The defending champs make their first trip to Hamilton this year, without their starting quarterback. Bo Levi Mitchell finds himself on the six-game injured list, so the Stamps will turn to backup Nick Arbuckle when they make the trip to Tim Hortons Field.
These are the three keys for Hamilton to beat Calgary for the first time since 2011.
1.The Running Game
Head Coach Orlondo Steinauer wouldn’t rule out Sean Thomas Erlington for the season, but did say he’s expected to miss significant time with a “long term injury” after undergoing knee surgery.
In his absence, Anthony Coombs and Maleek Irons are expected to carry the load.
“If you ask anybody who’s backing up, what do they want? It’s an opportunity to start. When you have it, what are you going to do with it?” said Coach Steinauer in his media availability Monday.
Irons, who the Ticats selected in the third round (22nd overall) in last May’s draft, is a power running back who has appeared in four games so far. In those games, Irons has 12 touches for 50 yards and a touchdown. It’s a small sample size, but if he continues to be productive that sample size will only grow.
As for Coombs, he was brought in after being released by Toronto in June. Coombs arrived in 2014 after being selected third overall. A dual-threat running back and receiver, Coombs is perhaps the most similar player to Thomas Erlington on the roster. After Thomas Erlington went down, Coombs saw the bulk of the touches at the running back spot. He was really productive in limited touches too, catching five passes for 61 yards and adding six carries for 51.
2.Make Arbuckle Uncomfortable
This is something that probably could be a key every week. Whether it’s stopping the run, rushing the passer or playing lockdown coverage, making things difficult on the opposition quarterback is always massive.
In terms of stopping the run; in their three wins this season, the Ticats have allowed a total of 311 rushing yards (103.7 YPG). Last week, the Alouettes ran for 265.
On the season, Calgary sits second last in the CFL rushing yards with 202 (67.3 YPG).
Stopping Calgary from establishing the run game will be even more important without Mitchell under centre. Arbuckle looked good last week against the Riders, completing 86% of his passes, throwing for 262 yards and two touchdowns, but he remains somewhat of an unknown.
Furthermore, the pass rush has been outstanding for Hamilton, and they lead the CFL with 14 sacks. Former Stampeder Ja’Gared Davis leads the team with three, while Simoni Lawrence, Dylan Wynn and Ted Laurent all have two each.
Arbuckle has under two games of CFL experience, and if Hamilton can take away the run game and keep the pass rush coming, it will probably be a long night for defending champs.
3.Forget About the Past
The Ticats have not beaten Calgary since 2011. The Stamps are also the defending Grey Cup champions.
None of that matters Saturday.
Jeremiah Masoli is looking to become the first Hamilton quarterback to beat the Stampeders since the recently retired Kevin Glenn did it in September of 2011.
These are two completely different teams, with almost completely different personnel. Nevertheless, that stat will continue to be referenced until Hamilton finally beats the Stampeders. Perhaps that day is Saturday.
Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. EDT Saturday at Tim Hortons Field.