September 5, 2019

‘One, two, three, Hoggies!’

Bo Levi Mitchell hanging in the pocket seemed as safe, as secure, as the Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre.

The football equivalent of being protected by bulletproof glass, endless video cameras and a phalanx of security guards.

When a stellar quarterback gets the da Vinci canvas-like protection Mitchell did Labour Day Monday, that’s when he can paint his own masterpieces.

“Definitely felt great,’’ conceded the Calgary Stampeders’ pitching ace, addressing his front support staff’s stellar impact on the 25-9 takedown of the Edmonton Eskimos. “Those guys, man, were awesome. Try to give ‘em the credit, though, and they’re gonna try and push it to other guys.

“They weren’t losing their one-on-one blocks. Just locked in. Physically.

“The entire game.

“Multiple times – I don’t know if it played on the mic or not – where I was kinda like mid-play or right after a play: ‘Hey, man, this is impressive.’

“Ka’Deem (Carey) is very, very good at setting up his blocks. But it kinda seemed he wasn’t being touched until he was three, four yards down the field.

“They were really moving guys, not just getting on their guy. And that’s a big key to success.

“Huge credit to Pat (Del Monaco) and his group. Mentally, I saw something different from those guys. They made it a point to see that I didn’t get touched.

“They were saying: ‘One, two, three, Hoggies!’ Talking all game.

“Impressive to watch, man.”

The O-line – l to r: Derek Dennis, Shane Bergman, Ucambre Williams, Ryan Sceviour and Nila Kasitati, gentlemen take a bow – clearly dominated as difficult a match-up as can be found across the CFL, setting up up a forcefield around their marquee man while creating creases, crevices and cracks for tailback Carey to scamper for 143 yards.

Mitchell’s highly-awaited return from a two-month injury-necessitated layoff was therefore a rousing success Labour Day Monday, the reigning MOP finishing 19-for-28 for 263 yards, one TD toss and no picks.

“He didn’t press, which is the most important thing,’’ adjudged QB coach Ryan Dinwiddie. “Trying to do too much when you’re coming back the way he was. You just gotta let the game come to you; allow the rust to work itself off.

“Handle it, play simple football and when the time comes, make big throws, which he did for us.”

Much of Mitchell’s ability to slide with virtual seamlessness back into the fray can be put down to that offensive front defending him with the ferocity of a lioness protecting her cub.

Most tellingly: Zero sacks for a rabid Eskimo defensive front that’s been cannibalizing offensive lines all season long, tied for the league lead at 33 alongside Hamilton.

“No, there was no added sense of urgency because Bo was coming back,’’ scoffed Bergman. “That’s what we want to do every week. We just finally got it done as five.”

As complete a game as you’ll see a group play against a quality foe.

“We locked into some details as a five-man unit,’’ agreed Williams. “But we’re not going to focus on one game. That’s in the past. Forward. Always move forward.

“As an O-line you take pride in taking care of your quarterback. Protecting the quarterback is your job. We’re not looking for stats, glorification or headlines. We just want to do our jobs.

“That’s what you get paid to do.”

His competitive equilibrium invariably sharper than Monday, Mitchell figures to be Saturday, even on the short week that is the back-to-backs versus the Eskimos.

“Footwork-wise, a few balls died on him when his feet weren’t really underneath him,’’ said Dinwiddie. “That’s just some of the rust things we need to work out.

“The O-line did a great job. Bo got hit one time and the one time he scrambled that was his decision: He felt he could get outside when the pocket was clean.

“The front those guys have has been getting after everybody. You saw what they did to B.C.

“Our group handled it.

“Hopefully they can do it again Saturday.”

Aye, there’s the rub. That Edmonton front is sure to be in a particularly owly mood come 5 p.m. kickoff Saturday. Nothing less than retribution, both in the win column and on the stat line,
will be the aim.

“They ain’t gonna change anything they’re doing but they’ll definitely have had a gut-check,’’ warned Bergman. “They’re just gonna try harder.

“Their coaches, I’m sure, have been giving them a little ‘Why the heck did you guys get treated like this’ this week and they’re going to be determined not to let it happen twice in a week.

“It’s their job to change the script.

“It’s our job to do it the same way again.”