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November 3, 2017

Stamps fall in finale

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Tristan Okpalaugo, left, looks on as Calgary Stampeders quarterback Andrew Buckley throws the ball during first quarter CFL football action in Calgary, Friday, Nov. 3, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

In bitter winter conditions at McMahon Stadium, the Stamps fell 23-5 to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and lost consecutive home games for the first time since 2009.

They have now also lost three straight, their longest losing streak since 2007.

Two defensive scores by the Bombers helped pave the way to victory.

“Our effort is not in question,” stated head coach Dave Dickenson following the regular-season finale. “Our effort is good. It doesn’t matter though when you can’t execute anything, it doesn’t matter when you don’t play with your eyes and it doesn’t matter when you take penalties and cough the ball up over and over and have no ball security. To me, it’s just way more negative than anything I can find positive there. But our guys need to rally.”

Calgary has scored just 12 points in their last two home games. Prior to Week 18, the Stamps had averaged 39.7 points as the hosts. The five-point output tonight was their fewest in a single appearance since being shut out by Edmonton in 2003.

A first-quarter interception made by Brandon Alexander was returned 45 yards to open the scoring.

Subsequent first-half turnovers occurred when Andrew Buckley was stuffed by the Bombers’ front – led by linebacker Kyle Knox – and when running back Jerome Messam fumbled.

From 52 yards out, Justin Medlock then stretched the score to 10-0 by clanking the ball off the post and through the uprights. The left-footed special-teamer later tacked on a pair of other three-pointers from inside the 30-yard line.

The only points of the night for the Stamps were courtesy of Rene Paredes with his 53rd field-goal in 58 attempts this year, as well as a safety conceded by the opposition.

Momentum was briefly gained by Calgary when Rob Cote took a direct snap in punt formation to move the chains, however Tristan Okpalaugo would soon scoop up a Buckley fumble forced by Ian Wild and run it all the way back for six.

In Buckley’s first CFL start, the 2015 draft pick went 13-of-18 for 120 yards and the aforementioned INT.

Rookie Ricky Stanzi took over for Buckley with more than a quarter to play and quickly threw a pick of his own.

Seven sacks were recorded by the Blue Bombers. Meanwhile, Winnipeg pivot Dan LeFevour was dropped just once.

“There were guys open and there were plays to be had …” Dickenson described. “But we also took too many penalties up front and we’ve had that issue now three weeks in a row. The only play we made was taken away with a holding call. We need that group better, but the quarterback play was okay. They started out trying to force some things, but hopefully if either of those guys play in the playoffs, they’ll play better.”

The second of two fumble recoveries made by Kenneth Olugbode occurred when the former Colorado Buffalo scooped it up in Winnipeg territory during the final frame.

Of note for the Stampeders, Messam was able to break the 1,000-yard plateau for 2017 before jogging off at the half.

The 13-4-1 Stamps will host the Western Final on Sunday, Nov. 19.

“We have a lot to prove to ourselves,” stressed Dickenson. “There is an opportunity (in the Western Final) and we’ve got it at home and we’ll face a good team. We’ve got some time to get better, but right now we are not the team we need to be. We’ll see if we can figure it out.”