Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Let’s not lynch Roughriders’ kicker over recent misses

Crapigna has been CFL club’s most consistent performer

Tyler Crapigna (#21) boots a winning field goal for the Riders in 2016.
    Dumping kicker Tyler Crapigna will not cure all that ails the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
    The 24-year-old Nepean, Ont., product has come under fire from some in Rider Nation due to a pair of late game field goal misses, which have contributed to the club’s 0-2 regular season start. In the Roughriders 17-16 regular season opening loss to the Alouettes in Montreal on June 22, Crapigna missed a 45-yard field goal attempt on the game’s last play, which would have given the visitors victory.
    When the “green and white” held their first regular season game at new Mosaic Stadium on Canada Day, Crapigna hit the upright on a 33-yard field goal attempt on the Roughriders’ second overtime possession to cause a battle with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to remain tied. Bombers kicker Justin Medlock hit the winning field goal from 28 yards out on his team’s ensuing possession to lift his side to a 43-40 victory to disappoint most of the sellout crowd of 33,350.
    Overall, Crapigna has hit 7-of-9 field goals this season, which means his only misses have been those two late game attempts. He has taken way more heat than deserved from the loud vocal minority.
    In the loss to the Bombers, Crapigna hit a 30-yard field goal on the Roughriders first overtime possession to force a 40-40 draw to keep the contest going and show his past reputation for hitting kicks in the clutch.
    Since making his regular season debut in the Roughriders third last regular season game of the 2015 campaign, Crapigna has connected on 47-of-55 field goal attempts for an 85.5 per cent success rate. At this moment, Crapigna would rank as the CFL’s fourth all-time most accurate field goal kicker, if he had 100 career attempts under his belt. Medlock ranks first at 87.9 per cent.
    Compared to a few others who have played at some time with the Roughriders, Crapigna’s career field goal percentage bests the 81.38 per cent career rate put up by Christopher Milo, the 80.47 per cent career rate of Paul McCallum, the 80.34 per cent career mark of Luca Congi and the 78 per cent success rate posted by all-time great Dave Ridgway.
Tyler Crapigna on the scoreboard at Taylor Field last season.
    Any CFL general manager that releases a kicker that is making close to 86 per cent of his career field goals has to have his head examined. Since Crapigna made his debut with the Roughriders, the team has posted a 6-17 regular season record and hasn’t managed to appear in any playoff games.
    It can be argued all of Crapigna’s field goal attempts are clutch kicks, because they are needed to help keep the Roughriders in games.
    As far as late game heroics are concerned, Crapigna started to establish a good reputation in the last of his three appearances in 2015. In the Roughriders final regular season game in 2015, he nailed a 39-yard game tying field goal with eight seconds to play in the fourth quarter help his side go to overtime with the Alouettes in Montreal locked in a 24-24 draw. Saskatchewan won that contest 30-24 with an OT touchdown catch from star receiver Weston Dressler, who now plays for the Bombers.
    Last season, Crapigna made three game winning field goals for the Roughriders. In Week 5 on July 22, 2016 at Taylor Field, Crapigna hit a 53-yard field goal with 69 seconds to play to give the Roughriders a 30-29 victory over the eventual Grey Cup champion Ottawa Redblacks.
    In Week 14 on Sept. 24 at Taylor Field, Crapigna hit a 29-yard walk off field goal to give the Roughriders a 20-18 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. In Week 16 on Oct. 7, 2016 at TD Place Stadium in Ottawa, Crapigna hit a 39-yard walk off field goal in overtime to give the Roughriders a 32-30 victory over the host Redblacks.
    The only game Crapigna struggled in during the 2016 campaign was the 28-25 Labour Day Classic loss to the visiting Bombers on Sept. 4, 2016. In that contest, Crapigna was 1-for-3 in the field goal department. When the Roughriders tied that game at 25-25 on an 85-yard punt return touchdown from Kendial Lawrence with 48 seconds to play, Crapigna missed the conversion that would have given Saskatchewan a one-point lead.
    The miss there didn’t matter much, because Medlock kicked a field goal on the contest’s final play to win it for Winnipeg.
Tyler Crapigna nails a kick off during training camp in June in Saskatoon.
    Despite the odd hiccup, Crapigna has been the Roughriders most reliable player. Saskatchewan has to get a lot better at finishing more offensive drives with touchdowns and stopping the pass on defence before worrying about the placekicker.
    If Crapigna does have a 1-for-3 or 1-for-4 outing when the Roughriders host the Tiger-Cats this coming Saturday at 8 p.m. at new Mosaic Stadium, the kicker questions will be raised again, which is the nature of professional sports.
    At the moment, his two misses this season create fears that a franchise that is 8-30 since the start of the 2015 campaign could spiral downhill to miss the playoffs for a third straight year.
    In the present, Crapigna should be backed with a vote of confidence. In the place kicking department, he is the Roughriders guy, and he has done enough to create belief. A betting person would put money down thinking the McMaster University grad is going to have a long and successful career in the professional ranks.

Hilltops’ Schnitzler added to Roughriders roster

Tom Schnitzler returns a fumble for a touchdown for the Hilltops in 2015.
    Saskatoon Hilltops defensive end Tom Schnitzler is getting a big head start in preparing for his Canadian Junior Football League season.
    The 21-year-old Saskatoon product was added to the Saskatchewan Roughriders practice roster on Tuesday as a territorial junior player at linebacker. The graduate of Saskatoon’s Bishop James Mahoney High School has been a key part in helping the Hilltops win the last three straight CJFL championships.
    Last season, Schnitzler recorded 21 tackles, 2.5 sacks and knocked down five passes in eight regular season games with the Hilltops. In 2015, he posted 10 tackles, four sacks and returned a fumble for a touchdown in eight regular season games.
    The Hilltops open their regular season on Aug. 12, when they travel to Regina to face the Thunder at 7 p.m. at new Mosaic Stadium. Their home opener is slated for August 26 at 7 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field against the Ottawa Sooners. Schnitzler is in his final year of CJFL eligibility.

Murphy statue to be unveiled at Bombers home field

    The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will honour the late Cal Murphy with a bronze statue of his likeness at the team’s home stadium, Investors Group Field.
    Murphy, who was an iconic coach and general manager in the CFL, passed away on Feb. 18, 2012. He spent over 30 seasons in the CFL collecting nine Grey Cup rings.
    During his time in the Canadian professional football ranks, Murphy was best remember for his 14 seasons with the Bombers from 1983 to 1996. Over that span of time, Murphy was either the Bombers head coach or general manager, and he was a key figure in helping Winnipeg win Grey Cup titles in 1984, 1988 and 1990.
    He is second all-time in Bombers history in career coaching victories posting an 86-51-1 record with the team as the sideline boss. After leaving the CFL having served as the head coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1999, Murphy became a scout for the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts in 2001, and he help that position until his death. He earned a Super Bowl ring during his time with the Colts.
    The Bombers will unveil the statue of Murphy on Sept. 21, 2017, and it will be located outside Gate 3 of Investors Group Field and will be surrounded by a seating area for fans.

Back in the Express with Huskies hoops grads

Michael Linklater, left, and Nolan Brudehl are all set for 3x3.
    I was back in the pages of the Saskatoon Express this week with a story on a trio of graduates from the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s basketball that continue to play the sport on the FIBA 3x3 World Tour.
    Michael Linklater, Michael Lieffers and Nolan Brudehl were all members of the Huskies team that won the 2010 U Sports national championship tournament, and they form the core of a team that plays on the FIBA 3x3 World Tour.
    The Saskatoon side is rounded out by Edmonton product Steve Sir, who used to play professionally in Europe.
    The foursome will compete in the FIBA 3x3 World Tour Masters event that is slated be held in Saskatoon on July 15 and 16 in conjunction with the Taste of Saskatchewan festival.
    The FIBA 3x3 games are played at a very fast pace.
    The story the FIBA 3x3 team and the upcoming hoops event can be round right here.

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