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Titan Auto

Thursday, July 30, 2015


1 - THE BUBBLE HAS BURST:  Standing beside Riders head coach Corey Chamblin on Wednesday when he was delivering the news that QB Kevin Glenn is out with a torn pectoral muscle and is headed to the 6-game injured list, I wondered if he feels some sense of relief.  I know it's crazy, but that's just the feeling that came over me at the time.  Simply my opnion, I don't know what he's thinking.

With this team down to its third string quarterback, the monstrous expectations of the season have been obliterated and therefore so should any talk of him losing his job.  Are we calling the season over?  No, not by a longshot.  But to fire a man with these set of circumstances stacked against him would be downright ridiculous.  Just as ridiculous as the talk of Paul Lapolice coaching here by Labour Day.

The biggest question now is:  will this franchise return to prominence upon the return of Darian Durant?

2 - WHAT THE RIDERS ARE THINKING:  The above is one man's opinion.  As always.  But if you want to know how the Roughriders themselves are feeling at 0-5, ravaged by injuries, and heading into Edmonton to face the CFL's hottest team this Friday, take a listen to Special Teams Coach Bob Dyce's comments from Wednesday's Coaches Show on 620 CKRM.

"It's funny.  Even in my special teams meeting we had to start the day today, I said the only thing we know is we're not going to be 18-0 or 16-2," Dyce said.  "But we have a goal of hosting a playoff game.  From there, we have a goal of winning it and getting to the Grey Cup.  We still have that opportunity.  I kind of likened it to an arrow hitting its target.  Before it goes forward, it gets pulled back.  Right?  Right now we've been pulled back a bit but when we get unleashed, we're going to go forward with great efficiency and great effort to hit our target."

How inspiring!  That's a leader.  And I'm sure Chamblin is saying the same thing behind closed doors.

3 - HEADING TO EDMONTON:  Somebody asked me the other day what it feels like to go into Commonwealth Stadium with the Roughriders.  I used to hate it.  Over a decade ago, when you went in there the hair on neck would stand up.  You'd literally have goosebumps and butterflies for days before the game.  It felt like you not only were playing the Edmonton Eskimos, but you were playing Warren Moon, Tom Wilkinson, Dan Kepley, Hec Pothier and all the rest of them.  For whatever reason, that place has become a lot more hospitable and the people in the Eskimos organization are gracious hosts.  Going to the Alberta capital now is a welcome feeling.

That may change shortly after 7:00 pm on Friday however, as the Eskimos are likely planning to pulverize rookie starting quarterback Brett Smith into next week.  Ratings on television and radio will likely be huge as the country peers in to see the possible wreckage.  Win or lose it seems, the Roughriders are front page news.  Sportsnet's even sending a crew to Edmonton to cover the team's news conference today and I haven't seen hide nor hair of them for years.

Perhaps Smith and the Riders will surprise the world.  Maybe Friday will be his coming out party!  This is how stars are born, that's for sure.

4  - ARROGANCE IN EDMONTON:  Don't tell John Lynch that the Eskimos are gracious however.  The football maven and Hall of Fame Roughrider broadcaster commented on the SportsCage this week that the Riders basically don't have a hope going into Friday's game.  And two key guys are behind what makes the Eskimos tick these days.

"They gotta jump on the Eskimos real quick," Lynch fumed.  "Since 1949 we've won about 22 games in Edmonton.  We don't win in Edmonton very often!  The Eskimos are on a roll.  Chris Jones and Ed Hervey, two very arrogant guys in Edmonton as you know, they want to keep winning and they're in first place right now."

God bless Lynch.  We've lost Bob Hughes.  Let's treasure Lynch while he's still around.

4 - EL PRESIDENTE:  Almost daily I get asked by Rider fans, "How's Hoppy doing?", "What's Hoppy thinking?".  Of course they're referring to former Roughrider President Jim Hopson whose tenure with the club ran out in March after 10 wildly successful seasons with the club.  So I brought Jim on the radio to ask him those very questions.

"Like everybody I'm frustrated," Hopson said from Regina Beach.  "I still believe this team has a lot of potential.  At the very worst, we should have two wins: the Toronto game at home and the one at BC.  We didn't.  There's a lot of passion in this province for the Riders and that's what makes us special.  When you get passion, and you're winless, people get excited.  I understand.  It hurts!  It really hurts.  I think we'll be okay as we go forward but they have a big hill to climb."

Hopson took the time to defend his GM amidst this 0-5 start.

"I had a conversation with a fan the other day after the loss and he was down on Brendan.  I told him to give Brendan a break!" Hopson laughed.  "If you look at his body of work he's just going into his fourth year as the guy in charge.  His first year in charge in 2012 he turned the franchise around.  We struggled big time the year before.  He got us to 8-10 and the playoffs.  We missed going to the final by a last-minute touchdown.  We won the Grey Cup the next year at home.  How do you discount that?  He said 'Ya but he had a stacked team'.  I said, 'Who do you think stacked it!?'

"That's the funny part.  Brendan stacked that team along with Corey Chamblin!  Ya the next year we missed out on moving on to the West Final but when you lose your starting quarterback, things are going to happen.  I think Brendan's and Corey's body of work are very, very good.  These are guys that would be in demand elsewhere if they weren't here and I hope they're here for a long time.  I think you need continuity.  You can't push the panic button.  They're proven commodities and they know what they're doing.  We just gotta rise up and we have to have some plays made."

Future Rider Hall of Famer Scott Schultz was part of that conversation and asked Jim what words of advice he'd offer new Rider President Craig Reynolds if he had the chance.

"That's a good question," Hopson reflected.  "On the business side, we haven't had a sellout yet this year.  Why is that?  Ask those questions.  Is it because we're playing so many home games in a short period of time?  But instead of using excuses, how can we attract more new fans?  We have a great season ticket base but what about the walk-up?  Ask why is that happening and are there things we can do with specials and so on to get more fans in there.  The energy that a sellout gives you is significant and also in terms of the football line.

"Craig watched me and worked with me. I think he's talking to Brendan Taman on a regular basis.  He's not the football guy and he knows that so all he can do is ask the questions that he needs to ask and offer support to make sure the guys know he's in their corner.  He's a smart young guy.

"I told him when he took over that the good times are fabulous but the tough times can make or break you.  You have to be prepared for that and know you're going to have some tough games and some tough stretches.  He's getting that right now.  It's not the first time that's happened in our history and it won't be the last.  I'm sure he wants that first win as desperately as anybody."

5 - MILO!  MILO!:  The last I heard former Rider kicker Chris Milo was selling cars at a Regina dealership which doesn't advertise on any of my shows are on this website.  So, they won't get the free plug here.  Now on Wednesday word came down that Milo is in Ottawa.  Perhaps he was visiting the nation's capital on a summer holiday or perhaps he was auditioning for the RedBlacks.  I don't know.  He'd certainly give them a nice ratio option there but it might be tough to ashcan their current kicker who booted the game-winning field goal in overtime last week against Calgary.  Delbert Alvarado.   Incidentally Alvarado's wife competed in barrell racing at the Calgary Stampede.  In fact I think she won it.

6 - JUST NOTES:  Some interesting tidbits from the CFL game notes for Week 6 -- The East is 8-5 versus the West so far in 2015.  Thank God we didn't go with the kneejerk guys and scrap alignment after last year and go with one division ... Thank God too that we didn't panic due to the low scoring and change all the rules!   Wait a minute ... The league's top three passers (yardage versus playing time) are Trevor Harris, Drew Willy and Rakeem Cato.  Perhaps we're seeing the changing of the guard there however overall, Kevin Glenn is the league's #1 passer ... BC's home loss to Toronto last Friday was the biggest lead that franchise has ever blown ... How come the Lions ALWAYS get to play Friday and Saturday nights at home?  And their attendance still lags ...

7 - MORE JUST NOTES:  Edmonton has won three in a row and is the league's hottest team ... The Calgary Stampeders and Roughriders are tied for the worst turnover ratio at -6 ... Weston Dressler is the most "targeted" Roughrider receiver with 39 (and 26 receptions).  That's 3rd-best in the CFL.  Ottawa's Chris Williams is #1 ... Dressler leads the league in "big plays" (30-yards or more) with four ... Jerome Messam leads the league in YAC yards (171).  Yesterday he asked to come on the SportsCage next week.  I told him I'd hook him up, and pass along some Press Box Sports Bar gift cards for coming on the air ... Sophomore DE Dylan Ainsworth leads the league in special teams tackles (7).  Good drafting there ... The Riders are no longer the most-penalized team in the league.  Winnipeg is.  Very Winnipeggish.

8 - ZAUNIE'S CONCERNED:  Sportsnet Blue Jay analyst and World Series champion Gregg Zaun is Toronto's biggest Roughriders fan but he's concerned.  While examining the Tulowitzki-Reyes trade on the SportsCage on Tuesday with us, Zaun took time to say, "I'm concerned" with the Riders' 0-5 record.  He's not blowing smoke.  He truly loves the team and watches every game.  A couple of weeks ago he texted "Dude - is the club getting it together?".  I wrote back that they hadn't hit rock bottom yet.  Well, now they have so let's see how they respond.

9 - ABOUT THAT TRADE:  The Blue Jays have a lot of work to do after acquiring Troy Tulowitzki but they're off to a good start after last night's 8-2 win over Philadelphia.  It was nice to see him get a standing ovation at Rogers Centre prior to his Blue Jays debut and he responded with a 2-run homer and a pair of doubles.  The Jays stand seven games out in the division and two games back of a wildcard berth.  I'm a casual baseball observer but in the 80's I could've told you the starters at all nine positions of every Major League team.  The trade on Tuesday made Toronto better because if they'd have gotten a jockstrap and a batting glove for Reyes, they'd be better off.  Hopefully Jose Bautista gets over his broken heart soon and Tulowitzki gets over having to move to Toronto from Denver.  He certainly didn't seem pleased at first.

10 - A LITTLE LATE TO THE PARTY BUT ...:  I saw an article in a Toronto newspaper that said the hiring of Lou Lamoriello by the Maple Leafs was "risky".   What?  It's the SAFEST HIRE THEY COULD'VE MADE.  He's 72 years old, has three Stanley Cup rings and spent 28 years with the same organization!  How in the world is that risky?  Sometimes writers like that give the media a bad name. ... The Swift Current Broncos plucked coach Ryan Smith away from the Humboldt Broncos on Wednesday to serve as the top assistant to Mark Lamb.  Interestingly, Riders media coordinator Ryan Pollock has been mentioned in connection with the Humboldt opening.  The former Bonnyville Pontiacs assistant was on the shortlist in Humboldt when Smith was hired.  ... Great column by Phil Andrews this week on the demolition of the old Exhibition Stadium, the former home of the Pats.  I won't shed a tear when that dump comes down because I haven't been in it in years but it still houses some great memories.  It was a treat to watch the Pats play a few games in there when the Agridome was busy back in the day and the most vivid memory was Pats goalie Todd Lumbard letting in a slapshot from centre ice from Doug Houda of the Calgary Wranglers in 1983.  Now the President of the Pats, Lumbard gets very testy when that topic comes up and insists it was deflected.  I have to calm him down and remind him I was eight years old at the time.  Perhaps my recollection isn't the best!