FRIDAY ODDS 'N ENDS
- The trusty flag of the Rider Nation still waves proudly over Saskatchewan after the seemingly longest bye week ever. The 1-2 Saskatchewan Roughriders oppose the 1-3 Toronto Argonauts Saturday at Mosaic Stadium to close out Week 5 of the 2014 CFL season (8:00 pm, TSN, CKRM Rider Radio Network). While some have tabbed the clash a "must-win game", I don't agree but assuredly is a battle of two desperate clubs. Despite the Riders' uncharacteristic struggles out of the starting blocks, their fans are still behind them. Let's see if it is indeed a "brand new season" as Coach Chamblin optimistically pointed out on Tuesday.
- The forecast is a soggy one for Saturday's game. The weatherman calls for a high of 19 degrees Celsius (66 above Fahrenheit) and a 70% chance of showers. I have no idea how many tickets have been sold for the match however given the fact it's a Saturday night home game, you've got to think Mosaic Stadium will be jammed to capacity.
- The Riders are 6.5-point favourites and the over/under is a modest 51 points. The Argos trounced the Riders 48-15 at Rogers Centre in Week 2 for their only win of the season.
- Star Rider receiver Chris Getzlaf was ruled out for Saturday's game with a nagging leg injury which he says has "compounded" since the beginning of training camp. He told reporters on Thursday that the injury is both "mentally and physically frustrating". With the Argos missing their most dangerous threat Chad Owens, I suppose it's a wash but the Rider offense has been anemic without #89.
- Week 5 in the CFL opened on Thursday with an entertaining showdown in Edmonton between the Eskimos and Calgary Stampeders. The Stampeders held on for a last-minute 26-22 win which upped their record to 4-0 and will assuredly perch them atop the CFL's Power Rankings next week. The Eskimos fell to 4-1 but had they gotten out of their own way Thursday night, the game was there for the taking. TSN's Glen Suitor said at the game's conclusion Edmonton's special teams "let them down" in the first half and a spate of penalties in the second half didn't help the cause. But that's Calgary. They're not going to make a mistake or give games away. In the regular season.
- I shut the TV off as the Stampeders were in the "V"-formation but Twitter was abuzz after the game because Eskimo coach Chris Jones reportedly skipped the postgame handshake with Calgary's John Hufnagel. Boys will be boys.
- Week 5 continues Friday evening with the BC Lions home to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in a game which has the Lions favoured by a whopping 8-points. BC's Kevin Glenn will make his 159th career start at quarterback and has a 7-6 career mark against Winnipeg.
- Drew Willy gets the start for Winnipeg and he has a career record of 4-4 as a starter. Drew has been sacked 14 times since Week 1 which is the most by a quarterback in the CFL this year. I didn't think he'd survive this long.
- One more: BC coach Mike Benevides has a record of 26-14 and CFL Game Notes say he's never gone into a game with a career record below .500.
- Happy Geroy Simon Day! That's the proclamation in Vancouver on Friday but we may as well observe the holiday as well since he's drawing paycheques from the Roughriders. Geroy will be properly feted in Vancouver today and will be added to the Lions' hallowed Ring of Honour at halftime. The whole situation seems strange and the Vancouver Province called Geroy's relationship with the Lions "strained" in Friday's edition. Writer Ed Willes went so far as to call the current scenario "awkward". Either way, this gesture by the BC franchise is admirable and noble and it promises to be a great night. Lions President Dennis Skulsky said Thursday there will be a position for Simon waiting within the organization somewhere down the line. After watching video of Geroy's glory days, he certainly made it look easy.
- Speaking of former great Rider receivers, we got a live report from Kansas City Chiefs camp on Thursday's SportsCage and our reporter Tim Walker in K.C. said Weston was working at wide receiver and on punt returns. He reported that several spectacular catches by Dressler drew several cheers from the crowd which, reportedly, is rare. I was smiling on the outside while listening to the report, but crying on the inside. Here are some of Tim's outstanding photos. I've never met him before, but out of the goodness of his heart he called up our show to give a great update and then forwarded these pics last night:
- This is Peter King-style stuff! Thanks Tim.
- With Dressler gone, there's no clear cut number-one jersey seller for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Rider Store staff tell me it's a toss-up between Durant and Getzlaf for the top seller right now. The topic came up when the NFL reported this week Cleveland quarterback Johnny Manziel has the #1-selling jersey in that league early on this season. Behind Manziel are Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Peyton Manning, Richard Sherman and Michael Sam according to NFLshop.com and Dick's Sporting Goods.
- A search for news on Kory Sheets' progress at Oakland Raiders camp turned up crickets.
- Meanwhile the Riders remain in search of a trusted tailback to replace Sheets and here's a guess that all of Will Ford, Jerome Messam and Anthony Allen will be on the roster for Saturday's game against the Argonauts. Rookie Keith Toston remains in the shadows by Coach Chamblin said on Thursday that it's not a "negative thing" with Toston. Chamblin said Toston's done nothing wrong and will get his opportunity at some point. I got flamed by some fans this week for saying it's a "Coach's Decision" but not elaborating as to why. It's not arrogance or "waving it in the fans' face" as some people have put it. It's simply covering my butt. Unfortunately fans don't have the right to know everything that's going on with the team. And in this case, it's nothing inflammatory nor salacious.
- We had an interesting chat with Riders Defensive Coordinator Richie Hall on CKRM's Coaches Show this week. I noted that Richie always finds a quiet corner of the press box to seemingly meditate just prior to kickoff at all home games. "Pint" said he takes that time to say a little prayer and clear his mind for the match ahead. At halftime Richie and fellow assistants sprint down the ramps, dodging fans, to get into the locker room at halftime before returning before the second half kickoff. He smiled and said he gets "plenty of wisdom and advice" from the fans as he runs by.
- Week 5 continues on Saturday with the Ottawa RedBlacks taking on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at McMaster University in Hamilton. Ottawa pivot Henry Burris may have revenge on his mind after having a can tied to him by the Ticats last winter. Regarding seeing the Ticats lose, Burris told reporters, "It wasn't sad. It was good to see them lose because they're an eastern opponent."
- Hamilton Spectator reporter Drew Edwards wrote this week "Life with (Ticats coach and GM) Kent Austin when he's losing is categorically awful".
- The hot topic around Regina these days, amongst hockey people anyways, is the still vacant head coaching job with the Regina Pats. We've heard the names Trent Cassan, John Torchetti, David Struch, Lorne Molleken, Mike Sillinger and Jamie Heward being tossed around for months. The next head coach could be one of those names, or none of them.
- Mike Rooney's Western Prospects Development Camp went this week at Regina's Cooperators Centre for the top draft-eligible bantam hockey players in western Canada and the western USA. Evaluators tell me Lloydminster defenceman Ty Smith was the top-rated player while Lucas Sillinger, son of Mike, was in the Top 10.
- Great news to hear hockey maven Barry Trapp will be scouting for the Regina Pats this winter. "Trapper" will be scouting Arizona, Texas and California for the team he once coaches. Wonder if he needs a navigator?
- The Regina Pats are hiring a Director of Ticket Sales. Interested parties should email Cliff Mapes at email@example.com with a resume and salary expectations.
|C-Bear and me at Currie Field|
- Kudos to WHL fan favourite Rocky Thompson for landing a job with the Edmonton Oilers as assistant coach this week. The former Medicine Hat Tigers tough guy spent the past four years as an assistant with the Oklahoma City Barons. The 36-year old Cree from Whitecourt, AB is 12 years out of the NHL, having played 25 games in "The Show".
- Your division-leading Regina Red Sox are home Friday evening to the Weyburn Beavers at Currie Field. First pitch is 7:05. It appears there will be playoff baseball once again in the Queen City thanks to the magic of skipper Scottie Douglas. Tuesday evening was "CKRM Night" at the ballpark and we had a wonderful time with my family down in the Bullpen.
- Incidentally Saturday is Rider Pride Day at Currie Field with the start time being moved up to 4:00 pm to accommodate the Rider game. All fans wearing Green & White will receive half off their gate admission!
THAT'S ALL FOR TODAY! HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND AND GO RIDERS!