Fighting with Winnipeg for top spot in the CFL’s west division, Bo Levi Mitchell and the Calgary Stampeders know they have a long way to go after losing the league’s top wide receiver.
The Calgary offence played their first game without star wide out Reggie Begelton, the CFL’s receiving yards leader who broke his arm last week against Hamilton and is out for the season.
Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell knows the offence has room to improve without his top target but lauded the efforts of his inexperienced receiving corps against a tenacious Toronto Argonaut defence.
“I was really impressed. Having four rookie receivers in there. They showed a lot of veteran stuff,” said Mitchell in the locker room after the game. “The details weren’t there on a lot of things. Including myself.
“That’s where you’re going to lack a bit, especially playing with younger guys, but ultimately I thought they played really well, they battled, and they caught the ball well.”
Despite Mitchell completing 33 passes for 346 yards (both season highs) in the 23-16 victory at BMO Field, Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson was not thrilled with how the offence moved the ball.
“It wasn’t that great actually. We’re working hard and too many drops, said Dickenson, outside the Stampeder’s locker room. “There were some nice performances but a lot of mistakes.
“But that’s going to happen when basically Eric’s the only guy that’s been a regular in there.”
In the absence of Begelton, fourth-year receiver Eric Rogers was able to step up and handle the heaviest workload of his career, catching eight of his whopping 17 targets for 119 yards.
On multiple occasions, Rogers and Mitchell hooked up to convert on crucial second down situations, none more important than an 18-yard reception to maintain possession and seal the game with under a minute remaining in the contest.
“You can tell we were sputtering a bit on offence. We had to make some big catches late,” said Dickenson. “Eric and Bo, I don’t know how they found each other on a couple of those it was so tight. Without those catches who knows if we’re able to win the game.”
Rogers was happy to get the win but knows the inexperienced receiving corps needs time to improve.
“We have guys that have been here all year, they just haven’t played as much. But they played very well today,” said Rogers, as he shook hands with his quarterback in the locker room. “Obviously we could have played a little bit better, a lot of yards were left out there for sure.”
While the Stampeders escaped with a victory against the lowly Argos, the fourth-year head coach knows his young team has a long way to go and is excited for the challenge.
“We were just not doing things at a championship level. Now we have a lot of new parts, but our execution needs to be better,” said Dickenson. “It’s a lot of ‘two steps forward, a couple steps back’, but I do feel like the guys are playing hard and the effort is intense.
“It’s such a young fresh team. That’s fun because we’re building something.”