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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

GLENN "50/50 AT BEST" FOR EDMONTON GAME

Saskatchewan Roughriders General Manager Brendan Taman updated the status of quarterback Kevin Glenn during his weekly appearance on 620 CKRM's SportsCage on Monday.  Glenn was injured in the second half of Sunday's 31-21 home loss to Hamilton and did not play the fourth quarter.

We asked Taman if his 36-year old quarterback will be able to start Friday's game at Edmonton.

"You'll hate the answer I'm going to give you but I have to give it to you honestly," Taman said.  "At best it's 50/50.

"He was in this morning.  He's pretty sore.  Obviously we're putting him through some tests and whatnot.  We're waiting to get some results.  I know he's not 100%.  I can guarantee that right now."

Taman declined to disclose the nature of the injury nor on what play he was injured.  He did admit Glenn took a pounding in the game.

"To be honest with you it had nothing to do with the refs," Taman said.  "They brought a lot of different looks for us and they got pressure on our quarterback.  Every hit was legal - I have no problem with the hits - he just took a lot of them.  We just need to turn that around and get that on our side, with the opposing quarterbacks."

ESKS QB CONTROVERSY

Edmonton Eskimo head coach Chris Jones cut down a budding quarterback controversy Monday, but his starting pivot - Matt Nichols - remains confused over why he was yanked in the first place.

Jones said Nichols, a six-year veteran, will start Friday when the 3-1 Eskimos host the 0-5 Saskatchewan Roughriders.

"Matt Nichols has been the guy that's taken us the last three games, and he's going to be our starting quarterback,'' Jones told reporters after practice.

"We're not going to change a lot when we're winning football games.''

He wouldn't say if Nichols is on a short leash.

"It'll be game-time situations,'' he said.

Nichols was pulled with 20 minutes to go with the Eskimos leading the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 11-3 in the rain last Saturday.

Nichols was 17 for 25 for 196 yards in persistent rain and was the victim of a few dropped balls.

Backup James Franklin came in and fired three touchdown passes to rout the Bombers 32-3, leading to speculation the 24-year-old strong-armed rookie may start Friday.

After Friday's game, a clearly agitated Nichols bolted from the field as the clock ticked to zero, and had to be brought back to face reporters 50 minutes after the contest ended.

At that point he said he didn't know he was going to be pulled until it happened, wasn't told it was for the rest of the game, and wasn't told why.

After the game, Jones wouldn't say why he changed to Franklin, but left the door open to a quarterback switch by refusing to confirm Nichols was still No. 1 on the depth chart.

On Monday, Jones declined to answer follow-up questions on how he came to stay with Nichols and why he nixed, or if he ever really considered, a start for Franklin.

At one point Jones stood mute in the media scrum, refusing to speak.

Nichols has won three games since taking over from the injured Mike Reilly. His play has been serviceable, but not outstanding.

He is 48 for 85 for 650 yards and four TDs, but has five interceptions. He's had some strong passes but has also lobbed his share of overthrows and underthrows.

Nichols told reporters Monday he hasn't spoken with Jones.

"We were starting to take over the game a little bit, so I was frustrated,'' said Nichols.

"I just felt like I was playing a pretty solid game out here in tough conditions. I think my last seven quarters of football have been in a torrential downpour.''

But he emphasized he's behind all of Jones' decisions and is moving on to prepare for Saskatchewan.

Is that part of the frustration, Nichols was asked, having things happen to him without explanation?

Nichols declined to answer except to say, "Any time that they tell me I'm in the game, I'm going to go out and play my hardest, play smart football, and try to put points on the board. That's my job.''

Franklin said he's good with whatever happens.

"If I have to go back in again, I'm going to try my best to do my best and that way hopefully I'll have opportunities later on,'' he said.

Monday, July 27, 2015

THE MONDAY MORNING GOALIE


REGINA -- Never before in my life have I hoped a head coach is wrong more than I do right now.

Prior to Sunday’s home game against Hamilton, Roughriders coach Corey Chamblin told his team in his pregame speech, “This will determine what type of team you’re gonna be for the rest of the season!”

TSN cameras caught the address and the commentators noted how fiery Chamblin was in his talk.

The club then proceeded to blow a 21-17 lead in the fourth quarter and lose 31-21 for its fifth consecutive defeat to open the 2015 CFL season.

0-5.

Of course to make matters worse, quarterback Kevin Glenn got injured making a tackle on an interception he threw at the end of the third quarter and was unable to finish the game.  His status is now in question for this Friday’s game at the division-leading Edmonton Eskimos.  Glenn will see team doctors today to gauge how the injury responded overnight.

Ironically, the sun did not come up Monday morning.  The crackling of thunder and persistent showers seem to reflect the mood of the Rider Nation.

Initially, the inkling is that this season is a write-off and we haven’t even hit August yet.

Upon my return home after the game, my wife asked, “So are we eliminated from the playoffs?”

And the answer to that question provided the one slim glimmer of hope the team has left.

No, they are not eliminated from the playoffs.  There are still 13 games to go.  In my first season calling games in 1999, when the club finished 3-15, the Riders were miraculously in the playoff picture right down to the final weekend.

But something needs to change with this team immediately.  There’s one bullet left in the gun and should they falter at Commonwealth Stadium this upcoming weekend, it would be tough to convince even the most-optimistic of fans – or even the players - that this season can be saved.

Defense cost Saskatchewan the Hamilton game.  Just like all of their games so far this year.  Chamblin, the club’s defacto defensive coordinator, tweaked their approach and applied considerably more pressure against the Ticats on Sunday than we’ve seen all season.  But the result was the same.

“Just like you say, we brought the heat,” Chamblin said after the game.  “We got after (Ticats QB Zach Collaros) and did everything we could.  That's football and we couldn't keep them out of the endzone.  The thing we can't do is quit, no matter what.  This is one of the toughest situations they'll ever be in but we have to fight another day.”

Amidst all of Chamblin’s postgame quotes, that was the kernel which stuck out to me.  “We couldn’t keep them out of the endzone.”

So the time has come for Chamblin to relinquish the duty of calling defensive plays and hand it over to Greg Quick, the man whose business card actually says “Defensive Coordinator”.  Chamblin's a great football coach but the task of managing the game while running the defense at the same time seems to be too huge at this juncture.

The facts are staring the Roughriders right in the face.  What they’ve been doing simply isn’t working.  There have been promises all season long but they’ve come up empty each and every week.

It’s come to this.  You have to ask yourself what's best for the team?  To me, this might be it.

Receiver Weston Dressler has emerged as the leader of this football club in the absence of injured quarterback Darian Durant and even he has run out of answers.

“It's getting harder and harder to talk to you guys,” Dressler told us on CKRM’s postgame radio show.  “Coach told us to remember this day.  We're at the bottom and have nowhere to go but up.”

That part is likely true.  And it was so sad to see most of the 31,683 fans in attendance on Sunday head to the exits with 1:41 remaining.  There was so much hope in their faces all game long, but it is quickly evaporating.

“You never want to see people leaving early when there's still time on the clock.  It's tough,” Dressler continued.  “If we had the answers we'd be winning games instead of losing them.”

That was the toughest part to digest.  The Riders don’t have the answers and if they don’t, who does?

It’s time to try something different, before it’s too late.  The clock has started ticking on Corey Chamblin’s mostly successful time in Saskatchewan and no doubt there will be plenty of calls for his dismissal between now and Friday.  But that, assuredly, won’t happen.

“I think, no matter what, through social media the players are gonna read (speculation on his future) and they shouldn't be worried about my future,” Chamblin said calmly.  “They should be worried about theirs.  My mindset is the guys in that room.  As long as I'm here, that'll be my focus; to get wins for the guys in that locker room.”

For the last couple of weeks Chamblin has sounded like a dead man walking and it’s clear the team is down to its last out.

But they’re not giving up.  They can’t.  Not yet.

“It's gonna be a heckuva ride when we pull out of this thing,” Dressler concluded.

It has to start Friday night.

------

CARTERI'S CORNER

Here's the postgame analysis of Rider Radio's Carm Carteri following Sunday's game:

"The Kevin Glenn interception was a big turnover for the Riders.  That really got Hamilton back into the football game.  Having said that the Riders had a 4-point lead going into the fourth quarter and they allowed it to slip.  It was just a little bit of everything: penalties and not making plays.  Again, it was Kevin Glenn not at the helm for the Riders.  Young Brett Smith had to come in and really couldn't get anything going as that Hamilton defense turned it up a notch.

"They sent the blitz at the young quarterback and stayed zone behind in the secondary.  Really the Riders had nowhere to go and it's unfortunate because this was a game tied at the half 14-14.  The Riders looked like they were going to make something happen and win this football game but it was just too little too late.

"It was the fourth quarter that killed this football game again.  Over 30 points given up by this defense.  You just can't do that in this league.  Unfortunately for the Riders it's back to the drawing board again on a short week.  They've gotta lick their wounds and go 'Alright now where do we go from here?'

"That's a big coaching decision for this staff because they don't have the formula right now and they'd better find it quick.

"It was a back and forth game and you felt like the Riders were in control.  And then Kevin Glenn doesn't come back with what we suspect is a shoulder injury.  Now you're down to, really, your third string quarterback.  But the game was lost before Brett Smith even got in there, really.  He was deep in his zone and the Ticats just squeezed the head of the Riders and choked them off when they needed to.

"Even Hamilton took some bad penalties.  The one by Banks nullified a touchdown and they had to settle for a field goal which gave the Riders a chance.  But boy, just more questions than answers again."

------

Tune into 620 CKRM's Rider Monday in the SportsCage today at 4:00 pm.  I'll be joined by co-host Mike Abou-Mechrek and Rider GM Brendan Taman will make his weekly appearance.  Sportsnet's Arash Madani will be on the show as well.

RP
@sportscage

MOSAIC PLACE RECAP: TIGER-CATS 31 ROUGHRIDERS 21


REGINA (CP) - The injuries and the losses continue to mount for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats erased a fourth-quarter deficit and pulled off another win on the road - a 31-21 triumph on Sunday at Mosaic Stadium - to keep the Riders winless to start the 2015 CFL season.

The Riders dropped to 0-5 with the loss, their fourth straight on home field, and when they look ahead to Week 6 they may very well be without quarterback Kevin Glenn, who replaced starter Darian Durant after a season-ending injury in Week 1.

"The only thing we can do is continue to work hard,'' said Riders receiver Rob Bagg. "We want to win more than anybody who is critiquing and looking in from the outside. We're not trying to lose intentionally.

"We have put in a lot of time and effort and it's frustrating to not get the results you want. You can either quit or you can keep working.''

An 0-4 start to the season looked to be behind the Riders as they held a lead to open the fourth quarter. That's when their fortunes took another turn for the worse.

Jeff Mathews' one-yard touchdown plunge put the Tiger-Cats ahead for good, and when the Riders looked to their offence to give them a come-from-behind victory, they saw their starting quarterback nursing an injury.

With rookie quarterback Brett Smith filling in for Glenn, Saskatchewan couldn't create any momentum, let alone a comeback to snap their losing skid.

Kicker Justin Medlock booted his fifth field goal of the game to give the Tiger-Cats an insurance score late and help the team improve to 2-2.

"We brought Kevin in here because we knew that if anything happened to Darian (Durant we would have a true starting quarterback, a winning starting quarterback and Grey Cup starting quarterback,'' head coach Corey Chamblin explained. "So to have that happen it's always a blow, especially when you have a chance to win a game.''

The Riders broke a 14-14 halftime tie when Smith, the Riders' quarterback in short-yardage situations, scored on a one-yard run on the team's opening possession of the second half.

But it was all Hamilton from there. Medlock kicked a pair of field goals to bring the visitors to within a point before Mathews scored to put his team ahead for good.

"Any time you can get a win, especially on the road, it's a great feeling,'' said Hamilton quarterback Zach Collaros, who completed 19-of-28 passes for 284 yards and one touchdown. "Saskatchewan is a good football team, but we did just enough today to get a win.''

It appeared Glenn injured himself late in the third quarter after he was intercepted by Rico Murray. Glenn was in on the tackle of Murray and was spotted on the sideline grimacing when he tried to move his right shoulder.

"I don't think it's snake bit,'' Smith said. "Football is a rough sport. Quarterbacks bodies aren't really meant to tackle guys sometimes. Kevin is a hard worker and he's a great teammate. He's going to do what he can to prevent a touchdown and help the team.''

The Riders opened the scoring in the first quarter when Paul McCallum kicked a 29-yard field goal on the team's first possession. Hamilton then outscored the Riders 14-3 until Glenn found Bagg for a 20-yard touchdown reception with 13 seconds to go in the first half. Bagg snagged the two-point convert to tie the score at 14-14.

Hamilton running back C.J. Gable rushed for a game-high 135 yards on 20 carries. Jasper Collins Jr., had 73 receiving yards and one touchdown.

"That's a good defence and a good team over there. (Saskatchewan's) record doesn't compare to how good they really are,'' Gable said. "We kept fighting and we kept pushing. We were going to run it until they found a way to stop us.''

The Tiger-Cats are scheduled to play their first game of the season on Aug. 3 when they host the Toronto Argonauts. The Riders will travel to face the Edmonton Eskimos on Friday.


POSTGAME COMMENTS

COREY CHAMBLIN

- Just like you say, we brought the heat.  We got after him and did everything we could.  That's football and we couldn't keep them out of the endzone.  The thing we can't do is quit, no matter what.  This is one of the toughest situations they'll ever be in but we have to fight another day.

- Late in the game you're just trying to do something to get the ball back.  That's always tough.  They had an 11-play drive.  Right now we have to find ways to keep trying to get better.

- As long as we have another day, we're gonna be able to fight.

- We brought Kevin in here in case something happened to Darian.  To have him go down, that's a bummer.  Especially when you think you have a chance to win.  Brett Smith doesn't have as much experience as Kevin and that's a tough situation to put a young buck into.

- Like anything else I thought we did a good job.  They adjusted.  We sent pressure.  We have to have pressure but we have to have balance all the way through.  We're just not built right now to hold that dam.  We're not built right now to overcome setbacks.

- It's not hard for me to preach positives.  It's proof positive.  We're saying let's not focus on the negatives.  The guys know this is a very tough situation.  They'll remember being 0-5 for the rest of their lives.

- That's the biggest thing.  We had a very good game plan.  We sent pressure, made adjustments and did some things.  They played some ball today also.  There were times we were off the field and then got a penalty.  We're not gonna stop calling man coverage because of penalties.  We have to make less mistakes than the opponent.  We're not good enough right now to make mistakes and recover.

- I laugh about it.  Boy, this is a very tough situation.  I'm glowing on the inside right now because I want to see the fight in this team.  I have it and the coaching staff has it.  It's another opportunity to build our strength and become a strong football team.

- Add it on. It's an unusual season.  That's what it's about with this team.  I'm seeing a lot of things happen that I haven't seen in all my eight years.

- When we come back to I'm gonna see how many guys quit.  This game told us we're not good enough to make mistakes. I thought we were close but we have to keep pushing on.

- This is going to be a work in progress.  This will be a challenge for me because it's a first.  I'll tell you this - there was no way I thought we'd lose this game.  We had the best week of practice and I thought it would manifest itself into a win.  We had some key things that set us back and we need to keep pushing through these things.

- I hope the announcement is Kevin's good to go.  If it's anything other than that, that'll be up to Brendan and Ryan (Pollock).

- The thing I feel the worst about is when I walk off the field and see that look in the guys' eyes.  They bust their butts all week but don't get that 'W'.  I can't control injuries and I wish I could to make things better for the guys in the locker room.

- I think, no matter what, the players are gonna read (speculation on his future) and they shouldn't be worried about my future.  They should be worried about theirs.  My mindset is the guys in that room.  As long as I'm here, that'll be my focus; to get wins for the guys in that locker room.

- Right now if we make a mistake, here comes another one.  We have to mature.  We will make mistakes because that's football but don't make them back to back to back.

- Tino's in the conversation whichever way we go (against Edmonton).  I can't tell if you he'll start.  We'll have to sit down and talk about it.  Maybe it's a two quarterback system.

WESTON DRESSLER

- It's getting harder and harder to talk to you guys.  Coach told us to remember this day.  We're at the bottom and have nowhere to go but up.  It's gonna be a heckuva ride when we pull out of this thing.

- You never want to see people leaving early when there's still time on the clock.  It's tough.  If we had the answers we'd be winning games instead of losing them.

- It's a short week and I think that's a good thing.  We can't dwell on it.  The best thing is get back out there and fight again.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

GOLD'S GYM EAST TICATS AT RIDERS PREVIEW


HAMILTON (1-2) at SASKATCHEWAN (0-4)
5:00 pm, Sunday, Mosaic Stadium Regina
TSN, ESPN3, 620 CKRM Rider Radio Network

RIDERS: Home 0-3, vs East 0-1
TICATS: Road 1-2, vs West 1-1

RIDERS OFFENSE: RUSH 1ST, PASS 1ST, OVERALL 1ST
QB Kevin Glenn is the CFL's top passer (1228 yds, 5 TDs, 4 INTs) ... SB Weston Dressler is #2 in CFL receiving (328 yds, 2 TDs, 28 Targets, 20 Receptions) ... RB Jerome Messam is the CFL's leading rusher (306 yds, 1 TD) ... Riders are #1 in points scored and #2 in fewest sacks allowed.

TICATS OFFENSE: RUSH 9TH, PASS 2ND, OVERALL 4TH
QB Zach Collaros is 4th in passing (931 yds, 3 TDs, 4 INTs) ... REC Bakari Grant leads the team (213 yds, 1 TD) ... RB R. Holley leads the team in rushing (87 yds, 0 TDs) ... Ticats are #3 in points and #5 in sacks allowed.

RIDERS DEFENSE: RUSH 7TH, PASS 6TH, OVERALL 7TH
LB Macho Harris leads the team in sacks (2) ... LB Jake Doughty leads the team in INT (1) ... DB Tyree Hollins leads the league in knockdowns (4) ... LB Jeff Knox Jr. is #2 in CFL tackles (23) ... Riders are 6th in the sack attack and last in points allowed.

TICATS DEFENSE: RUSH 1ST, PASS 2ND, OVERALL 1ST
DB Ed Gainey leads the team in tackles (18) ... DB Johnny Sears is tied for the league lead in INT (2) ... Hamilton is 5th in sacks and #2 in points against.

RIDERS SPEC TEAMS: K Paul McCallum is 8/9 on FGs (5th-ranked) and is two converts away from 800 consecutive made ... Rookie punter Ray Early is 4th in punting average (46.8) ... Tristan Jackson leads in KOR yards and Weston Dressler leads in PR yards ... DE Dylan Ainsworth leads the league in special teams tackles (7).

TICATS SPEC TEAMS: Kicker Justin Medlock is 7/7 on field goals ... Punter Hugh O'Neill is 9th in punting average (41.0) ... Brandon Banks leads the team in KOR and PR yards and has two return touchdowns ... E. Davis leads the team in ST tackles (3).

INTANGIBLES:  The referee is Dave Foxcroft ... Hamilton is 3rd in turnover ratio (+2) while Saskatchewan is last (-4) ... Saskatchewan is the most-penalized team while Hamilton is 4th-least ...  The Riders have won 13 of the last 14 games against the Tiger-Cats in Regina ... The forecast calls for sunshine and 26 degrees Celsius ... The Riders are favoured by one point ... There are still 2,000 tickets left for the game.

RP

CHAMBLIN NEWS CONFERENCE NOTES

Riders head coach Corey Chamblin held his day-before news conference on Saturday at Mosaic Stadium as his team prepares to host Hamilton Sunday at 5:00.  Here are some quotes from the gathering:

- Look at all the positives we've had.  It depends where your focus is.  We're not gonna focus on what hasn't been done.  We're focusing on what has.

- On the defensive side, I'm seeing leaps and bounds of improvement.  We're putting in systems and, on film, I told the coaches that it looks textbook.

- I think we've done a good job correcting things.  It's just making sure all the pieces are in place for 4-plus quarters.  Some of it's youth and some of it is guys aren't used to working together but I think we're getting it down.

- Kent does has some runs, so they'll run it.  It's more like fly sweeps and laterals and their QB will run too.  Once they go empty, you know it's not a run anymore and then you have to adjust.

- With Knox and Doughty, they're just doing what they're told and what they're learning.  Coach Pettaway's done a great job schooling those guys up and you can see their progression.  That's what gives me hope.

- That's always awesome.  Having playmakers like Ryan Smith come back.  This league is about scoring points.  Having Ryan Smith gives Jacques Chadelaine another option.

- The only time I weigh in on offense is 3rd-and-1.  Other than that, that's why he's paid.  I know exactly what he's doing.  'It's your offense, you call it'.  I have final say, so I'll own it when things don't go right, but this is his offense.

- I've had stretches of tough four weeks in the past.  This hasn't been the toughest.  But it's been the most unusual.  Everything I've seen in four years has gone down in the last month.  Whether it's calls or bounces, it's been most unusual.

- I think it's good to have guys that still believe and that's why it's good to have Kevin Glenn.  He's been down before and he's come back.  He spreads positive energy.  You can sense when things aren't going to go well, but that isn't the sense here.

- You gotta be smart about it.  That's what it is.  That's what I told the guys.  We have to learn from a win just like learning from losses.  I told them to put on their hiking shoes and get ready to climb the mountain because we've been in the valley long enough.  I've been in this situation before where I've had more setbacks and came back to win games.  We have to make sure we keep it positive.

- Banks is always dangerous, a playmaker and a challenge.  But he makes the game exciting.  This will tell us what kind of team we have.

- The games are very entertaining.  On a couple of different fronts.  You never know which way it's going to go.  It's called tight and it's made players play their best.

RED SOX 7 MILLIONAIRES 4

Home cooking seemed to agree with the Regina Red Sox as they beat the Melville Millionaires 7-4 Saturday night. The win ended a three game losing streak.

Just under 800 fans were treated to a gorgeous night and a great baseball game under the lights at Currie Field.

Red Sox starter Parks Smithey faced 28 batters in his six innings of work. Smithey gave up four hits and struck out two on his way to ringing up his fourth win.

Kendal Daniels and Mike Thill each pitched a scoreless inning of relief before giving way to closer Louis Cohen, who came on in the ninth to pick up the save.

Regina put on an offensive clinic pounding out 11 hits including a home run from slugger Brandon Vaughn. Vaughn finished the night two for three with a walk, two runs scored and three RBIs.

The Red Sox were not the only big winner Saturday night. Lucky ticket holder Terry Fox went home with the Big Apple Raffle prize.

Regina will have Sunday off but then will look to continue their winning ways at Currie Field as they host the Swift Current Indians on Monday night.