|Durant's last dance? Photo cred: Canadian Press|
In fact, my girls were adorned in Rider jerseys at Friday's game at Commonwealth Stadium and didn't receive so much as a heckle from Eskimo fans. "Not one," said 20-year old Caeley, despite the fact the Riders lost 33-25.
Hats off to the fans of the Green & Gold!
2 - Same goes for the Eskimos themselves, who survived a late scare Friday night to hand the Saskatchewan Roughriders their fifth-straight loss and leave the Riders at 1-8. It's true -- we are halfway through the 2016 season and it hasn't exactly gone by in a blink. The outlook looks bleak for the Riders who have dug themselves into a remarkably deep hole. With Edmonton and Winnipeg continuing to win, the mountain has gotten steep.
If a 9-9 record is going to get you into the playoffs this year, the Riders would have to go 8-1 the rest of the way and that prospect looks dim given their lengthy losing streak. But enough with the "Rider Math" (as Rider fan Chris Pollock labelled it Saturday at West Edmonton Mall).
3 - Saskatchewan can only win one game at a time and it starts with Sunday's Labour Day Classic against Winnipeg. I've already heard it dozens of times since Friday's game concluded: "The Riders always win on Labour Day Weekend". The fact is the Roughriders are 33-16 all-time in the L.D.C. and have won the past 11 consecutive games against Winnipeg on September long weekend. And this Sunday's 50th edition will be the last one at Old Mosaic Stadium.
But we've got a full week to get ready for that one.
4 - Let's reflect for a second on the current situation of the Roughriders who fell down 22-0 to the Eskimos in the second quarter Friday night before trailing 22-3 at halftime. When the club was walking off the field toward their locker room at the break, it seemed like the vast majority of them had their heads down and were already defeated. Head Coach & GM Chris Jones sprinted past each and every one of them, swatting them on their butt or backs and appearing to say something to the effect of, "Keep your heads up! We've got 30 minutes to go!"
I'd love to know what Jones - or quarterback Darian Durant - said during that halftime break because the club came out and scored 16 unanswered points in the third quarter to trail 22-19 going into the final period.
Do you believe in miracles?
Unfortunately the Eskimos took over from there, as you know, with a Mike Reilly touchdown, a Sean Whyte field goal and a Grant Shaw punt single to put the game away.
But there were several encouraging signs.
5 - The Roughriders have won the turnover battle in two of their last three games. On Friday night, Rider DB Ed Gainey registered the game's lone "takeaway" and the turnover ratio read 1-1 at game's end due to the Riders' late Turnover On Downs. However the football guys don't count TODs in the category of ball security.
The offense has done some great things with second-, and third-stringers for weeks on end.
It was disturbing that the defense had no answer for Mike Reilly and Shakir Bell on Friday night but if there's one thing I'm not concerned about on a Chris Jones team, it's how the defense will be once he has the guys in there he wants.
Darian Durant did literally everything in his power to will the team to victory at Commonwealth Stadium the other night. Sadly, he was let down by so many costly drops and the quarterback's angst was evident on the TSN broadcast. (See: Death Stare).
I actually got nauseous on the Riders' third series Friday night when Durant, feeling he'd have to take matters into his own hands on 2nd-and-10, dove head-first on a 10-yard run to get a first down. He was briefly shaken up after the hit, and had to come out of the game.
That got the Twitter trolls from the Calgary area filling my Notification Feed, but I replied that Darian can't do it by himself. But he was trying.
Fortunately the offense got its collective act together in the second half and showed us more than a glimpse of what we've been waiting for for weeks.
Will they roll from here? We'll know in a week but I'd guess the offensive personnel will remain largely the same except for those coming back from injury (i.e. Rob Bagg and maybe even Chris Best). They'd make a heckuva difference.
6 - There's a rumbling under-current within the Riders about Darian Durant's status past this season. Not too many fans have put 2-and-2 together and realized that Durant's contract is up at the end of the 2016 season. Do the Saskatchewan Roughriders want him back in 2017? Does Darian even want to come back?
"I could see him signing with Winnipeg," said one CFL-type to me before Friday's game.
Clearly the focus right now is on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Labour Day Classic but somebody in management has to be thinking about what this football club would be like without Durant.
At 34, Durant has gone on record as saying he wants to play 10 more seasons. That seems like a lot right now, but seven or eight more years seem reasonable and I'd like to think he's still in his prime. He just set the CFL record for most consecutive pass attempts without an interception and he's currently the club's leading rusher.
To me, it would seem unfathomable that Darian Durant wouldn't be a part of this rebuild and Chris Jones' faith in him has been clear for all to see.
Besides that, who's waiting in the wings? Several Rider regimes (Taman/Chamblin, O'Day/Dyce, Jones/Jones) have tossed scores of quarterbacks overboard while trying to find "the Next One".
Right now #4 is the best - and only - option.
It pains me to know that all the great things Durant has done for this franchise over the years mean nothing right now compared to what he's expected to do in the future.
7 - Has it got your goat right now that the Roughriders are under the spell of Mike Reilly and the Edmonton Eskimos? Relax and remember the Eskimos were irrelevant for a decade between 2005 and 2015.
Now may be their time but the Roughriders are reloading and it won't take anything near a decade to complete.
CBC's Glenn Reid wrote on his blog last week that Chris Jones' mood appears to be improving each week despite the fact the losses keep mounting.
I'd have to concur with Glenn, and maybe it's because Jones can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
And it's not a train.
8 - Hats off to the thousands upon thousands of Rider fans who filed into Commonwealth Stadium Friday night despite the fact the Riders were 6-28 in their prior 34 games. They left that evening with their club 6-29 but they were undaunted. They came in all shapes and sizes, clad from head-to-toe in Rider green and were a loud and disruptive influence all game long.
It made me secure in the feeling that "the brand" can withstand what we're currently going through.
|My gang Friday in EDM|
Eskimo P.A. announcer Al Stafford came into our booth before the game and asked the same thing, "Who started this whole idea of a conspiracy against the Riders?"
My colour commentator Carm Carteri smiled and pointed at me.
Funny what one little Tweet can do. It lit a fire from coast to coast.
Hey, it's been fun! And it proved to be a great distraction while the club was hit with some severe adversity over the past few weeks. Fans of other teams went ballistic but who cares what they think?
This is sports guys. Not life and death.
We're in the entertainment business too.
10 - Last week on the SportsCage, my co-host Mitchell Blair wondered aloud if the CFL would look at changing the mechanism for Coaches' Challenges which have been destroying our games. I scoffed thinking that, for the sake of credibility, there's no way the CFL would change its rules in the middle of the season.
And then they did. It was on Friday afternoon, after one game in Week 10 had already been played, and with three more to go.
My thoughts on the matter are well-known but Carm Carteri said on Friday's pregame show that the timing of the move "attacks the credibility of the league". He went on to say that making the move in between games in the middle of a week, "is a lack of respect for the league".
Where have I heard those comments before? Oh yeah, that's what the Roughriders were accused of by Commissioner Jeffrey L. Orridge a few weeks ago regarding their fines for Roster-Gate.
In Friday's news release about the rule change, Orridge stated "We are listening to our fans".
I immediately wondered if the old football saying, "If you listen to the fans, you will soon be sitting with them", applies to more than just coaches and GMs.
11 - The Johnny Manziel fiasco which broke late last week left more egg on the CFL's face. ESPN writer Kevin Seifert went to Toronto do a feature on the CFL but apparently misquoted Commissioner Orridge when he wrote that Orridge and the CFL would welcome Manziel - the current baddest boy of the NFL - if he wanted to resurrect his career in Canada.
Orridge took to Twitter on Thursday to clarify his remarks.
After sifting through all the newspaper stories on the situation, it seemed to me that the whole misunderstanding could've been alleviated if Orridge was more clear in his message.
So Seifert now sits in America thinking we're even more of a po-dunk league than before he even came up here.
12 - Did you know that Edmonton is the Festival Capital of Canada? It's true. And they also feel that the Oilers will boast the best line in the NHL this season with Milan Lucic, Connor McDavid, and Jordan Eberle.
Optimism is high in Oil Country but I stopped short of making a bet with a Flames fan on Sunday that the Oilers will finish ahead of Calgary in 2016-17.
One other thing I loved about Edmonton: the Scotiabank Theatre in West Edmonton Mall with its Ulta AVX screens! We caught the movie War Dogs Saturday night and have to give the movie, and the theatre experience, two thumbs wayyyyy up.
13 - Had to miss the first two days of Regina Pats training camp over the weekend but I'll be in attendance at Monday night's annual Blue & White Intrasquad Game at 7:00 at the Cooperators Arena.
If the Pats do what they're expected to do this season, Head Coach & GM John Paddock is going to be a rock star in this town.
THAT'S IT! SEE YOU ON THE RADIO AT 4:00 PM ...