|Photo Credit: Arthur Ward|
The Riders' 53-7 loss in Hamilton on August 20 was their worst defeat in 16 years and it clearly was rock bottom for the franchise. What a comforting feeling it is to know that the worst is behind the Riders, and the club has been on a steady trajectory upwards ever since.
2 - With the team's confidence growing and currently at a season-high, it really wouldn't surprise me if they don't lose another game the rest of the way. Of course it sounds prepostorous given their 3-10 record but with a bye in the upcoming Week 15 (a chance to physically heal according to Coach Chris Jones), and their final games looking like this: at Ottawa, at Toronto, home to Montreal, home to B.C. and at B.C., it's not unreasonable for them to "run the table".
That would accomplish an 8-10 record but could still mean missing the playoffs for a second-straight season.
3 - Playoffs? You wanna talk about playoffs? The Riders aren't. I posed that question to Chris Jones on Saturday's postgame show, amid the jubilant locker room celebration after their 20-18 win over Hamilton. Is the coach even mentioning "playoffs" to his team? Or has he overheard it from his players?
"No. No," Jones admitted on 620 CKRM. "Right now all we do is worry about this next game. It's the 'next game', the 'next game' -- you can't control anything anyone else does. All we can control is what we do and just go win games and have fun playing football man."
It's clear the Riders truly are having a ball right now, and it was evident in the photos from Saturday's game. The Riders had smiles on their faces, which is a deflating feeling for the opposing team. Have a look at the shot of defensive end #0 Jonathan Newsome to the right.
I think I've got a pretty good handle on the pulse of the football club and was confident when I wrote over the past few weeks that if you, as a fan, "check out" on the remainder of this season, you're going to miss out on something special.
On Saturday night, the Riders proved that to be true.
It would be a shame for them to miss the playoffs but, if they do, they know they'll only have themselves to blame.
But now isn't the time for those sentiments.
4 - From the moment the Tiger-Cats touched down in Regina on Friday, they were telling everyone far and wide that they were a banged up football team. Sure, they were missing Chad Owens, C.J. Gable, Luke Tasker, Terrence Tolliver, Courtney Stephen and Rico Murray but the Riders' injury list was at least as long and it included their fair share of All Stars too.
We never let the Riders use injuries as an excuse all season long - and to their credit they didn't - so it wouldn't be right to pin Hamilton's loss Saturday night on their injuries.
The Riders won it fair and square.
5 - That includes a huge play midway through the second quarter when a Mitchell Gale fumble at the Hamilton goalline was returned 109 yards to the Rider endzone by Ticats defensive end Adrian Tracy.
There was no need for Chris Jones to throw his challenge flag. Scoring plays and turnovers are automatically reviewed by the CFL Command Centre and that play qualified as both. Replays showed that Gale's knee was down before the ball came out and the Riders maintained possession. One play later, Darian Durant replaced Gale to score on a 1-yard run.
Initially I heard an "AHA!" coming out of CFL headquarters regarding video replay however automatic reviews of turnovers and scoring plays are universal in the NFL and College Football.
Really that's all that's needed. Pass Interference? Forget about it. Let the refs ref.
Hopefully the concept of the tedious "Coaches Challenges" is reconsidered by the CFL - and maybe even scrapped altogether - at their off-season meetings. Some of the sequences involving challenges and overturns in Saturday's Winnipeg-Calgary game made the game unwatchable.
6 - For the longest time recently, I was of the opinion that the Calgary Stampeders were so good - so robotic in their excellence - that they've become boring to watch. Their 27-7 halftime lead over the Blue Bombers on Saturday only strengthened my idea but they got too cocky and were outscored 20-6 in the fourth quarter by Winnipeg. Of course, ultimately, Calgary's final three points sealed the comeback win and continued their longest winning streak since 1995.
If it's true that teams take on the personality of their coach - and I've long maintained they do - then I'm sure Calgary's Dave Dickenson is fine with the label of being "so good that they're boring".
Are the Saskatchewan Roughriders taking on the personality of Chris Jones? If so, what is it?
7 - The NFL's Carolina Panthers employ the slogan "Keep Pounding" with great marketing success (despite their 22-10 loss to Minnesota on Sunday). Former Panthers coach Sam Mills first used the phrase in 2004 and it's stood the test of time. In fact, the Panthers have extended the slogan to their fans who are currently battling cancer, and their loved ones.
I'm big on slogans, and I respectfully submit the phrase "Choppin' Wood" to embody the rebuild effort of the Saskatchewan Roughriders under Head Coach & GM Chris Jones. He's used that phrase many times during this trying campaign and with his Riders apparently having turned the corner, maybe this is a slogan that could catch on!
8 - It will be interesting to see this week's CFL Power Rankings. With three wins, the Riders have equalled the Montreal Alouettes and the two franchises are heading in opposite directions. Now the #1 selection in the 2017 CFL Draft is up in the air.
And with their three wins, these plucky Roughriders have ensured they won't go down as the worst team (record-wise) in franchise history. Anything from here on in is just gravy.
9 - Whispers: The 2017 Saskatchewan Roughriders Plaza of Honor induction class will consist of Jim Hopson and Wes Cates. Cates - the franchise's second all-time leading rusher and 2007 Grey Cup champion - wasn't available for induction in 2016 while Hopson's lasting legacy is New Mosaic Stadium. It would be fitting for him to go in during the first season of the new facility.
10 - Condolences to the Calgary Stampeders and the family of 23-year old Mylan Hicks, the practice roster player who was killed in Calgary on Saturday night. That truly is an unfathomable tragedy and it certainly puts things into perspective.
11 - Where has the time gone? New Mosaic Stadium will play host to its first game this Saturday when the University of Regina Rams host the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in a 2:00 pm kickoff (620 CKRM, Access, Shaw). I'm incredibly honoured to have been asked to host the television broadcast which will air throughout all of Western Canada. And with the magical 3-1 start for Steve Bryce's Rams, it promises to be just a staggering day.
But stop asking me for tickets! My phone's been buzzing out of control with friends trying to get last minute seats even though the game's been sold out for weeks. Hopefully the City of Regina finds it in their hearts to open up some more sections before Saturday. They'll surely sellout in a hurry.
12 - It's inexcusable that Friday's Regina Pats 2016 home-opener wasn't a sellout. The Pats announced a crowd of 4830 for their 4-3 overtime loss to Prince Albert but it seemed like only 4000 were on hand. Although the Pats lost, the game was an incredible display of speed and finesse mixed in with some physical play.
Regina turned the tables with a 4-2 win at P.A. on Saturday night and are now off until Friday when they host the Edmonton Oil Kings.
|Thanks to Marty Kline and the Pats for the gift on Friday!|
It's amusing that other WHL East Division teams have jokingly annointed the Pats the "2017 Memorial Cup Champs" due to all of the boasting by us in the local media.
I said this will be the best Pats season in over 30 years and maybe it's because I've been in football so long. I forgot the humble, "under the radar" nature of hockey people. It's a long-standing football "thing" to puff out your chest and make bold proclamations.
But let me remind you that the WHL Broadcasters Poll also had the Pats as the runaway winners of the Eastern Conference. Now go out and prove it!
13 - Five things that made me very happy in the past week: 1) Yoga, 2) The movie "Sully", 3) My first visit to Fresh & Sweet, 4) Pumpkin Blizzards at Dairy Queen and of course, 5) My new Pats jersey!
THAT'S ALL! SEE YOU ON THE RADIO AT 4:00 PM ...