When Montreal head coach Marc Trestman first joined the CFL back in 2008, he said that one of the great challenges with the new rules was learning how to manage the last three minutes of a game.
That year we were midway through the season and he admitted to our TSN cameras that it was a work in progress saying that so much can happen in the last three minutes that it was going to take some time to fully understand all the possibilities. Now he did make it to the Cup that year and proceeded to lead the Als to back to back championships in 2009 and 2010 so obviously he figured it out.
Case in point, Thursday night with the Stamps in Montreal we all witnessed yet another example of just how much can happen in the final three minutes of a CFL game and how important it is understand how to best manage those final 180 seconds. In case you missed it the Stamps had a 12 point lead with 162 seconds left in the game, and the fans were starting to file out of Molson Stadium. Those fans missed a great comeback as Anthony Calvillo put together a drive to cut the lead to five. Then with 107 seconds to go Trestman had to make a decision to kick it deep or try for the on-side and he elected to kick it deep and put his defence on the field in Calgary territory.
It turned out to be the right call as a play later Jerald Brown intercepted a Kevin Glenn throw and took the ball down to the goal line. The Als needed all three downs on the doorstep to get it in, but Patrick Lavoie finally caught a TD pass on third down and the Als in a matter of seconds had taken the lead by one.
The action didn't stop there however, as Glenn started moving the ball with time running out trying to get into field goal range. It looked like he might get there, only to fall just short when Nik Lewis made a catch that would have given the Stamps a shot at a long field goal attempt for the win, only to have time expire before the play was whistled dead.
Marc Trestman before the game told me that he was really enjoying his time in the CFL and there was, as he put it, "no where else he would rather be coaching." He went on to say that he thought there must have been a football genius out there who had come up with some of the rules in the CFL, like the point for a missed field goal and the return opportunities that rule creates. The unlimited motion on offense, the size of the field, and of course the last three minutes of a game.
Four days after that impressive win and our conversation, the Als announced that Trestman had signed a four-year extension.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders may be on to something with their press conference in front of over 30,000 fans in Mosiac Stadium Saturday afternoon. Prior to the kickoff of the Riders-Lions game, Premier Brad Wall, Mayor Pat Fiacco and Rider president Jim Hopson announced that the team would indeed have a new stadium that will be ready by 2017. I have been to a lot of press conferences in my time and heard a lot of big announcements, but I can honestly say that none of them compare to the deafening roar and standing ovation from over 30,000 people when they heard they were getting a new stadium. Now that is a presser! Congratulations to all those in Saskatchewan who worked for the last few years to make this happen.
Once the Lions-Riders game got going, football fans saw a very interesting and exciting well-coached game. A game where we saw yet another long kick return for a touchdown this one by the Riders' Tristan Jackson, who took a missed field goal 129 yards for the major. It is the seventh kick return for a touchdown this year after just 12 games. Now you can't project these kinds of things, because there will be a correction in the performances of the kick cover teams, but if you did we would be looking at around 40 kick return TDs on the year and a lot of grey hair for the coaches in the league. It was also noteworthy that the Lions in this game did not create one turnover.
I'm not sure what is more of a surprise - that the Lions didn't create one with such a solid defensive line and veteran secondary or that the Riders have now gone three games in a row without a turning the ball over once. Darian Durant has not thrown an INT since last October vs. Calgary and has now gone seven games with just that one pick - a total of 214 passes ago. Also in the last ten years, the 2011 Calgary Stampeders are the only team to go three straight games without at least one turnover.
And finally sticking with the Lions, this Friday they will host the Edmonton Eskimos and at half time will honor one of the teams all-time greats. Defensive lineman Brent Johnson will be added to the Lions' Ring of Honour and according to president and CEO Dennis Skulsky, no Lion has ever been honored this way this fast. "No player in our history has ever been added to the Ring of Honour this soon after retirement which speaks to the impact Brent had as a member of our football club," he said.
At times in past history in the CFL, there have been set positions for imports and set positions for Canadians. Before Brent Johnson, defensive end was not a Canadian spot, but when Wally Buono gave him a chance he took full advantage of his opportunity and became one of the games greats at the position. In that regard, Brent Johnson was not only a great player, but a pioneer paving the way for other non-imports who have aspirations of playing the game at the pro level in one of the skilled positions. If you are in the area and are, or at any time, been a fan of the B.C. Lions it may be a pretty cool night, and a chance to say thanks to a great ambassador and player for the organization in B.C.