July 10, 2018

Hogan: Breaking Down Back-to-Backs

No CFL team is ever completely happy with its schedule. With games played from Thursday to Sunday (with a couple of notable Mondays thrown in), there are always weeks that seem too long, while others seem to fly by.

There’s also the quirk of back-to-back-games.

This Friday night (9:00 TSN, TSN 1050) the Argos visit Edmonton to face the same team they defeated 20-17 Saturday at BMO Field.

There are pros to playing the same team in consecutive games. The personnel is, for the most part, the same. Players and coaches have just spent a week studying tendencies of their opposition, the players will also have recent on-field experience to draw from.

Head Coach Marc Trestman is not one who dwells on the past. He’s also constantly trying to stress the positive as opposed to thinking about any possible negatives that may arise from a home-and-home series.

When asked by Argonauts.ca about some of the challenges a team may face when playing consecutive games against the same opponent, the coach said that kind of question is something that doesn’t enter his mindset.

“I just don’t think about it like that, I don’t try to go that deep,” explained Trestman. “I just try to separate the games and separate the teams and know that this team is going to be a different team than we played last week.”

While it will once again be the Argos and Eskimos on the field, each club will vary its play calls, there will be different formations, and perhaps some new personnel. That’s one of the reasons why the coach doesn’t dwell on the previous game.

“They’re going to see some things in us and that’s going to change them, and we’re going to see some things in them and it’s going to change us,” continued Trestman. “So it’s a whole different mindset of just forgetting the past and moving on and trying to become a better football team and that’s as simplistic as I can make it. I don’t want to complicate it by going into all the variations of going back-to-back because it’s above my pay grade.”

Quarterback James Franklin finds himself starting against his former team for the second time in as many weeks. In a statistical oddity, Franklin will be making his fifth CFL start, with four of the five coming in a Toronto versus Edmonton game, two with each club. The teams he’s started for in those games are now 3-0.

What potential curveballs could a home-and-home series throw him?

“Probably over-simplifying things,” said the QB, “We ran some plays that worked, and now we might think ‘Okay, they’ve seen that, it’s not going to work’”.

Franklin says the reverse could also be true.

“For me as a quarterback thinking ‘Okay we ran this last time, there’s no way it’s going to work,’ and then skipping over the guy that’s wide open because I think it’s not going to be there, I’ve pre-determined that. I think that’s a big challenge.”

For the linemen, seeing the same player across the line of scrimmage in consecutive weeks presents its own test. Players will study the techniques of that individual, so there’s an advantage having that research still fresh.

Defensive tackle Cleyon Laing relishes any chance he gets to play against his hometown team, even though there’s a different vibe when it’s a back-to-back situation.

“As long as we stay down to our keys and not get distracted by that,” said Laing. “I mean, football is football. Whether it’s Edmonton, Calgary, an offensive lineman is an offensive lineman. If we go out there and focus on our game instead of theirs we’ll have success.

It’s a bit different for Laing, who graduated from Holy Trinity Catholic High School in Edmonton before heading to Iowa State. He’s happy he gets to play in front of his mom and other friends and family members, saying he’ll have a big crew in attendance.

That sweetens the prospect of back-to-back games a little more.

“Twice in a row is always good,” said Laing, “Getting to play Edmonton twice in a row is even better. We’ve just go to run with it and build off what we did on Saturday.”

The Argos last swept the Eskimos in 2013. After a much-improved performance on Saturday, the club has put itself in a situation to pull off a very difficult accomplishment, and do it in back-to-back fashion.