RAPID FIRE THURSDAY THOUGHTS
1 - VERY CONFUSING: The CFL weekly Game Notes package has amended what it's going to take for the Roughriders to stay in the playoff hunt. Many of you are aware of the Riders' current situation and what the standings scenario looks like but many others are like me - bad at math - and need a refresher. According to CFL Statistician Steve Daniel, the Riders can go 4-1 the rest of the way and still make the playoffs. They've got two wins while B.C. and Winnipeg each have four. One of those teams is going to achieve five wins because they play each other but if they go winless other than that, the Riders are in if they take care of business. The Riders MUST finish ahead of those two teams because they've lost the tiebreaker to both. Five wins by the Riders would help their cause even more. Of course there's the Montreal factor, and the fact the Alouettes' five current wins have them in position for the first-ever Eastern crossover into the West, but for now we won't worry about that.
Very rarely have we even seen, in any league, a scenario where a team overcomes these odds. But there's a first for everything and maybe 2015 will be it.
2 - NEED A BAGG WITH THAT?: For my money, Rob Bagg has been the most outstanding Roughrider since Labour Day. He's got 14 catches for 225 yards in that span and carries a three game touchdown streak into Saturday's game at BC. Of course his outstanding play coincides with his move to slotback in place of the injured Chris Getzlaf and Bagg admitted he's only "keeping the position warm" until Getzlaf gets back. However it's impossible not to notice Bagg's heroic efforts and you have to wonder if the thought has crossed his mind what his career would've been like if he'd spent the entire time at slotback. That's where he played at Queen's University. However Bagg's lot is to not complain and he's gained even more respect as of late, if that's possible. He'll go down as one of the all-time great Roughriders and I'm guessing he's one of the reasons why the Rider Nation can't find it in their hearts to give up on this team despite this season's struggles.
3 - UPDATE ON GETZLAF: 2015 would have to be one of the more frustrating seasons in Chris Getzlaf's nine-year career. Not only is his team struggling, but he's found himself on the injured list yet again with a left foot injury. We're told he participated in Wednesday's closed practice and head coach Bob Dyce said things look "positive" for his return but he's not prepared to put a timetable on it.
4 - YOSHI: Another guy who's been impossible not to notice lately is first year Roughrider offensive tackle Jermarcus Hardrick, and that's not just because of his 6'7", 320 lb frame. He's started every game at right tackle since the coaching change and his enthusiasm has been undeniable. Hardrick's been hustling down field blocking on plays (which isn't easy for a man that size) and celebrating in the endzone with teammates after touchdowns. In fact he almost crushed Rob Bagg in Sunday's win over Montreal.
Everybody has a story and on Wednesday I asked Jermarcus what his is. He explained that he had a rough upbringing in Mississippi and didn't meet his father until he was 16-years old. That's because his dad was jailed when Jermarcus was only three months old. His mother lives in a trailer park in Mississippi and Hardrick said he thinks of her before every game. He's got a second chance at football and swore he'd make the most of it. Is he ever!
I asked Jermarcus if he has a nickname and he admitted it's "Yoshi". Why? Because his older brother's nickname is Mario and their childhood friends tabbed Jermarcus as "Yoshi", Mario's dinosaur companion in the popular video game Super Mario.
5 - CATO: It appears Montreal quarterback Rakeem Cato made the right move by forcing the Riders' hand into dropping him off their negotiation list in May so that he could join the Alouettes. He finds himself in the starter's role this week after Als coach/GM Jim Popp elected to sit down Jonathan Crompton after a sub-par performance in Regina in Week 13. Had Cato come to camp with the Riders - and made the team - he'd still on the bench behind Kevin Glenn.
6 - A SCOUTING MISNOMER: Personnel people in all sports get incredibly wound up in "who found who" and it's understandable since that's how they build their track record. The Roughriders identified Rakeem Cato and Drew Willy but they've wound up starting for other teams. The Argonauts found Zach Collaros but he's now with Hamilton. The B.C. Lions discovered Mike Reilly, but he's now starrring for the Edmonton Eskimos. And the Calgary Stampeders gave Henry Burris his first opportunity but he cut his teeth elsewhere, for the most part. In the CFL it appears, it's not where you start but rather where you end up.
7 - SOCIAL MEDIA: The world of Facebook, Twitter and blogs may be a bit of a pain in the butt for those not up-to-speed but its power is undeniable. Newly-acquired Roughrider offensive lineman Aaron Picton admitted on CKRM this week that he found out about his trade from Calgary on Twitter from the Roughriders' account. Hockey defenceman Keith Aulie discovered on Twitter on Sunday that he'd been released by the Arizona Coyotes. It seems that if you're not constantly surfing these apps, you're going to be left in the dust. And that includes news about yourself!
8 - A CFL RULE: Aaron Picton will not be practicing with the Roughriders while toiling with the Regina Rams. A CFL rule stipulates that junior players may practice with CFL teams (a la Dan Clark, Mitch Thompson and Preston Bews) but CIS players may not. I point this out because some listeners wrote into the SportsCage asking about it this week.
9 - OKAY BLUE JAYS: The Blue Jays clinched the AL East pennant on Wednesday and the nation is celebrating. But on Wednesday's SportsCage we asked listeners where they were the last time the Blue Jays accomplished the feat in 1993. We discovered no one could remember where they were when the Jays last finished first, but everyone could recall where they were when Toronto won the World Series. The point? The Jays haven't accomplished anything yet. They're certainly on the right track - demolishing everything in their path - but the road really has just begun. One has to wonder if Alex Anthopoulous and John Gibbons will go down in history like Pat Gillick and Cito Gaston did.
10 - DUB HUB: It was a treat to visit with P.A. Raiders GM Curtis Hunt on the SportsCage this week. He pointed out the early parity in the WHL East Division as all teams emerged from opening weekend with a win under their belt. Despite their 1-0-0-1 record, the Brandon Wheat Kings remain the undisputed #1 team in the country in the CHL's rankings. Some of my co-workers questioned why this is since some of the QMJHL teams have played a half dozen games already but I explained the CHL panel is made up of a group of NHL scouts who know the Wheat Kings are the top team in the nation even though they've only played a pair of games ... The Pats welcome Brandon Saturday night at 7:00 pm in a game where Regina will unveil new jerseys. The contest will be televised live on Access 7 ... One last question: will we ever see a Regina Pats Booster Club again? That would be great.
THAT'S ALL FOR TODAY! THANKS FOR STOPPING BY