Monday, November 20, 2017
REGINA - Saskatchewan Roughriders Head Coach & GM Chris Jones held his post-season news conference on Monday at Mosaic Stadium and afterwards, his players cleaned out their lockers and headed home on Garbage Bag Day. The Riders' 2017 season ended on Sunday with a 25-21 last-minute loss to the Toronto Argonauts in the East Division Final at BMO Field.
Here are some notes:
1 - Although the club doubled its win total from 2016 to 2017 (5 wins to 10), Chris Jones said the end of this season doesn't sting any less than last year. He said the Riders' defense "didn't show up" on the Argos' final drive which lead to the winning touchdown. As far as the team's inability to counter Toronto's blitz-happy game plan on Sunday, Jones said he hadn't looked at the team's play on offense as closely yet. They said they all need to be better coming back next year.
2 - Jones was to address the team one final time immediately after the news conference and said he loves this group and they have as much character as any team he's had. He added that it's premature to list what deficiencies or roster holes they have heading into the off-season.
3 - The GM said there are "13 or so" pending free agents but personnel staff John Murphy, Jeremy O'Day and Mike Davis are working on that as we speak. He said he'd like to have the biggest majority of this year's team back in 2018.
4 - Regarding the non-call on the hit to QB Kevin Glenn in the first quarter leading to a pick six by Toronto's Terrance Plummer, Jones said he's been checking the rule book ever since and that definitely should've been a penalty. However he wanted to make it clear that the non-call wasn't the reason the Riders lost the game.
5 - Regarding the play of QB Kevin Glenn, Jones said everyone wants to point the finger of blame at Glenn but they wouldn't have won the Eastern Semifinal at Ottawa without him.
6 - Jones said, "We want Kevin Glenn back next year. He's a tremendous character guy. We'll sit down and discuss it."
7 - Jones revealed that they've had preliminary contract extension talks with QB Brandon Bridge. He said that it's a good sign that Bridge's agent approached the team with a proposal. Jones said Bridge likes it here, and likes his teammates and coaches.
8 - As far as the coaching staff goes, Jones expects all coaches to be back in 2018 but won't stand in the way of anyone advancing their career. Regarding himself, Jones said he "loves it here" and that he'll be meeting with President Craig Reynolds on Tuesday to discuss an extension.
9 - Regarding Duron Carter, Jones said he'll meet with Duron to discuss his plans for the future. He's scheduled to become a free agent in February and he'll garner plenty of interest from the NFL on both offense and defense.
10 - In conclusion, Jones said "It starts at the top. We didn't make enough plays down the stretch to advance and that's on me."
11 - Duron Carter addressed reporters and said it's always been his dream to play in the NFL. If an opportunity presents itself and it's the right situation, he'd be excited to explore it on either offense or defense.
12 - Glenn said he plans to be back in 2018 and expects to be the starter. Regarding the non-call for Roughing The Passer, KG smirked, "I've seen other QBs get that call. I'll leave it at that."
Rider Nation is licking its wounds today, but in a couple of days, we will all look back and reflect on a 2017 that was a season of tremendous progress and many lessons learned that will help the Riders track back to the top of the CFL beginning next year.
But right now, we will head Out of the Tunnel looking back on what could have been in Sunday's 25-21 East Division Final loss in Toronto.
Other than fans' complaints about the refereeing (the questionable review of the hit to the head of Kevin Glenn being number one on the list), many will be talking about the rotation of quarterbacks through the whole game.
Head coach Chris Jones has been incredibly astute in the second half of the season on when to switch quarterbacks, but on Sunday it went sideways.
Kevin Glenn started the game and the first drive of the second quarter, then Brandon Bridge came in for two series without much success.
Glenn went back in and that’s when the game unravelled. He was intercepted on back-to-back series (by Akwasi Owusu-Ansah and Cassius Vaughn) which ended up in ten Argo points and that was the end of Glenn's afternoon.
Other than his one touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, Bridge wasn’t great either, completing just a hair over 50% of his passes. On the other side of the football, Ricky Ray was steady and when he needed to be great on the final drive of the game, he was. Game over.
Huge kudos to Corey Chamblin and his game plan for the Rider offence. He blitzed the heck out of the Riders and made life miserable for Glenn and confused the heck out of Bridge. It had to be an incredibly satisfying day for the former Riders head coach (as well as Shawn Lemon who had three sacks and five tackles) as he marks his first return to the Grey Cup since leading the Riders to their 2013 victory.
The key to Rider victories all season was relying on the big play. They had a few on defence courtesy of Willie Jefferson and on special teams with Christion Jones’ late punt return touchdown, but it just wasn’t enough.
Another frustration was when the game was on the line and they needed to just bend but not break, the defence couldn’t stiffen up and stop the Argos offence on the final drive.
A couple of other notes from an armchair quarterback:
- Whether it was/wasn’t roughing the passer, to rely on the officiating or the replay booth to make a call on an interception for a touchdown isn’t a great way to look at it. You can never rely on officiating to help a team out. Even if Victor Butler never touched Glenn, it was going back the other way for the score.
- The Rider running game was having some success, and in such a tight game, Marcus Thigpen and Kienan LaFrance should have seen the ball more. Sure they were nailed in the backfield a couple of times, but even still, they averaged over five yards per carry. When in doubt, pound the rock.
- Kevin Glenn’s three interceptions were the most he has thrown in a playoff game.
- Duron Carter wasn’t just great between the lines (6/99 and a touchdown), he was great all week (who else would offer to take fans to a movie?) When his gregarious personality is positive and in control, he is a huge positive for the Riders and for the CFL.
It’s going to be a long six months waiting for the Green and White to return to the field for Training Camp 2018 in Saskatoon, but with all the positives that happened this season, it will be nice talking about filling a few holes instead of a complete overhaul.
The West Division Final looked like it was going to be all Edmonton when they took a 14-0 first quarter lead, but after a month of sleepwalking, the Calgary Stampeders finally woke up.
They stormed back to tie the game, then "Roy Finch happened" at the end of the first half. His two plays that covered 65 yards - including a 50-yard run on the final play of the half - put the Stampeders up seven at the break and was the turning point of the football game.
Calgary added another score midway through the third (to cap a 30-1 scoring run) and they appeared to be cruising to a Grey Cup berth. Then the Eskies showed the same moxie that helped turn their season around.
They chiseled away at the Stampeder lead, cutting it to 31-25. After a Rob Maver single made it a seven-point lead, the weirdness began.
With 1:54 left in the fourth quarter, it was 3rd and four at the Calgary 13-yard line when Eskimo head coach Jason Maas, for some reason, decided to kick a short field goal to cut the lead to four points …meaning they would still need a touchdown to win.
It was their best and final chance to tie (or possibly win) the game. Calgary killed most of the clock and then forced a Jamill Smith fumble on a late punt return to seal it. This is something Eskimo (and CFL) fans will be talking about all offseason.
So, the Grey Cup will see the Toronto Argonauts host the Calgary Stampeders at TD Place Stadium in Ottawa (side note: Out Of The Tunnel made the prediction of an Edmonton-Saskatchewan Grey Cup … reminder never listen to the media when placing bets). Ottawa will be a fantastic host city, it will still be a great party and an interesting match-up, but the question will be…how many across the country will be watching this game? Many Rider fans will, because they are fans of the game, but will the casual fan tune into the 105th version of the Classic?
Canada West Diary:
The Vanier Cup is set with the Laval Rouge et Or returning to the USports football championship game for the fifth time in eight years courtesy of their 35-23 victory over the Calgary Dinos.
Calgary had the 17-10 lead at halftime before Laval went on a 25-6 second half tear to take the Mitchell Bowl at McMahon Stadium.
Laval winning wasn’t the big story, the Uteck Bowl took all the headlines, but not for the right reasons. The Western Mustangs embarrassed the Acadia Axemen 81-3 to book their ticket to Hamilton.
It wasn’t just embarrassing for Acadia, but for all USports. After a complete debacle in the handling of the Archelaus Jack situation with the St. Mary’s Huskies (more here) which saw the AUS final being played on Tuesday. It set up Acadia for complete failure in the Uteck Bowl.
Canada West and RSEQ can’t always wave the flag for Canadian college football. If you want to keep the best football players in Canada, stuff like this must change. If not, the trickle of players to American prep schools and NCAA schools at all levels will turn into a stream and it will be hard to claw that back.
Speaking of which….
Canadian to Watch in the NCAA
Nathaniel (Nate) Anderson - DE
Hometown – Toronto, Ont.
Class – Jr.
Anderson is in his first season with the Missouri Tigers after playing two seasons of junior college football with New Mexico Military Institute. In 2017, Anderson has a sack, two tackles for loss and 11 total tackles.
Before heading to NMMI the Toronto native finished his high school career with Prattville High School in Alabama.
TORONTO - It was vintage Ricky Ray.
After struggling for three-plus quarters, Ray rallied Toronto to a wild 25-21 East Division victory over Saskatchewan on Sunday afternoon. With the Argonauts trailing 21-18 and going against a stiff 54 kilometre-an-hour wind, Ray marched his offence 67 yards to the Roughriders' one-yard line, setting up Cody Fajardo's winning one-yard TD run with 23 seconds left.
"To be put in that situation and see the guys go out and execute really well ... and go down and score, it feels awesome right now,'' Ray said. ``It feels really awesome.
"They (game-winning drives) are all special but just being in this moment right now, man, with everything that was on the line, this one feels pretty good.''
Ray kept the drive alive with a clutch 22-yard completion to running back James Wilder Jr. on a third-and-five gamble. That put Toronto at the Saskatchewan 18 with 1:08 remaining.
"We got great coverage, he ran a great route and made a big catch to keep that drive going,'' Ray said.
Saskatchewan's defence had done well to that point containing Ray, who finished 28-of-39 passing for 266 yards with a TD and interception. Christion Jones put the Riders ahead 19-18 with 2:45 remaining with a 79-yard punt return touchdown before Canadian Brandon Bridge hit Duron Carter on the two-point convert.
"It's tough when you lose a ballgame of this magnitude but on top of that when you play good defence all day and it's right there when you need it and you just can't get a stop,'' Saskatchewan head coach/GM Chris Jones said. "We got some shots on (Ray) but he's a tough guy, he got right back up and made the play when he needed to.
"Yeah, he made a perfect throw there to Wilder when he had to have it. That's vintage Ricky Ray.''
Christion Jones, despite registering the game's biggest play to that point, admitted he didn't feel comfortable when Toronto took possession.
"You get a guy like Ricky Ray and those great receivers and that great running back (Wilder) and they'll make you sweat,'' he said. "They executed and did what they needed to do.
Toronto cemented the win when Akwasi Owusu-Ansah recovered Carter's attempted lateral. The Argos return to the Grey Cup for the first time since winning in 2012 and will face the Calgary Stampeders on Sunday at Ottawa's TD Place.
Both offences struggled, committing a combined seven turnovers (four interceptions, two fumbles, once on downs). But Toronto was opportunistic, scoring 17 points off the Riders' miscues, delighting the enthusiastic gathering of 24,929, the Argos' largest crowd ever at BMO Field.
Among those attending were Toronto Maple Leafs forwards Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner and head coach Mike Babcock, who donned his Riders' apparel sitting next to Argos owner Larry Tanenbaum, who's also the chairman of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Leafs.
"We didn't do much offensively until the last drive of the game,'' Toronto head coach Marc Trestman said. "We did enough to win.
"We've had a number of end-the-game drives whether we've won or lost. Vintage Ricky Ray. You can put quotes around anything you want. He's the guy who's driven this whole thing through the whole year.''
It's certainly been a turnaround year for Toronto after missing the playoffs in 2016 with a 5-13 mark. GM Jim Barker was fired before head coach Scott Milanovich resigned to join the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.
On Feb. 28, Toronto hired Jim Popp as GM and Trestman as head coach. The two had worked together in Montreal, leading the Alouettes to three Grey Cup appearances (two wins) from 2007-12 before Trestman left to became head coach of the NFL's Chicago Bears.
Ray's future in Toronto was also in question after injuries had limited him to 12 regular-season appearances over the previous two years. When Trestman was hired, he boldly named Ray his starter.
Ray certainly fulfilled that confidence. He started 17 regular-season games and surpassed the 5,000-yard passing mark for the first time since '08 and fourth time overall, joining Hall of Famers Anthony Calvillo and Doug Flutie as the only players to do so.
That earned Ray his third nomination as a finalist for the CFL's outstanding player award against Edmonton's Mike Reilly. It's one of the few awards Ray, a three-time Grey Cup champion, hasn't won over his illustrious 15-year career in Canada.
Saskatchewan was attempting to become the first crossover team to reach the Grey Cup since the rule was adopted in 1996. The Riders were 2-0 versus Toronto this year and defeated the defending-champion Ottawa Redblacks 31-20 in last weekend's East Division semifinal.
Saskatchewan won the toss and deferred, opting to have the wind in the fourth. And it almost paid off as when the Riders got the ball with 12 minutes left at their 17-yard line, they trailed 18-3.
Bridge of Mississauga, Ont., cut the deficit to 18-10, finding Carter on an 11-yard TD pass at 5:57, the first playoff touchdown pass by a Canadian since Ottawa's Russ Jackson did so in the '69 Grey Cup game. Saskatchewan pulled to within 18-13 on Tyler Crapigna's 28-yard field goal with 4:44 remaining before going ahead on Jones' TD. Bridge then hit Naaman Roosevelt for the two-point convert and three-point lead.
It was a disappointing end to the season for Saskatchewan starter Kevin Glenn, a 17-year veteran still in search of his first Grey Cup victory. Glenn threw three first-half interceptions - one that was returned for a TD - before being replaced for good to start the second half by Bridge.
Terrance Plummer, on a 39-yard interception return, and DeVier Posey had Toronto's other touchdowns. Lirim Hajrullahu added the converts and two field goals.
Crapigna booted two field goals and a convert.
(The Canadian Press)
POSTGAME COMMENTS FROM CHRIS JONES
- We talked about it. There's a group of high character guys in there who've worked their butts off to get to this point. Certainly it's disappointing to come out on the losing end of a game that was that close. To not be able to finish it off, you get a pit in your stomach knowing you won't have a chance to play for a championship. It's very tough.
- I'm very proud of this group. I just told them that. Nobody gave us a chance after Week 4. They wanted to run the coaches out of town and nobody believed in the club and were saying bad things. But we leaned on each other and learned how to win football games.
- I went ahead and scheduled camps for the week after the Grey Cup to get started. Whether we won or lost this game, it had no bearing. We have to go back to the grindstone and find players.
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Calgary advanced to the CFL's championship game for a second straight year Sunday by downing the visiting Edmonton Eskimos 32-28 in the West Division final.
The Stampeders, whose 13-4-1 regular-season record was the league's best, will face the Toronto Argonauts next Sunday in Ottawa for the title.
The Argonauts (9-9) beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders 25-21 in Sunday's East Division final.
After posting a 15-2-1 record in 2016, Calgary lost last year's Grey Cup in a massive upset. The Stampeders were beaten 39-33 in overtime by the Ottawa Redblacks (8-9-1).
"Last year was a success, but it didn't mean a lot when you can't finish,'' Stampeder head coach Dave Dickenson said.
"Winning the West is not going to be enough. If we can't finish the deal and get the job done against a great opponent, well-coached, it's going to feel hollow again.''
The Stampeders appear in their fifth Grey Cup in a decade with previous wins in 2008 and 2014.
Calgary had lost three in a row heading into Sunday's game, but the Stampeders recovered their winning form. The defence held the CFL's No. 1 offence to 18 points for three quarters.
Calgary's ground game clicked with running backs Jerome Messam and Roy Finch each scoring a touchdown and combining for 152 rushing yards.
Finch, a finalist for the CFL's best special teams player this year, totalled 233 yards in returns, receiving and rushing.
Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell threw a touchdown pass to Marquay McDaniel.
Mitchell, who has played through an undisclosed injury in his throwing arm for much of the season, completed 20-of-32 passes for 228 yards.
It was a harder road to the championship game in 2017 for the Stampeders and their quarterback.
"It means the world to me,'' Mitchell said. "It's what I play this game for. I expect to be back there every single year and do what I can to make sure I lead my team to the Grey Cup every single year.
"We did what we did in the regular season, but obviously coming into that three-game losing streak we had a little bit of desperation going into this game, and doubt from a lot of people.''
Quarterback Mike Reilly, C.J. Gable and Derel Walker scored touchdowns for the Eskimos, who finished third in the division at 12-6.
Reilly, the West nominee for the CFL's Most Outstanding Player award, was 23 for 38 in passing for 348 yards.
Kicker Sean Whyte missed field-goal tries from 42 and 30 yards, but made them from 34 and 20 yards.
Trailing by a converted touchdown, the Eskimos chose to kick a 20-yard field goal with one minute 43 seconds remaining instead of gambling on third and four.
Calgary punted with 24 seconds remaining. Edmonton's Jamill Smith fumbled the ball on the return and the Stampeders recovered to close out the win.
"We have faith in our whole football team that the defence was going to make the stop, the special teams were going to get the ball back for us and the offence would do their job and go down and score,'' Edmonton head coach Jason Maas said.
"Ultimately it didn't turn out that way.''
Messam stretched over the goal-line to finish a 14-yard carry for a 30-15 lead in the third quarter.
The Eskimos scored on their first two possessions of the game, but the Stampeders countered with three straight touchdowns in the second quarter for a 22-15 halftime lead.
What was a gentle breeze at kickoff accelerated to swirling gusts over 30 kilometres per hour in the second half at McMahon Stadium, where the announced attendance was 30,116.
The wind altered the trajectory of Whyte's 30-yard attempt in the third quarter as the ball struck the upright and landed dead.
Finch dipsy doodled 50 yards to the end zone and Messam's three-yard carry added a two-point convert with 22 seconds to go in the first half.
Marken Michel capped a 41-yard drive taking the hand off from Mitchell and scampering 13 yards to score at 11:54. Calgary scored on the first drive of second quarter when Mitchell threw a 10-yard pass to McDaniel.
Reilly connected with an uncovered Walker for a 69-yard touchdown at 8:44 of the first quarter. On a third-down gamble, Gable punched the ball in from eight yards to score on Edmonton's first drive.
His hope was that his Edmonton Eskimos would eventually get the ball back and then drive for the game-winning touchdown, but that didn't happen as the Calgary Stampeders hung on for a 32-28 win to advance to next Sunday's Grey Cup final in Ottawa against the Toronto Argonauts.
"Will I look back on it and wonder? Maybe, but I won't ever regret it because I have faith in our football team,'' said Maas. "That's what it was, it was a faith decision saying your defence is going to get the stop, special teams is going to get you the ball back and your offence is going to go down and score again.
"We've proved it in different spots all year that those things can happen. Ultimately in this one game, in this one moment, it didn't. At the end of the day we'll all live with it and it'll go down as a loss.''
Maas' decision had the potential to pay off as the Eskimos forced Calgary to punt with 24 seconds remaining, but Edmonton's Jamill Smith fumbled the ball on the return and the Stampeders recovered to close out the win.
Edmonton quarterback Mike Reilly didn't question his coach's call to settle for the 20-yard field goal as the clock ran down to 1:43 on the play, rather than gambling on the third-and-four situation to extend the drive.
"I put faith in my coaching staff that they're going to make the best decision for us. I'll never question that,'' said Reilly, who converted a third-and-10 situation earlier in the drive when he threw a 31-yard pass to Brandon Zylstra.
"Everybody's going to have hindsight and question that decision, but at the end of the day I think the decision's made based on trying to win a football game, giving yourself three points, so that when you drive down and score with no time on the clock, you're winning, you're not going to overtime.''
Regina got the game’s first goal when Robbie Holmes put home a rebound for his fifth of the year and it was 1-0 after one.
After a scoreless second, Jake Leschyshyn tipped a point shot past Carter Hart for his fifth and the Pats lead was 2-0.
The Everett powerplay got one back at 12:10, but Regina held on from there for the 2-1 victory.
Tyler Brown made 38 saves in the win, while Josh Mahura led the offence with a two assist night.
The Pats outshot Everett 50-39, the powerplay was oh for seven and the penalty kill five for six.
- Sam Steel had an assist and extended his point streak to three games (2G, 2A).
- Cale Fleury has assists in consecutive games and two points in three games with Regina.
- The Pats set a season high with 50 shots on goal.
The Pats continue their road swing on Wednesday in Seattle. Puck drop is at 9 p.m. Regina time on 620 CKRM.
Next home game is Friday, December 8 against the Kelowna Rockets. Tickets are available at reginapats.com, the Brandt Centre Box office and at all Regina Safeway locations, Safeway Funzone tickets are just $13 plus tax.
Last week I went 12-2 (100-46) and 7-7 (79-67) against the spread:
Line: Lions by 3
Detroit wasn’t that impressive last week, but neither were the Bears. Matthew Stafford will be the difference. Take the Lions to win and cover.
Kansas City Chiefs (6-3) at New York Giants (1-8)
Line: Chiefs by 10.5
Kansas City wasn't playing great before their bye, but a game against the Giants should fix that. Take the Chiefs to win and cover.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6) at Miami Dolphins (4-5)
Line: Dolphins by 1.5
Despite being in the middle of a three game losing streak, Miami showed signs of life on Monday against the Panthers. Take the Dolphins to win and cover.
Baltimore Ravens (4-5) at Green Bay Packers (5-4)
Line: Ravens by 2
The Packers looked better with Brett Hundley at QB last week in beating the Bears, but Baltimore’s defense is a lot tougher. Take the Ravens to win and cover.
Los Angeles Rams (7-2) at Minnesota Vikings (7-2)
Line: Vikings by 2.5
Both team’s quarterbacks have solid receivers to throw to with solid offensive lines, but Minnesota wins with their defense. Take the Vikings to win and cover.
Arizona Cardinals (4-5) at Houston Texans (5-6)
Line: Cardinals by 1
Arizona should win despite using their third string QB as the Texans are too banged up. Take the Cardinals to win and cover.
Jacksonville Jaguars (6-3) at Cleveland Browns (0-9)
Line: Jaguars by 7.5
The only thing that could beat the Jags is themselves, so they need to be focused. Take the Jaguars to win and cover.
Washington Redskins (4-5) at New Orleans Saints (7-2)
Line: Saints by 8
New Orleans has won seven straight games behind their running game and their defense. And the Dome will make a difference. Take the Saints to win and cover.
Buffalo Bills (5-4) at Los Angeles Chargers (3-6)
Line: Chargers by 4
The Bills now travel after being laughed out of Buffalo by the Saints. Look for the Chargers to take advantage of the inexperienced of Nathan Peterman with their pass rush. Take the Chargers to win and cover.
Cincinnati Bengals (3-6) at Denver Broncos (3-6)
Line: Broncos by 2.5
The Bengals are playing a third straight road game, and Denver ain’t the place to do it, even though they’re not beating anyone either. Go with the home team. Take the Broncos to win and cover.
New England Patriots (7-2) vs. Oakland Raiders (4-5)
Line: Patriots by 6.5
New England has won their last five wins in a row with the last four coming by a touchdown or more. Even going cross-country in consecutive weeks shouldn't be enough to slow down this team. Take the Patriots to win and cover.
Philadelphia Eagles (8-1) at Dallas Cowboys (5-4)
Line: Eagles by 3
Dallas didn't look good last week in losing to the Falcons, and now with the Ezekiel Elliott thing put to rest, the Cowboys will fade into the sunset. Take the Eagles to win and cover.
Atlanta Falcons (5-4) at Seattle Seahawks (6-3)
Line: Seahawks by 3
Atlanta seemed to find something last week on offense, and now that the Seahawks will be without Richard Sherman, the momentum will carry. Take the Falcons in an upset.
Portland got the game’s first goal off the stick of Cody Glass, 3:46 into the opening period. Sam Steel got Regina even five minutes later when he picked up his seventh of the season and it was 1-1. However a Portland powerplay gave the Winterhawks the 2-1 lead at 12:19 of the first and that was the score through 20 minutes.
There were no goals in the second and it wasn’t until 19:46 of the third that the Winterhawks scored an empty netter to make it 3-1 and that was the final score. The Pats were outshot 31-28 in the defeat, the powerplay was oh for one and the penalty kill two for three. Tyler Brown made 28 saves for the Pats, Cole Kehler 27 for the Winterhawks.
- Cale Fleury picked up his first point with the Pats with a first period assist.
- Sam Steel has goals in consecutive games and is up to seven on the year.
- Josh Mahura tied Dawson Davidson for the team defence scoring lead with an assist, both have 18 points overall.
The Pats (12-9-2) are right back at it Sunday in Everett against the Silvertips. Puck drop is at 6 p.m. Regina time on 620 CKRM. Next home game is Friday, December 8 against the Kelowna Rockets. Tickets are available at reginapats.com, the Brandt Centre Box office and at all Regina Safeway locations, Safeway Funzone tickets are just $13 plus tax.
Mark Matthews scored four goals with Ryan Keenan, Curtis Knight, Marty Dinsdale, and Robert Church all adding hat tricks as the Rush squashed the Georgia Swarm 24-9 in a Champion’s Cup rematch from last spring. Georgia ended Saskatchewan two-year reign atop the National Lacrosse League with a 2-0 series sweep in the 2017 league championship.
The Rush exploded right out of the gates, notching seven goals in the opening quarter and never looking back. Back-to-back tallies from Jeff Cornwall staked Saskatchewan to a 4-1 lead and Knight struck for two in a row before the first period wrapped. That comfortable lead was all the Rush needed.
“We’ve had some good training camps the last couple of weeks,” said Church. “It kind of feels like we were in mid-season form and we had some chemistry out there.”
Church’s first of the night came on a second-quarter power play and gave the Rush a 10-3 cushion. He added his second moments later just before Knight took a feed from Dan Taylor and counted his hat-trick marker.
Matthews, who hit for 100 points for the third straight season in 2017, connected for a power-play marker to launch the Rush’s attack in the third quarter. Saskatchewan’s star forward collected his hat-trick tally midway through the third to put the Rush ahead 17-7. Before the third quarter closed, Jeff Shattler, a key off-season acquisition as a free-agent pickup from Calgary, hit the scoresheet to make it 20-7.
The fourth quarter opened with Matthews notching his fourth of the night as the Rush continued the onslaught with a four-gun run. Adding to the Rush scoring barrage were 2017 second-round draft pick Chris Bouchy with a pair of goals along with singles for Ryan Dilks, Mike Messenger, and Taylor.
Evan Kirk, the Rush’s new number-one netminder after coming to the club in an off-season trade, started the night but gave way late in the first quarter. Saskatchewan dressed five goaltenders and each one spent time between the pipes in a battle for the backup spot behind Kirk. Two of hopefuls, Zack Boychuk and Peter Dubenski, combined to surrender only three goals, and actually changed on the fly in the fourth quarter.
“I think we accomplished what we wanted to,” said Rush GM/head coach Derek Keenan. “All the young guys were really good. I thought Nick Finlay was good again. Two weeks in a row, he’s impressed me. Johnny Pearson was good. Bouchy struggled a bit last week but tonight he played very well.
“We’ve got a month to prepare for Toronto and hopefully we’ll be ready.”
The Rush will continue their training camp before getting the 2018 regular season under way on December 16th as they travel to Toronto to face the Rock. They return to Saskatchewan for their home-opener on December 23rd against the New England Black Wolves.
Saturday, November 18, 2017
TORONTO - He's yet to decide his football future but Ricky Ray wouldn't mind following the script Henry Burris did last season.
Burris, 41, called it a career in January roughly two months after leading the Ottawa Redblacks to a 36-30 upset win over the Calgary Stampeders in last year's Grey Cup game. Ray, 38, can move a step towards a similar scenario Sunday when the Toronto Argonauts host the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the East Division final at BMO Field (12:00 pm Sask Time, TSN, 620 CKRM Rider Radio Network).
The winner advances to the Grey Cup game on Nov. 26 at Ottawa's TD Place versus either the Edmonton Eskimos or Calgary Stampeders.
"I mean I'd love to have that opportunity.''
The six-foot-three, 195-pound Ray has enjoyed a resurgence this year, finishing second overall in CFL passing (5,546 yards) and leading Toronto (9-9) to first in the East Division. Heady stuff for a player who'd played in a combined 12 regular-season games due to injuries the past two years.
"We wouldn't be here without him,'' Trestman said. "You never are without the quarterback playing at a high level.
"Ricky does that every day, He leads the way, he gets us through the practices. He doesn't say much but his actions certainly, as people know around the league, have spoken throughout his career a lot bigger and larger than words.''
Riders coach/GM Chris Jones, who's also in charge of the club's defence, said watching film of Ray isn't any fun.
"It's a nightmare for me,'' Jones said. "There was probably at least five or six balls in the last game we played here in Toronto (27-24 win Oct. 7) where we had defenders right there but he's able to stick that ball in.
"He knows right where to go with the football. His heart rate is around 40 or 50 regardless of whether you hit him or if he just threw a touchdown. He's very tough to go against.''
Ray said the feeling is mutual preparing for Jones, who's never been afraid to be unconventional in his schemes and gameplans.
"I'll take that as a compliment,'' Ray said. "It's a nightmare going up against his defence.
"He's dropping 10 sometimes and then bringing eight the next play so you've got to be ready for anything against him. On any play anything can come and we've just got to be ready and be able to react to it.''
Saskatchewan counters with its own veteran starter in Kevin Glenn. Like Ray, Glenn is 38 but the 17-year CFL veteran hasn't yet been able to play for a Grey Cup winner.
But Glenn, too, has enjoyed a solid '17 campaign with 4,038 passing yards and 25 TDs, his best totals in each category since '12. And Glenn does have history on his side, having led teams to the Grey Cup in 2007 (Winnipeg) and '12 (Calgary) but the Detroit native said the longer a player's career is, the better he learns to cherish these opportunities.
"The excitement that goes into it, the preparation and all that is still the same,'' he said. "It (Grey Cup berths) has been like a five-year thing . . . you think about those kind of things.
"Like I've been telling some of the guys, you try to enjoy it and maximize your opportunities and try to just seize the moment. This game is always about urgency because you're not promised tomorrow ... when you get the opportunity you try to seize it.''
Trestman said Ray and Glenn are both examples of players who still have a passion for the game.
"The biggest thing with guys who play that long is somehow they come to terms with courage, with toughness,'' Trestman said. "It's so hard to stand in there for so many years and take the kind of hits these guys take throughout their career.
"I think we've got two guys in this game certainly that legitimately have that passion and courage and toughness that it takes.''
Riders' receiver Chad Owens helped Toronto beat Glenn's Calgary Stampeders 35-22 in the 100th Grey Cup game in '12 at Rogers Place. Now teammates, Owens' goal is to help Glenn secure his first CFL championship.
"KG is the ultimate pro and being able to play with him has been unbelievable,'' Owens said. "I can chalk up two future Hall of Famers that I've been playing with (Glenn and Ray).
"KG deserves a championship. All I want for him is to get that ring ... I'm playing for him Sunday.''
As if Rider fans needed one more reason to love Duron Carter.
On the night before the 2017 CFL East Division Final featuring the Roughriders and Argonauts at Toronto's BMO Field, Saskatchewan's leading receiver Duron Carter footed the bill for 26 Rider fans to join him at the movie Justice League at the Cineplex Odeon Varsity in downtown Toronto.
"Rule 1: You must have on Rider gear!!" Carter Tweeted from his account @DC_CHILLIN_8. "Rule 2: Refer to rule number 1!!"
When asked about his generous offer at Saturday's pregame news conference, Carter shrugged and told reporters, "I just wanted to see a movie!"
The whole tab summed up to $351 for the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter.
"I'm glad it's this many," Carter told CBC.ca. "If it was anymore I would have had to go to the bank and sign my name. It's a good turnout. We're about to see a great movie."
This time, Chamblin says the unit will be ready for the elusive Canadian quarterback if he steps on to the field.
Toronto hosts Saskatchewan on Sunday in the East Division final at BMO Field, with the winner advancing to the Grey Cup on Nov. 26 in Ottawa. The Riders swept the season series 2-0 and are coming off a solid 31-20 semifinal win over the defending-champion Ottawa Redblacks.
Bridge played a major role in Saskatchewan's 27-24 road win over Toronto on Oct. 7. The six-foot-five, 230-pound Mississauga, Ont., native was 20-of-28 passing for 292 yards and the two TDs in relief of starter Kevin Glenn. Bridge came in during the first half with the Riders trailing 16-3 after Glenn completed just three-of-eight passes for 29 yards.
After Toronto tied the score 24-24 with under four minutes to play, Bridge calmly marched Saskatchewan 64 yards on 11 plays. That set up Tyler Crapigna's game-winning 18-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining.
"We didn't expect to see him that quickly,'' Chamblin said. "That's a sign of the respect and regard we have for Kevin Glenn, he's a guy we expected to play the whole game.
"On the flipside you have to know with Chris (Riders coach/GM Chris Jones) he's always going to pull something out of the hat. It's not so much we didn't prepare for (Bridge), he was just good in what he did. Now we understand who he is ... there's more respect for him as a player because he's been in games and had experience playing.''
Glenn, 38, and Bridge are two very different quarterbacks. Glenn, in his 15th CFL season, is pretty much a pocket passer who often runs only as a last resort. The five-foot-10, 203-pount Detroit native ran 21 times for 75 yards and two touchdowns this season and has rushed for 1,580 yards in 239 career CFL games.
Bridge, 25, uses his legs much more. He runs to either evade the rush and head upfield or extend a play and buy his receivers time to get open downfield.
"He was a one-read type of guy (in October game),'' Chamblin said. "Once he read it, if it was there he took it, if he didn't then he was able to take off.
"I think there are things schematically we have to do different to defend him because they're two different quarterbacks. It will be fun to see how this turns out in the sense which quarterback they play and how long they play him.''
Glenn went the distance against Ottawa, completing 18-of-28 passes for 252 yards and a TD while also running for another. He'll start Sunday for Saskatchewan.
"We've experienced what their quarterbacks can do,'' Argos coach Marc Trestman said. "We understand how good they are, we understand their strengths and what we have to do to attack them.
"We've got a lot of respect for Kevin Glenn and his ability to lead his team and we've seen what (Bridge) can do as well. He's not really a backup, he's a capable starter. He proved that against us and we've got to be ready for that as well.''
Chamblin has had success gameplanning for a mobile quarterback. Toronto cemented first in the East Division on Nov. 4 with a 40-13 road win over the B.C. Lions, picking off elusive Jonathon Jennings three times and holding him to 145 passing yards and just eight yards rushing on two carries.
"You understand you have a running quarterback,'' Chamblin said. "You have to make sure all your gaps are covered.
"You have to make sure when they rush that it's not just pin your ears back and go, it's more of a controlled rush. We just played Jennings so it's somewhat similar to playing Bridge.''
But linebacker Bear Woods said execution is crucial for Toronto's defence, regardless of who's at quarterback.
"We always focus on our defence and as long as we're executing it really doesn't matter who you put back there,'' Woods said. "It goes without saying Bridge is a threat with his legs moreso than Kevin.
"But Kevin is an equal threat in that he's been doing it for years. We just have to be ready. It's the East final, it's a playoff game and if there's a card to pull, everyone is pulling every card they have.''