it is a rare experience for the Stampeders to be rolled over during any game but he was the head coach of the playoff games who appeared ill at ease.
Maas has made questionable to bad decisions in short yardage situations. On Sunday there were no errors on when to go on third down plays.
I was surprised when Maas shied away from attempting a 48-yard field goal early in the game. You have to be confident your kicker can make a field goal inside 50 yards at any time and a long field goal can lift a team.
Late in the second quarter Mike O’Shea called on Justin Medlock who successfully kicked a 52-yard field goal that definitely boosted the Bombers.
In the third quarter O’Shea did not have Medlock attempt a 49-50 yard field goal. The wind must have been a factor. I could not see O’Shea not attempting a field goal unless it was too far because of the wind.
It is hardly scientific but it has long been a general observation in cold weather games that the team that disdains the cold by having bare arms is the winner. On a cold day in Calgary I noted that the whole Bomber offensive line had bare arms while all the Stampeder offensive linemen had their arms covered.
I was in shock seeing Bo Levi Mitchell have the worst playoff game of his career. He was lucky he only had three interceptions. Calgary has been able to win even cold playoff games despite his immobility because of his quick releases and skill at finding the open receiver. On Sunday they could have used a quarterback who can run for a first down.
My younger son Michael was at the game wearing green. When he bought season tickets for the Stampeders he told his friends he would be in green for every game. With regard to Sunday’s game he said there was never a feel in the stadium that the Stampeders would come back.
All season teams having been overcoming two touchdown deficits but the Stampeders looked “done like dinner” in the words of the immortal Dave “Tiger” Williams when Winnipeg pulled ahead by 14. (Of course the Philadelphia Flyers proved Tiger wrong when they came back against the Leafs in the 1977 playoffs.)
Bill Selnes, who’s based in Melfort, has written about the Saskatchewan Roughriders since the late 1970s. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, Football Reporters of Canada wing on Nov. 24, 2013.