The first awards have been given out in the wake of the Canadian Football League’s opening week, and it’s no surprise that representatives of Western Division clubs swept the accolades.
An impressive 43-16 upset blowout engineered by Saskatchewan in Hamilton had another positive outcome, as Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant was declared the league’s top offensive player. Durant earned the honour by completing 25 of 34 passes (a 73.5 percent completion rate) for 390 yards and four touchdowns. He had no interceptions, and finished the game with a passer rating of 150.4.
Durant had been the target of barrages of criticism from media and fans during a rough 5-13 campaign in 2011, but silenced his detractors with the outstanding performance against the Tiger-Cats.
“Even though negative things were said, I never doubted my ability,” Durant said in an interview. “I never questioned anything. I knew that if the right coaches were around me and if we were in the right situations, that I could be successful.”
Calgary running back Jon Cornish was awarded the top Canadian laurel as a result of the Stampeders’ 38-10 home victory over the Montreal Alouettes. The 6-foot, 205-pound native of New Westminster, B.C. had 18 carries for 86 yards and two rushing scores, and added three receptions for 28 yards. Despite the recognition, Cornish felt there is room for the team’s game, and his own contributions, to get better.
“I’m never satisfied with my own performance,” Cornish said. “I think the O-line played great. The quarterbacks and receivers all played well. The defence played superb. We had a great team effort. But I think we can improve. … We’re a young team and we’re trying to improve every day.”
Edmonton middle linebacker J.C. Sherritt took the defensive award with 11 tackles in a 19-15 win over the visiting Toronto Argonauts, much hyped for the “return” of longtime Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray as one of the leaders of the opposition.
“It’s an honour to win that award and I just think it’s a reflection of our defence,” said Sherritt, who also had a pair of special-teams tackles, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble Saturday. “When you play good defence, that’s when you get those awards coming your way.”
The special-team player was kicker Grant Shaw, who went a perfect 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts. Shaw was one of the players acquired by Edmonton in the deal which sent Ray to Toronto last December; the other was starting pivot Steven Jyles, who got the win despite going 21-for-36 for 236 yards and a pickoff.