HAMILTON — The Calgary Stampeders (2-2) traveled to Hamilton for a second consecutive road game carrying a historical streak over the local rivals and high expectations after two-straight triumphs in 2019.
They are heading back to Alberta without both of them.
After beating the Saskatchewan Roughriders, 37-10, with backup quarterback Nick Arbuckle under centre filling in for the injured star QB Bo Levi Mitchell, the Stampeders could not get things going on offence against the Tigers-Cats (4-1), losing 30-23.
Calgary’s 17 total first downs were the team’s lowest since the season debut over the Ottawa RedBlacks (16), and a big step back compared to the 46 first downs in Weeks 3 and 4 combined.
“I thought our defence showed up, played a heck of a game, but offence and special teams weren’t good enough,” said head coach Dave Dickenson, to the reporters after the game.
Dickenson had obvious reasons to approve his team’s defensive performance.
The Stampeders limited the Ti-Cats to 220 total yards and 4.5 yards per play. They also forced two turnovers, including an interception by defensive back DeShaun Amos in the end zone.
“It was tied at halftime, we just didn’t play well in the second half. We had fumbles and drops mainly, and the D couldn’t quite hold up after the offence put us in bad situations.”
It was an awful night for the Stampeders’ receiving corps.
Along with several drops, Calgary’s receivers suffered two fumbles that cost two first downs and the momentum of the game.
First, Reggie Begelton failed to finish a 27-yard connection after being tackled by Delvin Breaux. Then Adrian Tracy pulled the ball out of Markeith Ambles’ hands to stop an 11-yard play.
Besides that, only three players caught three or more passes for the Stampeders, the team’s worst mark this season thus far.
“We scored on special teams, we gave it right back, momentum came right their way. It was still available, but again no rhythm, no timing,” said Dickenson. “We just couldn’t catch, we could’t hold on when we caught it, and that’s disappointing.”
The special teams, too, were an X-factor for Calgary, as they allowed two kick-return touchdowns.
Stampeders’ best moment of the night came after a four-yard blocked punt return TD by Ka’Deem Carey that gave his team a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.
But the two special team TDs conceded in the first half made it a tie game at halftime despite the Ti-Cats totalled four first downs in the first 30 minutes of action.
In the kickoff following the blocked punt, Will Likely III returned the ball 110 yards, and minutes later Banks returned a 51-yard missed field goal attempt 115 yards for the score.
That was Banks’ fifth career missed field goal touchdown return, the most in CFL history.
“Try our best to make sure we execute from start to finish, especially on first down,” said Arbuckle, asked about what his team needs to improve for the next game. “There were too many times we were in second and long, and we converted some of them.”
One of the reasons was the team had its season-worst 27 rushing yards
“You don’t want to be in second and 10, second and 12, second and 15, throughout the game,” said Arbuckle. “It gives the defence too much of advantage to be able to do a lot of different things.
“We had a good game-plan, we just need to execute better as an offence.”
The 25-year-old quarterback, who is now 1-1 as a starter, completed 24 of 40 pass attempts, for 368 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions.
Arbuckle’s only loss, however, broke a streak that dated back to September 2011. Including the 102nd Grey Cup, the Stampeders were unbeaten in their past 15 meetings against the Ti-Cats.
Calgary will try to get back to the win column against the Toronto Argonauts (0-4) on July 19, while Hamilton has a bye week before facing the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (4-0) on July 26.