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October 20, 2018

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD

Calgary, AB - October 20, 2018: The Calgary Stampeders lose 29-24 against the Saskatchewan Rough Riders at McMahon Stadium Saturday evening. Photo by David Moll / Calgary Stampeders.

There’s no cinch in c(l)inch.

“It’s getting closer,’’ murmured DB Jamar Wall, the mounting dissatisfaction of back-to-back losses evident, “so people are getting more uptight.

“We’ve still only gotta win one game.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. But we’re making it awful tough on ourselves.

“Are we playing our best? That’s pretty obvious. Not even close. The last two weeks have been bad. We’ve had chances to win on all sides of the ball and haven’t stepped up.

“It shows.

“We’re getting beat.”

The Calgary Stampeders magic number to nail down first place in the West and the bye week remains 1 in the wake of consecutive home defeats, the latest a fractious 29-24 decision to the invaders from the Saskatchewan flatlands.

“I feel like there was some progress,’’ said coach Dave Dickenson, harkening back to last weekend’s loss to the B.C. Lions. “Unfortunately the D that’s been holding us in all year couldn’t get off the field and they made all the plays.

“You know what? There’s still a lot of fight. I like our team: A lot. I really do. I like our locker room. Those guys know what it takes to win. We’ve just got to keep building and hopefully get it done.

“Listen, we’ve lost two in a row. But I think we’re going to make a good run at it here, hopefully clinch the West.”

In a bitter contest better suited to an alley, a base, raw donnybrook that often resembled some backroom cockfight in a seedy border bar, emotions spilled over at game’s end, triggering a lot of chirping back-and-forth.

“When you lose, you’re always bitter. When you win, you’re happy,” reasoned Dickenson. “It is what it is.

“It was a hard-fought … it felt like a playoff game. It really did. It just had that feel, back and forth. We just couldn’t get our head above water.

“It was close. But close isn’t good enough.”

Right at the moment, the Stampeders are having a devil of a time making the decisive play.

A for instance: After a Rob Maver punt left Rider QB Zach Collaros and Co. trapped on their six-yard-line with 2:53 left and the prospect of a late winning TD drive very much in the cards, Saskatchewan immediately vaulted out of a huge hole as if on gigantic springs, wideout Jordan Williams-Lambert turning defensive back Tre Roberson along the sideline and setting sail for a first down.

Those 31 yards were the most vital of the the 352 accumulated by QB Collaros through the air on this night. By the time the Stamps managed to retrieve the ball, only 10 ticks remained on the McMahon Stadium score clock.

Too late.

Whether it’s an interception at the back of the Saskatchewan end zone by safety Mike Edem off Bo Levi Mitchell looking for Eric Rogers or an objectionable conduct call on Micah Johnson to transform what would’ve been third-and-goal on the Calgary one-yard-line into a Rider first down, there’ve been too many things go wrong the last fortnight.

Rogers, for one, figures it’s time everyone now overcome by a case of the colds sweats takes a little personal time-out along with a deep breath.

“Five-point losses, close games,’’ he said. “Yeah, it’s weird because we’re used to winning those close games. But I can’t imagine what it’s like for other teams when they get blown out by 20, 30 points.

“We lose two five-point games and everybody’s” – he held his hands up in mock horror – all ‘Ahhhhhhhhhh …’

“We’ve got to find a way to get more stops, find a way to get more points. That’s obvious.

“But remember the Patriots started slow last year, lost to Kansas City and everybody was wondering: ‘What’s wrong?!’ They got it figured out. We will, too.”

Next up for the White Horse, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Investors Group Field.

“We’ve got to sit down as a whole, pinpoint what we’re doing wrong and correct it,’’ said Wall. “Someone on opposite teams is seeing something we’re doing wrong and exposing it.

“This is a whole lot closer than it should be; than we thought it’d be a couple weeks ago.

“We’re passionate. You’ve got a lot of tempers going right now because we care about what we do.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to win.

“We want to play at home.”

The answer in doing precisely that, emphasized the boss, won’t be found in freezing up or doubting the process.

“It’s important to get back on the winning track. I want to win the West with a win,’’ said Dickenson. “I know it’s going to be tough, as well. We’re back on the road.

“Our team is building. We’re not where we need to be. We need to get better. We’ll never win it unless we get better.”

“So just get yourself into that mode.

“Get your body right and let’s go.

“Let’s go next week.”