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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

CFL THIS WEEK

MONTREAL AT WINNIPEG - FRIDAY - 6:30 PM

Life is back to normal for Drew Willy and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The Bombers had to play two games within a five-day span last week, with predictable results. Winnipeg dropped a 23-17 home decision to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Aug. 7, then suffered a 38-21 setback in Toronto on Aug. 12.

The two losses dropped Winnipeg (5-3) into a tie for third with Saskatchewan (5-2) and B.C. (5-3) in the West Division. Edmonton and Calgary are first with identical 6-1 records.

Not only should the Bombers be well rested but they host the Montreal Alouettes (1-6) on Friday night. West teams have dominated their Eastern brethren, amassing an amazing 20-3 head-to-head record.

Now, it was close last week. Toronto beat Winnipeg while Edmonton, Calgary and Saskatchewan went to the wire before emerging victorious over their Eastern rivals.

The Argos, playing their second game in five nights, briefly led B.C. in the second half before dropping a 33-17 decision.

Willy, who has twice rallied Winnipeg to stirring, last-minute wins this season, didn't enjoy such magic last week. He threw for 303 yards and a TD versus Saskatchewan but also had three interceptions.

Then against Toronto, Willy had two TD passes and completed 22-of-31 attempts but for only 183 yards. The two losses fully exposed the Winnipeg defence's Achilles heel.

Saskatchewan's Jerome Messam rushed for 126 yards - all in the second half - against Winnipeg, which also surrendered 174 rushing yards against Toronto. The Bombers are allowing 116.1 yards rushing per game this year, with only Ottawa (121 yards per game) giving up more.

And even with Nic Grigsby (league-high 416 yards rushing), the Bombers sport the CFL's worst rushing attack, averaging just 70 yards per contest. That puts the onus on the aerial game - which is ranked second overall - to generate points for Winnipeg.

Winnipeg needed a late Willy TD strike to beat the Alouettes 34-33 in Montreal on July 11.

But points have been a problem for a Montreal offence averaging a league-low 15.8 per game. The Alouettes, losers of five straight, are also last in passing yards (179 per game).

With former Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith injured, former Bomber Alex Brink started against Saskatchewan last week. He completed 19-of-31 passes for 187 yards with an interception while being sacked three times by CFL leader John Chick (11 this season).

Receiver Duron Carter had the game's biggest play, but it was returning a missed field goal 122 yards for the touchdown. Until Montreal gets more production from its quarterbacks, the offensive struggles will continue.

Pick - Winnipeg.
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TORONTO AT EDMONTON - SATURDAY - 2 PM

Slowly but surely, Toronto's walking wounded are returning. Veteran receiver Jason Barnes was back in the lineup for Sunday night's 33-17 home loss to B.C. after recovering from a knee injury and slotback Chad Owens (foot) could be back soon.

That would indeed be good news for Toronto (3-5), which despite being without many of its top offensive stars has still managed to fashion a four-point lead atop the East Division standings. Adding to it, though, will be tough.

Former Argos defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones has Edmonton (6-1) an impressive 4-0 against East Division teams.

Offensively, quarterback Mike Reilly can beat a defence with his arm or legs and has the CFL's leading receiver in Adarius Bowman, who is filling the void left by injured star Fred Stamps. However John White, who ran for 102 first-half yards against Montreal, missed the second half with a hand injury.

Toronto quarterback Ricky Ray makes another return to Edmonton, this time as the CFL's passing leader (2,165 yards) but threw two interceptions against B.C, one which was returned for a TD. Not only do the Eskimos boast a defence allowing just 16.4 points per game, but their offence also leads the league in time of possession - almost 32 minutes per game.

Pick - Edmonton.
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CALGARY AT OTTAWA - SUNDAY - 1 PM

Just what Ottawa (1-6) needs to hear. Running back Jon Cornish, the CFL's outstanding player and leading rusher last year, plans to return to Calgary's lineup after being out since the first game of the season with concussion symptoms.

While that's good news for the Stampeders (6-1), it's unfortunate for veteran Hugh Charles. He ran for 102 yards in a 30-20 road win over Hamilton on Saturday in his Calgary debut.

Ottawa is allowing 121 yards rushing and 28.4 points per game - both league highs - but dropped a heart-breaking 10-8 loss to Edmonton on a late field goal. Calgary beat the Redblacks 38-17 at McMahon on Aug. 9.

Pick - Calgary.
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SASKATCHEWAN AT BC - SUNDAY - 5 PM

The game of the week featuring the two top defences.

Chick anchors a Riders unit leading the league in sacks (29) and third in points allowed (19.3). Stalwart linebackers Solomon Elimimian (league-high 61 tackles) and Adam Bighill (33 tackles) anchor a B.C. defence ranked first against the pass (203.5 per game) and second in fewest yards allowed (284.1).

Veteran defensive back Dante Marsh returns for B.C. (5-3) after missing the win over Toronto. Stefan Logan ran for 145 yards against the Argos but Andrew Harris (foot) is expected back against Saskatchewan.

While Chick - deservedly - has garnered much of the attention with the Riders (5-2), Messam was dominant against Montreal with 126 second-half yards. The burly running back has 194 yards rushing on 32 carries, a solid 6.1-yard average.

The Riders are a run-first offence - 131.9 yards per game, second only to Edmonton (134.9) - but they're ranked second-last through the air (206.1 yards per game). It could get interesting if Saskatchewan falls behind and must throw against B.C.

B.C. won the first meeting 26-13 in Regina on July 12.

Pick - Saskatchewan.

Last week: 4-1.

Record: 17-12.

(Canadian Press)

CKRM'S WEEK 9 CFL PICKS 2014

SCHEDULE
Friday: Montreal at Winnipeg
Saturday: Toronto at Edmonton
Sunday: Calgary at Ottawa, Sask at BC

ANNOUNCER/RECORD/PICKS
SCRUFFY (24-9): WPG - EDM - CGY - SK
ABOU (23-10): WPG - EDM - CGY - BC
SHARKY (23-10): WPG - TOR - CGY - SK
LUC (23-10): TBD
BALLSY (22-11): WPG - EDM - CGY - BC
SILVER FOX (21-12): WPG - EDM - CGY - SK
CARM (21-12): WPG- EDM - CGY - SK
SAM (20-13): WPG - EDM - CGY - SK
SCHULTZ (20-13): WPG - EDM - CGY - SK
PHIL (19-14): WPG - EDM - CGY - BC
RP (19:14): WPG - EDM - CGY - SK
LYNCH (18-15): WPG - EDM - CGY - BC
COIN (17-16): WPG - EDM - CGY - SK

* Winner gets a $100 gift certificate to the Press Box Sports Bar!

COHON TO STEP DOWN

TORONTO - Mark Cohon, one of the longest serving and accomplished Commissioners in the history of the Canadian Football League, announced today that he will not seek a renewal of his contract which expires next Spring.

"When I started eight seasons ago, it was my goal to work closely with the Board of Governors to transform the CFL. Together, we have accomplished our goals and much more," Cohon said.

"From our transformative TV deal with Bell Media, to the renaissance in new and remodeled stadiums across the country, to the reintroduction of CFL football in our nation's capital, to the first comprehensive drug policy in CFL history, to a well-structured new CBA with our players, we have achieved so much," he added.

"With the positive work we have done, the time is approaching for me to tackle new opportunities and new ventures, and I have informed our Board of Governors of my decision."

Jim Lawson, Chairman of the Canadian Football League's Board of Governors, said the league has made tremendous strides during Cohon's tenure.

"Mark has vastly improved the league's business model and brought innovation to our game, while at the same time connecting deeply with our broad and growing fan base," Lawson said. "He will always be known as the fans' Commissioner."

Cohon thanked several groups for their contributions to the CFL.

"Football is the ultimate team sport, and all of the league's accomplishments are the product of the vision and work of many people: committed franchise owners and chairs, team presidents and staff, and of course our players, who are elite athletes and even better people," Cohon said.
"But the credit for everything and anything we do ultimately belongs to the people who make everything in the CFL possible: our fans."

PATS CAMP TIMES

Regina, Saskatchewan – The Regina Pats Hockey Club announced today the schedule for the 2014 edition of Training Camp at the Cooperators Centre with on ice sessions opening Thursday, August 21st.

After 1998 and 1999 born players register this evening, they will be split into two teams for Rookie Camp starting with practices running from 9:00 a.m. until 11:15 a.m. on Thursday.  The players return to the ice in the afternoon and evening for scrimmages giving rookies an opportunity to impress new Pats Head Coach and Senior VP of Hockey Operations John Paddock and the rest of the Pats' Hockey Operations department.

Friday sees the rookies continue to scrimmage throughout the day as well as the 1997-1994 born players registering in the afternoon.  The Main Camp teams hit the ice for their first practices starting at 5:00 p.m.  Rookie Camp wraps up with a final scrimmage following the Main Camp sessions, starting at 7:30 p.m.

Main Camp begins in earnest Saturday as the top rookies join the 1997-1994 born players and full scrimmages begin at 10:00 a.m. followed by scrimmages at 3:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

Scrimmages continue through Sunday with the first game beginning at 10:00 a.m.  The Main Camp goalies get some time to themselves with a goalie session beginning at 11:45 a.m. before scrimmages resume at 3:00 p.m. with the final contest at 8:00 p.m.

The Blue and White Game takes place Monday, August 25 at the Cooperators Centre with the top players from 2014 Training Camp facing off in the annual camp finale.  Tickets for the Blue and White game can be purchased at the door for $2.

Please find a full 2014 Regina Pats Training Camp Schedule attached to this release.

For fans hoping to gear up for the 2014-15 campaign, the Neutral Zone Store will be at the Cooperators Centre the following hours:

Thursday: 1 – 6 p.m.

Friday: 2 – 5 p.m.

Saturday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Sunday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Monday: 6 – 9 p.m.

RIDER MOVES

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have announced the following transactions:
 
· ADD national kicker Justin Palardy to practice roster
· ADD national defensive lineman Ryan Wellman to practice roster
· RELEASE international linebacker Adrian Moten
· RELEASE international defensive back Ciante Evans

THE WEDNESDAY THRILLER ... WITH PHIL ANDREWS

Voice of the Pats Phil Andrews
A great day for the Regina Pats on Tuesday as the team unveiled their coaching staff of John Paddock, Dave Struch, Darrin McKechnie and Rob Muntain. From my perspective it already seems like a good dynamic between the three. I think the players will enjoy playing for these guys and learn a lot.

McKechnie was the latest hire and he is beyond excited to be coaching the team he played for back in the late 1980's. He had a 53 goal and 102 point season in 87-88. He will be working on a part time basis for lack of a better term. He is a full time police officer in Regina but he said he will be at the rink coaching as much as possible and will be on the road with the team whenever he can be. Good to see a Pats alumni come into the fold!

It was said in the news conference that the coaches have signed 4 year deals, good for continuity going forward.

Training camp starts on Thursday and already some players have made their way into the Queen City. I will have a full training camp preview a little later today at www.philandrews18.blogspot.com.

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What a great football game on Sunday at Mosaic Stadium where the Regina Thunder came back to beat the Saskatoon Hilltops in overtime 16-13! Quarterback Jaeden Marwick led the game-tieing drive with less than 3 minutes left in regulation capped off by a 35 yard William Mcgee Field Goal. Then in OT, Marwick threw a 15 yard touchdown to running back Matt Frass for the victory. The Thunder have now beated Saskatoon in three straight contests. I wonder if that's ever happened in the history of the Thunder organization. I'm guessing it hasn't.

The Hilltops defense looked good and the running game was solid but they are certainly lacking at quarterback. It will be a tight race in the PFC this season and I am looking forward to seeing it unfold. The Thunder are in action Sunday home to the Edmonton Wildcats at 1 PM. Drew Barss and I will have the call live on Access 7.

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The Rider game on Saturday had its moments as well. Yes the first half was a little dry with a lot of punts but the excitement picked up in the second half. The defense was once again outstanding but the offense was not the best it's ever been. That being said they won and so its tough to criticize.

Yes there needs to be improvement there and I am sure they will get it figured out. Getting Weston Dressler back in a few weeks would certainly help that. Again though, tough to see him not getting much of an opportunity.

Next week's game is a tough one to pick. The Riders looking to make it 5 in a row on Sunday in B.C. Should be a good football game and again two good defenses going at it. Could be another low scoring affair in my estimation.

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My job allows for some pretty cool encounters and yesterday was definitely an example of that. Roberto Alomar was in Regina for two days as apart of the Jays Honda Super Camp. As most of you know he won two World Series with the Blue Jays in 92 and 93. A good bucket list interview. Thanks to CTV's Darrell Romuld for the picture.



That's it from me today, have a good week.

Phil
@PhilTheThrill18

MCCRYSTAL ENTERS FINAL SEASON

REGINA, Sask. - Frank McCrystal announced Tuesday night he will retire from his position as head coach of the University of Regina Rams football club effective Dec. 31, 2014.

McCrystal assumed the reins of the Rams program in 1984 and coached the team during its final 15 seasons at the junior level. The team won seven national junior championships under McCrystal, who was twice voted the Canadian Junior Football Coach of the Year.

In 1999, McCrystal oversaw the transition of the team to collegiate play, as the Rams joined the University of Regina and began competition in the Canada West Conference of the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union (later renamed Canadian Interuniversity Sport).  In only the team's second year at the collegiate level, McCrystal guided the Rams to a Hardy Cup championship, a victory in the Atlantic Bowl, and a Vanier Cup appearance.

In 2007, after leading the Rams to a 6–2 regular season record and an appearance in the Hardy Cup, McCrystal received the Frank Tindall Trophy as CIS Coach of the Year. He was also named 2007 Canada West Coach of the Year.

"It has been a pleasure to work with so many great young kids during my tenure as head coach of the Rams," McCrystal said. "I will look back at my time with this organization with great pride for what we accomplished and fond memories of the people I worked so closely with over the last three decades."

McCrystal has coached a number of players during his time that have moved up to the professional ranks, including four players now playing in the National Football League. Akiem Hicks, who starred for the Rams under McCrystal in 2010 and 2011, became just the second Canada West player to be drafted directly into the NFL after being selected by the New Orleans Saints in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Jon Ryan, drafted in 2004 by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, later moved to the NFL and won a Super Bowl as a member of the Seattle Seahawks.  Stefan Charles is currently a member of the Buffalo Bills, while long snapper Jorgen Hus is with the St. Louis Rams.

McCrystal has also helped produce a number of standout football players for the CFL, including current Saskatchewan Roughriders Chris Getzlaf, Brendon LaBatte, and Neal Hughes and Calgary Stampeders starting centre Brett Jones. The list of former Rams that played in the CFL also includes Jason Clermont, who was a standout receiver for the BC Lions and the Roughriders.

"The University of Regina has been fortunate to have such a talented football coach in Frank McCrystal," said Dick White, athletics director for the University of Regina. "Frank's dedication to his players and commitment to football is evident in the winning tradition that he helped build with this team over the last three decades.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

PATS HIRE MCKECHNIE

From left: Darrin McKechnie, John Paddock, Dave Struch

Regina, Saskatchewan – The Regina Pats Hockey Club is pleased to announce the hiring of Darrin Mckechnie as Assistant Coach.

The Pats alum joins Head Coach and Senior VP of Hockey Operations John Paddock and fellow assistant coach Dave Struch behind the bench for the upcoming season.

"I'm honoured to be brought on board by the organization I played for," said Darrin McKechnie.  "It's like a dream come true.  I never really thought this could happen this fast.  For any coach in the Regina area, the Pats are looked at so highly and to be a part of it I'm very excited, especially being an alumni."

McKechnie was the head coach of the Regina Capitals of the SSMHL last season, leading the team to the Saskatchewan Midget-AA Championship after a 24-6-6 Regular Season.  For the 2012-13 campaign, Darrin coached the Regina Pat Blues of the SBAAHL to the best record in the South Division at 22-4-1. 

Prior to coaching in minor hockey, McKechnie was an assistant coach for the University of Regina Cougars from 1996-2000. The Regina resident played with the Pats from 1986-1988, amassing 164 points (82G, 82A) over a 144 game WHL career. 

Following his junior days, McKechnie went on to play for the University of Regina where he is third all-time in scoring with 169 points (76G, 93A) in 132 games.  McKechnie's 76 goals and 93 assists are both second in school history.  During his time with the Cougars (1988-1993), Darrin was named the Canada West and CIS Most Sportsmanlike Player (1992) and a Canada West Second Team All-Star (1993).

"We are extremely excited to have Darrin McKechnie join our coaching staff," commented Regina Pats President Todd Lumbard.  "As a former player Darrin has first-hand knowledge of what it means to be a Pat.  His tireless work ethic combined with the ability to teach and connect with players will be great assets to our team.  We had Darrin in our sights for several weeks and are thankful the pieces fell into place allowing him to join our staff!"

Following his time at the University of Regina, McKechnie joined the Regina Police Service where he is currently a Staff Sergeant and has been serving for 21 years.

CHICK & BAGG EARN PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

TORONTO - B.C. running back Stefan Logan was named CFL offensive player of the week Tuesday after rushing for a career-high 145 yards and scoring a touchdown in the Lions' 33-17 victory over Toronto.

Logan, who averaged 7.6 yards per carry, also caught five passes for 49 yards in last week's win at Rogers Centre.

Teammate Tim Brown took the special teams honour after recording 249 return yards. He returned 10 punts for 169 yards and three kickoffs for 80 yards.

Saskatchewan defensive end John Chick was named defensive player of the week and Roughriders wide receiver Rob Bagg was top Canadian.

Chick had three sacks in the Roughriders' 16-11 win over the visiting Alouettes. He had four tackles and a forced fumble to take the honour for the second straight week.

Bagg, a native of Kingston, Ont., caught six passes for 90 yards and scored a 30-yard touchdown.

(The Canadian Press)

PALARDY TO JOIN RIDERS

Saskatchewan Roughriders GM Brendan Taman alluded to the fact on Monday's SportsCage that the team is looking at bringing in a kicker with CFL experience to back-up veteran Chris Milo.

Monday evening we learned that kicker is Justin Palardy. The 26-year old from St. Mary's University has spent most of his CFL career with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers however he began this season with the Ottawa RedBlacks before being released.

Chris Milo is 5/8 over the past two games including going 2/3 in Saturday's win over Montreal. The four year veteran from Laval was battling illness most of last week and Taman told 620 CKRM it was a red flag since they didn't have a back-up kicker.

Palardy's expected to be on the field for Wednesday's Day 1 open practice at Mosaic Stadium.

Saskatchewan (5-2) visits B.C. (5-3) Sunday at 5:00 pm on TSN and the CKRM Rider Radio Network.

RP

(Photo courtesy Canadian Press)

Monday, August 18, 2014

SOME LIONS ON THE BUBBLE

SURREY, B.C. (CP) - B.C. Lions coach Mike Benevides had plenty to smile about Monday after his team returned from a big win in Toronto. But some of his players won't share his mood next weekend.

Even after strong performances against the Argonauts, some Lions are in danger of losing their starting or roster spots when B.C. (5-3) hosts the Saskatchewan Roughriders at home on Sunday.

Kick returner/running back Tim Brown appears to be a likely casualty after he racked up 168 return yards as the Lions posted their third straight win. With starting tailback Andrew Harris expected to return from an ankle injury, Benevides said Brown only has a "50-50'' chance of staying in the lineup due to the balancing act required under the CFL's Canadian and import player ratio.

"I'd love to keep him on, but it's a challenge from a roster-number point of view,'' said Benevides.

Brown, a 26-year-old Stockton, Calif., native who is in his fourth CFL season, returned one punt for 70 yards and another for 69, setting up a touchdown and a field goal, against the Argos. He played only his second game of the season after spending most of the campaign on the practice roster.

Benevides said he has struggled to keep Brown on the active roster, but it's too difficult to sacrifice an import elsewhere on offence or defence to keep him in the mix.

The coach says he hopes Harris, sidelined in a victory over Hamilton on Aug. 8, will return after showing signs of progress in his recovery early last week before taking time off to mend.

"With running backs, you never want to risk (a premature return), because (the ankle) is so important to what they do,'' said Benevides.

Veteran running back Stefan Logan, who rushed for 145 yards on 19 carries and gained another 49 on receptions against Toronto, will also be affected by the return of Harris. Logan appears headed back to a back-up role behind Harris, who leads the league in combined yards with 781 and ranks second in rushing (410).

Changes also loom on the B.C. defence as cornerback Dante Marsh gets ready to return to the starting lineup after missing the game in Toronto due to a hamstring injury.

"It's pretty good,'' said Marsh. "I feel like I should be able to play this week.''

Marsh, a 33-year-old Oakland, Calif., native who is in his 11th season with the Lions, missed his first game in four years. The one-time CFL all-star and four-time West Division all-star said he wanted to be smart and give his body a chance to rest.

Rookie Ronnie Yell returned an interception for a touchdown in Marsh's place in the short-side cornerback spot. If Marsh returns, Yell is likely to move back to his wide-side cornerback spot. Rookie T.J. Lee, who played his first CFL game in Yell's usual wide-side spot, faces a return to the practice roster.

Marsh said the play of the rookies against Toronto speak well of B.C.'s roster depth, but their development is more about the future than the present.

"Right now, that's my time,'' said Marsh.

According to Benevides, this is also the time for Kevin Glenn to remain the starting quarterback. Although nominal No. 1 Travis Lulay, recuperating from off-season shoulder surgery, saw his first game action at various times against the Argos, Glenn will start against Saskatchewan - provided that he is healthy.

Glenn, who played against Toronto despite a thigh contusion suffered a week earlier, was limping as the team returned to its Surrey practice facility.

"He's winning games for us right now, and he's the one that's healthy, so he's the one that's played the most,'' said Benevides. "It's unfair to put all that play time on (Lulay) right now.''

Benevides slotted Lulay in during the first quarter, second quarter and at the end of the game in Toronto as part of his recovery process and plans to do the same against Saskatchewan.

"I don't care what people's ideas or ideals are - we have to get him in,'' said Benevides.

However, Benevides will feel less urgency about getting other injured players back in the lineup if he feels that a return could hamper their long-term recovery hopes.

"With the bye coming a week after, I'm not going to push it,'' he said.

Notes - The Lions cancelled a rundown Monday and will have a day off Tuesday before returning to practice on Wednesday ... Defensive back Josh Johnson remains out with a knee injury. Import offensive tackle Andre Ramsey, who suffered an ankle injury in the first game of the season that caused considerable lineup juggling, is eligible to return from the six-game injured list, but he is also caught in the ratio crunch. Ramsey has actually over-stayed his time on the six-game injured list, but he is allowed to do so under league rules. Offensive lineman Jovan Oliafoye said he and line mate Hunter Steward, who both stand six-foot-six and weigh more than 300 pounds, had to "slide through'' a relatively narrow opening after they were stuck in a Toronto hotel elevator on game day. "It wasn't the best of room, but there was enough room,'' said Oliafoye.

OUR A.L.S. ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE



From Monday afternoon at the Brandt Centre!  I challenge the only CFL radio guy who'll do this; A.J. Jakubec of the Ottawa RedBlacks, Pete Paczko and Mrs. SportsCage!

www.als.net

CFL ROUND-UP

CALGARY - Calgary Stampeders running back Jon Cornish says he's ready to play again.

The CFL's most valuable player and leading rusher last season has been out of the lineup with concussion symptoms since the season opener.

Stampeder head coach John Hufnagel expects Cornish to be back to full practice with the team Wednesday.  Cornish intends to play Sunday in Ottawa against the Redblacks.

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OTTAWA - The Ottawa Redblacks have released veteran wide receiver Paris Jackson.   The former CFL West all star had just six receptions for 34 yards over eight games with Ottawa this season.

Prior to signing with the Redblacks in March, the Vancouver native spent 11 seasons with B.C and helped the Lions win two Grey Cups (2006, 2011).   He was a division all-star in 2008, when he had 1,180 receiving yards on 76 receptions. He had his second straight 1,000-yard campaign in 2009 with 1,042 yards in 17 games.

In later seasons he was reduced to a backup role with the Lions before being released by the team in February.  The Redblacks also released international wide receiver Tim Maypray and international defensive back Seth Williams.

(Canadian Press)

DAYTONA HOMES MONDAY MORNING GOALIE


MONDAY HIGH FIVE!

1 - The Saskatchewan Roughriders have won four straight games and are a game out of first-place in the CFL West at 5-2.  Everybody should be over the moon, right?

No, WRONG!

Listening to the CKRM postgame call-in show after Saturday's 16-11 win over Montreal, and scouring the message boards and social media on Sunday, the Rider Nation is currently fighting amongst itself.  Reading the comments section in the post-game story gives you a pretty good cross-section of what people are thinking.

On one side you've got the positive thinkers like me who see a club who's navigated through significant early-season turmoil to stand amongst the league heavyweights.  On the other side you've got those who hate the new third jerseys, are once again down on the quarterback and now the kicker, and somebody even described the Riders' offense as "high school".  Let's examine all sides today...

2 - CKRM Rider Radio analyst Carm Carteri was so worked up after the game he had a bead of sweat running across his forehead.  Clearly, he wasn't enamoured with the play of the offense for a second straight game.

"I don't know.  I don't think it's an identity thing," Carm said on CKRM's 5th Quarter.  "I don't like the thought of having Will Ford as a first half running back and then, it looks like, Jerome Messam will be our second half running back.  There was some opportunities in this game like when the Riders were 2nd-and-2 at about the Rider 40, I'm sorry but if I have a 245 lb back in Jerome Messam, I'm getting him into the game in the first quarter, the first series, I don't care.  When I need that tough yard, I'm going after it.

"That's the only thing that gets me going.  As a former linebacker, you hate to hit guys like that and he's a guy that can control the game for your offense and that was what was hurting the Riders.  They couldn't get first downs in the first half.  They only had 13 yards rushing at halftime.  You can't be a good football team in the CFL if you can't run the ball and sustain drives.  That was disappointing because we had a big crowd and we expect more out of this football team.  I know I'm being semi-hard on them but this is a game they had control of and allowed Montreal to get back in.  They almost let it slip."

To back Carm up, Rider coach Corey Chamblin said on our postgame show that the offense is "a concern" but they'll work to make the necessary corrections.  Honestly I don't think offensive coordinator George Cortez can hear the criticism.  He's got his five Grey Cup rings plugging his ears!

And as Rider GM Brendan Taman pointed out on our pregame show, "If we can win games when our offense isn't clicking, wait until it does!"

It should be noted the Riders are 10-0 in the turnover ratio in their last two wins.

3 - Veteran Rider wide receiver Rob Bagg has emerged as the team's top ball-catcher through the opening seven games.  The Queen's product seems to be as healthy as ever before and when he runs, he just floats or glides, but is going at top speed.  I'd still like to see a race between Bagg and Weston Dressler.  And Bagg has Darian Durant's back.

"I think he's the best quarterback in the league," Bagg asserted on CKRM after Saturday's game.  "Sometimes numbers don't tell everything but just his leadership in the locker room and his ability to make the play when it most matters.  I think that speaks volumes about him.  I would rather play for him than anyone else in the league so I'm not really complaining about our offense and as long as we're winning games I don't think anyone else should either."

Strong words but for the naysayers, they'll go in one ear and out the other.

However like Rob also said after the game, "Would you rather us throw for 500 yards and lose?"  That was the case in 2011 when the team started 1-7 under Greg Marshall and Doug Berry.  Some people are just downright angry right now and the team has won four games in a row.  I don't get it!

4 - Random thoughts from the weekend:

* Saturday was the first sellout of the year and hopefully it touches off a string of sellouts the rest of the way.  The team is on pace to sellout the Labour Day Classic, but there are still tickets available.

* Everyone's awake now!  The Grey Cup hangover is officially over.  Everyone's into the games and everyone has an opinion on the Green & White.  It took awhile, but we're back to normal.  That's great for guys like me!  Blog hits are through the roof.

* One interesting tidbit we learned about veteran Rider defensive back Paul Woldu during an interview on the SaskTel Maxtron during the game: he plays the guitar.

* Having the practice roster players in neon green t-shirts actually IN the crowd during the game to work fans into a frenzy was an innovative touch.  I've never seen that before in pro football!  RB Anthony Allen and DL Markus White were the ones who got the crowd into it the most.

* Kicker Chris Milo missed two field goals and one was returned 122 yards for a touchdown by Montreal's Duron Carter.  Coach Chamblin noted on the postgame show that Milo is struggling right now but all players go through phases like this and he'll work himself out of it under the guidance of Special Teams Coordinator Bobby Dyce.  At least the misses didn't cost the Riders the game.

* Alouettes coach Tom Higgins, reportedly, suffered a backlash from his players for not going for a two-point conversion after the Carter return.  That was the word from CKRM sideline reporter Dave Thomas although a Montreal Gazette story said the Montreal players back Higgins.  If a two-point conversion was successful, it would've tied the game however if it was no good, they still would have been down by two points which was immaterial.  You have to wonder if Tom lost the faith of his team with that move.

* Curious comment by new Regina Pats coach John Paddock on CKRM's pregame show.  When asked about the game, Paddock said dryly, "I'm not much of a CFL fan".  Whoops!

* The voice of the Pats, Phil Andrews, and I will take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Monday afternoon in the Brandt Centre Monday afternoon.  Then, hopefully this fad goes away and people simply donate to www.als.net.

* Regina Pats training camp opens Thursday at the Cooperators Centre.  Are you excited?

* Congratulations to the PFC's Regina Thunder who opened the new season with a 16-13 win over the Saskatoon Hilltops at Mosaic Stadium.  The summary is a few posts below.

* I don't know where/when Weston Dressler got on the field for Kansas City in Carolina last night but if he did, it wasn't for long.  I saw one report that he was on the field once with 3:00 remaining but I never saw him and I paused the screen on all offensive and special teams players with high definition to check the numbers.  Kansas City Star reporter Terez Paylor told me after the game Dressler never showed up on the stats sheet and he didn't see him on the field.  So what now for Weston?  Keep working and hope to survive the cuts I suppose.

5 - So now the Roughriders face the B.C. Lions in Week 9 next Sunday (5:00 pm, TSN, CKRM Rider Radio Network).   The Lions upped their record to 5-3 with a 33-17 win at Toronto Sunday evening.  The Argos should be flagged for having a big "A" on the chest of their new Signature Reebok jerseys.  What a nightmare for broadcasters!

As a matter of fact - as of this morning - CFL broadcasters are petitioning the league that these new jerseys be stopped or altered so that we can better pick up the numbers.  It's virtually impossible to call some of these games and if you watched last night's match, you know what I'm talking about.

In typical fashion the Roughriders have the nicest jerseys of the new line and also boast the easiest numbers to read.  Nice job guys!

Regardless the West continues its mastery over the East but the Riders now face West Division opponents in the next three weeks.  This is where we'll separate the men from the boys.

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THAT'S ALL! TRY TO ENJOY UP WEEK
RP
@sportscage