Great White North Review: CFL Week One Recap
Saskatchewan pivot Darian Durant will miss the remainder of 2015 with an Achilles injury - The Canadian Press/Rick Elvin

Great White North Review: CFL Week One Recap

It was a remarkable kickoff week for the CFL, full of exciting and nail-biting games, yet simultaneously marred by severe injuries.

brendan-dzwierzynski
Brendan Dzwierzynski

This past Thursday night was the beginning of the 2015 Canadian Football League season, and the season started with a big time upset, as Ottawa defeated Montreal at Percival Molson Stadium. A late-game come from behind win for the REDBLACKS set the tone for a wild weekend in the CFL, for both positive and negative reasons. It's only been one week of games, but it is shaping up to be an exciting and unpredictable CFL campaign.

Top Storyline

Even with all of the exciting finishes on the opening weekend of games, quarterback injuries are the biggest story after the opening slate of matchups, none more impactful to the league than Darian Durant's. Durant was carted off the field in Saskatchewan just before halftime Saturday night, and later in the night was proclaimed to be out for the season with a ruptured Achilles. Coming off of another huge injury last season, Durant was primed for a major comeback campaign in 2015. Kevin Glenn will take over for the time being for the Roughriders as the team's starting pivot, but losing Durant could prove devastating to Saskatchewan's Grey Cup hopes.

Darian Durant isn't the only QB who went down this weekend, as Edmonton and Montreal are also now faced with question marks at the helm of their respective offenses. The Esks' Mike Reilly is out indefinitely after injuring his left knee in Edmonton's 26-11 loss to Toronto. For Montreal, they were down to their third-string quarterback in Brandon Bridge, who had to enter after injuries to Jonathan Crompton and Dan LeFevour. Bridge's playing time was notable, as it was the first time a Canadian quarterback has seen the field in a regular season game since 2010. It may have been an exciting first weekend for the fans, but several teams across the league are already reeling after losing their starting (and in the Als' case, backup) QBs.

Top Performance

It's not easy to replace an all-time great, but that is what Trevor Harris is tasked with doing for the Argonauts while Ricky Ray is out injured. The young pivot from Edinboro University played admirably in Ray's place Week One, leading the league in both passing yards and passing touchdowns (tied in this category with Drew Willy). Of all the opening weekend games, the Argos' victory over Edmonton was by far the most lopsided, as they cruised to a 26-11 win in Fort McMurray, thanks in large part to the dominant day through the air from Trevor Harris.

Attempts Completions Comp % Yards Touchdowns Passer Rating
27 24 88.9 347 3 155.8

Top Canadian

Even in defeat, Andy Fantuz is one of the best in the business. The veteran receiver for Hamilton compiled the second most yards from scrimmage for any Canadian for the opening week (only behind Jon Cornish) while averaging more than 3.5 more yards per touch. Even while Terrell Sinkfield and rookie Terrence Toliver had solid performances, Fantuz was the glue for the TiCats one-dimensional offense on Friday night (over 88% of Hamilton's offense came through the air against Calgary). It was a tough loss for the Tiger-Cats but Andy Fantuz proved once again that he is one of the toughest, most consistent players in the CFL.

Catches Yards YPC Touchdowns
9 83 9.2 0

Game Recaps

Ottawa REDBLACKS 20, Montreal Alouettes 16

It was an exciting start to the CFL season when the REDBLACKS shocked many fans and took down the Als in Montreal. Multiple QB injuries slowed down the Alouettes, as they had to reach way down on the depth chart to get third-stringer Brandon Bridge, a national player, onto the field. Bridge did fine in his debut appearance but it wasn't enough. Ottawa scored a major in the fourth quarter, the only score of the last period of play, and that would be enough to secure a win for the CFL's newest franchise. Henry Burris passed for 263 yards and a touchdown, however also was picked off three times. Ernest Jackson was the top target on the day for the REDBLACKS, pulling in 7 passes for 74 yards and a score. The Montreal quarterback situation as a whole was not pretty on Thursday; three pivots combined for 113 passing yards, 1 TD, 2 interceptions and a passer rating of 30.8.

Total Yds Passing Yds Rushing Yds TDs Turnovers
Ottawa - 20 377 263 114 2 3
Montreal - 16 197 113 84 2 2

Hamilton Tiger-Cats 23, Calgary Stampeders 24

On the first Friday night of games this season we saw a rematch of the two teams that played for the Grey Cup in 2014, Hamilton and Calgary. It was a highly competitive game, however the TiCats led all the way until a walk-off field goal by Rene Paredes. It was a good day for the second and third phases of the game for the TiCats, as they scored both defensively and on special teams in the first half. Johnny Sears, Jr. intercepted two passes, one of which he returned for a major, and the always electric Brandon Banks also returned a punt for a score. It was a rough game for Mitchell, throwing three picks and just one touchdown. He did settle down on the final drive of the game and led the Stamps to their eventual winning score. He was helped out late in the game by two phenomenal catches by Jeff Fuller, who led all receivers with 148 yards on the day. Zach Collaros threw for 281 yards in the losing effort for Hamilton.

Total Yards Passing Yds Rushing Yds TDs Turnovers
Hamilton - 23 318 281 37 2 1
Calgary - 24 343 263 80 2 3

Edmonton Eskimos 11, Toronto Argonauts 26

As evidenced by this week's aforementioned Top Performance, Trevor Harris led the Argos to a dominant win over Edmonton. Harris completed over 88% of his passes while leading the Boatmen up and down the field against the Esks, passing for 347 yards on Saturday afternoon. Unlike several teams on the opening weekend, Toronto also was able to have a balanced attack, succeeding both through the air and on the ground, as Brandon Whitaker ran for 117 yards on 14 carries. Chad Owens was the game's leading receiver, catching 7 balls for 99 yards. Before bowing out with an injury, Mike Reilly threw for 170 yards and a major. Toronto did not trail in this game after the first quarter.

Total Yards Passing Yds Rushing Yds TDs Turnovers
Edmonton - 11 259 178 81 1 4
Toronto - 26 484 347 137 3 2

Winnipeg Blue Bombers 30, Saskatchewan Roughriders 26

The highest scoring game of the weekend was also marred by the severe injury to Saskatchewan QB Darian Durant, who is out for the remainder of the season. Kevin Glenn entered the game and played fine but not well enough to overcome an impressive performance by the Winnipeg offense. The Bombers took the lead with 6:58 to go in the game, on a touchdown pass from Willy to Nick Moore, and held off the Riders to pull out the win. Blue Bombers quarterback Drew Willy, a former Roughrider, passed for 325 yards and 3 touchdowns Saturday night, outplaying the combined effort from Darian Durant and Kevin Glenn. Each of these teams had a 100 yard rusher, with Winnipeg's Paris Cotton racking up 108 yards and Saskatchewan's Anthony Allen picking up 102 on the ground. Winnipeg's Clarence Denmark was the game's leading receiver with 94 yards on 5 receptions.

Total Yards Passing Yds Rushing Yds TDs Turnovers
Winnipeg - 30 470 325 145 4 0
Saskatchewan - 26 497 285 212 3 1
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