15 LABOUR DAY WEEKEND LEFTOVERS
1 - If that was the unofficial kickoff to the CFL season, then sign me up. While the new-look Saskatchewan Roughriders looked early on in Sunday's Labour Day Classic like the old Roughriders of 2015, this beleaguered football team banded together for a 37-19 victory over Winnipeg for their first win of the season. Perhaps this campaign can in fact be saved, and today we're here to examine what lies ahead for Canada's Team.
Here are some of the players' Twitter comments from after the game:
QB Brett Smith (@brettsmithqb): "Can't thank Rider fans enough for sharing this win with us! Here's to the best fans in the world on an unbelievable day! Thanks Ridernation"
REC/PR Nic Demski (@Demski9): "Thank you #RiderNation for staying behind us!! More wins to come along with touchdowns!! Let's keep rollin'!!"
RB Jerome Messam (@JMessam): "Brett Smith, Nic Demski and Ryan Smith - you guys are the future. So proud of you boys! #RiderNation"
LS Jorgen Hus (@Jhus41): "What an atmosphere to get our first win of the year! Happy for the boys on this one. Couldn't have a better locker room. 13s you guys rock!"
DL Tim Agbaje (@Tim_92): "So that's what it feels like to win a CFL game. Thanks for sticking beside us. Who saw me dump the Gatorade on the coach? :) #RiderNation #FirstWin"
2 - Look out CFL. The Roughriders have awoken. And the club is 1-0 in their retro uniforms and it's a safe bet the team will wear them until they lose.
3 - I'll just say it right now. The tandem of Jeremy O'Day and Bob Dyce in charge of the Saskatchewan Roughriders just feels right. O'Day's going to have the interim tag removed at some point this winter so let's get that straight. All of this stuff of naming other candidates is pure bunk but the reporters' efforts have been entertaining. And as far as Dyce goes, while the head coaching job will be vacant at season's end, Dyce plans to apply anyway so now he has a massive headstart on any other applicants. If Sunday's game was any indication, things are looking up.
It's a stark contrast from August of 2006 when Eric Tillman replaced Roy Shivers as GM in August. Back then Tillman said he felt like "A skunk in a submarine" because everyone was loyal to Roy and he felt like an outsider. The difference here is O'Day and Dyce were promoted from within, but are also respected across the board.
4 - Start for instance with the roster moves. There were two back-ups on the offensive line dressed (Corey Watman and Matt Vonk) rather than the usual two. Jemarcus Hardrick got his first start at right tackle and got great reviews. Canadian Matt Webster made his first CFL start at safety and had Keenan MacDougall as his back-up and while we barely had to announce their names during the game, that's always a good sign. Perhaps the safety spot will now become Canadian, which provides a good working plan for the defense. Andre Monroe made his first career start at defensive tackle and was named CKRM's Defensive Game Star registering both of the Riders' two sacks. I could go on and on and on.
Sunday was about change.
5 - Actually the week was about change when you think about it. Jeremy O'Day's first move as GM was cutting Tino Sunseri Tuesday morning. Later in the week they brought in Canadian kicker Brett Lauther as "a move towards the future". Last I heard under the old plan, Paul McCallum was the kicker going forward for the next few years to come. Perhaps he still will be (he's showing no signs of slowing down) but the addition of Lauther adds some depth.
We're starting to see a plan.
6 - How many times does the MMG have to write this: a team reflects the personality of its head coach. Up until Sunday this team was irritable and on-edge. Afraid to make a mistake, but wound up making several. However on Sunday this team was calm and resilient. They made mistakes and got down 10-0 to the Bombers early but dug deep, stuck together and came out on top. Bob Dyce is calm, resilient and a stable force. Always has been.
7 - Nic Demski. Nic Demski. Nic Demski. With apologies to the two offensive linemen (Alex Mateas and Sukh Chung) who went 1-2 in the 2015 CFL Draft, Demski is the absolute shining star of this year's draft class. The Riders took the Winnipeg and University of Manitoba product #6 overall in the first round back in May, and couldn't believe their good fortune when he was still available at that spot. CKRM Draft analyst Luc Mullinder called Demski the "Desean Jackson of the CFL". (If you don't know who that is, YouTube it). AND DEMSKI'S CANADIAN!!
Certain players have come into this franchise over the years where you've been able to see the magical things they have ahead of them. Andy Fantuz was one. Weston Dressler another. And now Nic Demski. Despite the 0-9 start, Demski continued to think the Rider Nation is the greatest thing on God's Green Earth and moved here lock, stock and barrell with his girlfriend. His agent says Demski's loved every minute of being a Roughrider. As they say, "Give him what he wants".
Make sure he stays here for his entire career.
8 - Demski doesn't seem like the type that will let the hoopla go to his head. I'm not around the team as much as I used to be, but Demski lives in Harbour Landing and we've visited at the local Dairy Queen. He's got it all. And hopefully Bob Dyce doesn't go too hard on Demski for showboating on his way into the endzone on his 60-yard punt return touchdown on Sunday. As a guy who knows a thing or two about showboating, Demski was just letting all the frustrations of the past three months out. The TSN commentators noted Demski's lack of ball security but basically said "Can you blame him?" regarding the celebration.
Besides it's easier to get a player to tone down his spirit rather than have to light a fire under his butt. And Demski's got lots of fire.
His taunting the Bombers has been described as "classless", and even he admitted to "rubbing it in their face" on CKRM after the game. But let's give the kid a break. He's young.
9 - Is it bad that I now know all of the Dairy Queen front counter people by name? Sergei and Robbie are my favourites.
10 - Thanks to Sportsnet for putting CKRM's play-by-play calls in their highlight package of the Riders-Bombers game. I'm particularly proud of the call on the Demski touchdown. Screaming and hoarse? Yes. Emotional? very.
11 - The "First Take" column on this blog one week ago after the Taman/Chamblin firings drew 30,000 hits (an all-time blog record). That was for the analysis, not the news. There's a big difference between the two, and I'll cover that in my upcoming symposium on blogging/social media/branding.
12 - It's Better In The Stands. We will never, ever forget the 2015 Labour Day Classic. Bob Dyce's first career win, snapping the 0-9 start and Nic Demski's 60-yard punt return touchdown were the stories of the day. That, and the card stunt at the beginning of the game. The rest of the country is giving bouquets to Rider Nation today. Take a minute and savour it again, if you were there.
13 - Kudos to the fans. Saturday was a long, trying day on 2015 Roughrider Fan Day at Mosaic Stadium as fans sat in the rain for an hour waiting for the Riders to come onto the field and then waited another hour for the team's walk-through to finish. All tolled, Rider fans waited about 2 1/2 hours in the rain just to get autographs from the players and coaches and this year they didn't have free hotdogs to keep them warm.
Roughriders President Craig Reynolds was on hand with his wife and kids and waited through it all with us. Kudos also to the Roughrider staff who showed up on what I believe is one of the biggest days of the year for the franchise.
And finally a HUGE kudos to the team who shivered under makeshift tents for a full hour to make sure everyone got an autograph or a picture.
That's why you love this team and that's why you've stuck by them.
It was an honour to be asked to MC the event for a 17th-straight year and was it was nice to get a 'Thank you' from Craig Reynolds.
14 - There were probably more people at Rider Fan Day on Saturday than there were for Friday night's University of Regina Rams game at Mosaic Stadium, and I was at both. The Rams lost their season-opener 29-22 to the University of Alberta and there was some sort of on-field spat between coaches Mike Gibson and Chris Morris.after the game. The rumour is Gibson's upset the Golden Bears secretly taped the Rams' preseason game against Calgary in Medicine Hat the week before which gave them a leg up in their prep. Truthfully - if there's no rule against it - I don't see what the problem is. We'll be sure to ask Gibson about it during his weekly radio hit with us on Tuesday's SportsCage.
15 - The Regina Pats went 1-2 in the Rookie Showcase preseason tournament they held last week at the Cooperators Centre. Do you know the scores or who they played? Likely not. The Pats have been criticized for the lack of an all-out marketing blitz entering the 2015-16 WHL season but maybe that's their marketing strategy: why blow the budget when it'll just get lost in the shuffle while the Roughriders season is on? We'll do our best to get the word out for the Queen City Kids.
However one thing this new ownership does better than the last is W-I-N. Once that's taken care of, most everything else falls into place.
One other hockey note: hopefully you'll be in attendance at Tuesday morning's annual University of Regina President's Breakfast at Queensbury. I'll have the great opportunity to interview this year's guest speaker Kelly Hrudey on stage for those in attendance.
THAT'S ALL FOR TODAY. ENJOY UP WEEK!