CONNECT FOUR: STAMPS’ AIR RAID TOO MUCH FOR RIDERS
Four different quarterbacks threw a touchdown pass for the Calgary Stampeders and Terry Williams took a punt the distance, orchestrating a 39-12 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in pre-season action Friday night at Mosaic Stadium.
Zach Collaros got the start and struggled in his Riders debut, going 6-for-16 for 41 yards before leaving the game in the third quarter, while Brandon Bridge didn’t fare much better as the Green and White failed to make the most of the final dress rehearsal before the regular season.
Collaros was slow to leave the field after taking a sack in the third quarter, but remained on the Riders’ sideline while David Watford took over. Watford had a game-high 172 passing yards, completing nine of 17 passes with a touchdown and an interceptions as the Riders went off script and played four different quarterbacks.
For the visiting Stampeders, meanwhile, nothing could go wrong, as Bo Levi Mitchell, Larry Brihm, Nick Arbuckle and Ricky Stanzi each threw a touchdown pass, while rookie receiver Nick Truesdell had a pair of touchdowns. Receiver Kamar Jorden was in mid-season form, racking up a game-high 62 receiving yards in the one-sided win.
The Stamps have a decision to make when it comes to their second-string quarterback, while Dave Dickenson said after the game he’ll likely only keep three quarterbacks, meaning one will be on his way out.
Arbuckle was second off the bench and made a strong case to win the No. 2 quarterback job in Calgary, completing eight of 14 attempts for 89 yards and a touchdown. Mitchell played roughly a quarter for the Stamps, completing four of eight passes for 59 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown to Jorden.
Stanzi’s 28-yard touchdown pass to 2018 draft pick and former linebacker Boston Rowe put the game out of reach, extending Calgary’s lead to 30 points in the fourth quarter and sending the Riders’ home crowd to the doors.
After a slow start, lightning finally struck late in the first quarter when Williams eluded the Riders’ punt coverage team, sprinting to an 86-yard touchdown to open the scoring.
Rene Paredes’ extra point missed and Tyler Crapigna hit a wobbly 51-yarder to make it 6-3, but the opening quarter was defined by the struggles of Collaros, who missed a couple of receivers and could have been intercepted at least twice.
After planning to start Bridge for the second quarter, Chris Jones had a change of heart, trotting Collaros out for another drive. But it was more of the same for the Riders’ new quarterback — a two-and-out with two more incompletions, forcing the Riders to punt yet again.
By the time Collaros exited, he was 4-for-12 for 26 yards, and onto the field ran Bridge. But the Riders’ offence still couldn’t find its bearing, with Bridge being sacked on his first drop-back before misfiring on second down.
In the meantime, with Mitchell just about to finish up his first-half duties, the Stamps’ quarterback finally hit paydirt on the deep ball, finding Jorden in the end zone for a 40-yard hookup to make it 13-3 Calgary — a rare strike of lightning in an otherwise defensive game early on.
Arbuckle came into the game in the second quarter for the Stamps and wasted no time moving the offence. A pair of 15-yard completions to Jorden moved the Stamps into field goal range, culminating in a 20-yard chip shot by Paredes. Arbuckle would not fail to finish on the next drive. A pass interference penalty on Duron Carter moved the ball 44 yards, and on the very next play Arbuckle connected with Nick Truesdell for a 14-yard touchdown. The penalty-aided drive pivoted Calgary ahead 23-3.
Arbuckle continued to operate the reins in the third quarter, producing more of the same and setting up another field goal, this time a 29-yarder by rookie Gabriel Ferraro.
After Bridge completed two of his five passing attempts, the Riders went back to Collaros to start the third, hoping to strike up some offence. But after completing back-to-back passes to Naaman Roosevelt, the veteran quarterback was hit hard by Folarin Orimolade. A slow walk to the sideline ensued, and Collaros spent the rest of the game watching from the sideline with his helmet on as Watford came into the game.
Watford led a drive deep into Stamps territory with the help of a 30-yard completion to Roosevelt and a 27-yard grab by Carter. But on the next play, Watford made his first mistake of the game, getting picked off by Gump Hayes in the Calgary end zone to immediately end the threat.
Brihm entered the game for the Stamps next and it was a seamless transition for the offence. After a 48-yard pickup by Anthony Kelly, Brihm found Truesdell for a 21-yard catch-and-run, further extending Calgary’s lead. Brihm was the third pivot into the game and the third to throw a touchdown pass.
The Riders finally responded as Watford continued to move the football down the field. Vying for the third-string job, the former Philadelphia Eagle hooked up with Caleb Holley for a 34-yard touchdown, his team’s first of the night to cut the deficit to 32-9.
Stanzi was the fourth quarterback into the game and picked up where the others left off. The Stamps’ backup hit Richard Sindani for a 33-yard pickup, then hit Boston Rowe — the rookie fullback who played linebacker for the University of Calgary — for an impressive 28-yard touchdown, extending the Stamps’ lead to 39-9.
The Riders added three late points on a field goal from Brett Lauther.
It was an impressive night for the Stamps’ quarterbacks, who combined to go 17-of-28 for 281 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Bridge finished 2-for-5 for 21 yards for the Riders, while B.J. Daniels failed to complete a pass on three attempts.
The Riders’ offence mustered only 276 yards in the loss.
The Riders will try to erase their memory from Friday’s game before taking on the Argos in their season-opener on June 15 in Regina. Meanwhile, Dave Dickenson’s team appears to be ready for the Stamps’ season-opener on June 16 vs. Hamilton.