UNBEATEN AT HOME
As we all know by now, sophomore kicker Quinn Van Gylkswyk stroked a 37-yard field goal in the dying seconds to preserve a 25-25 tie and the Roughriders emerged from the first-ever game in their new stadium with a sister-kisser.
No win, but no loss, so we'll take it.
2 - THE "FEELS": The entire evening was one I personally had been waiting for for a lifetime (like many of you), so I took the time to soak up every single second of it. Arriving several hours early was a good idea since the new security personnel took a good chunk of that time rifling through my briefcase. That was annoying but as we all know, they're "just doing their job".
Once the stadium filled up, the place was super loud but nothing like what it will be. And it's a different type of loud than Taylor Field. It's thunderous, enveloping, and intimidating. It'll take awhile to come up with the accurate words to describe how it's different than the old place, but it is. I love it.
However when the team plays for real in the regular season, or hosts playoff games and Grey Cups, it'll be as loud - or louder - than Taylor Field. And that place was legendary for its sound.
3 - BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER: It was an up-and-down game for many players, just like training camp itself. Most of the comments I've heard from the players was that they thought they played well - as a team and individually - and that includes quarterback Brandon Bridge. Frankly, Saturday night was the best I've ever seen him. He fearlessly stood in the pocket while it collapsed and still made throw after throw. He had by far the highest efficiency rating of the three Rider quarterbacks (111.2 compared to Bryan Bennett's 63.9 and Marquise Williams' 97.9).
Meanwhile Rider Coach and GM Chris Jones labelled Bryan Bennett as "shaky", and his play didn't resemble much at all of what we'd seen in Saskatoon. It really doesn't matter which group of 11 was on the field with Bennett when he fumbled several times Saturday night, (twice the ball was lost to the other team). It appeared on one of those plays that he double-clutched when his receiver was in the wrong place, and wound up losing the ball's grip. That's unfortunate, but it's also too bad that Bennett couldn't do enough good things to counter the bad things. We'll see how it affects him on cutdown day next weekend.
Meanwhile rookie Marquise Williams was one of the pleasant surprises of the entire evening for the Green & White. He's been here the least amount of time of all pivots, but Chris Jones didn't hesitate at all to throw him out there with 0:51 remaining with the task of marching down the field and saving the game. Luc Mullinder and I were both surprised - but pleasantly surprised - that Williams was the one trotted out there by Jones with the game on the line.
And then when Marquise got the offense down to the Winnipeg 30-yard line with 0:08 remaining, he was mobbed by his teammates and other quarterbacks on the sidelines for getting the job done.
Siiiiiiigh. What a great feeling to know this team is clearly going in the right direction, and there are several options at the quarterback position for the future.
4 - EVERYWHERE ELSE: It's too bad that video of that game isn't available to dissect after the fact because it truly is a different game the second time around. But thumbs up to receiving leader Antwane Grant (3/63), rushing leader Cameron Marshall (4/31, 7.8 avg) and tackles leader Jonathon Newsome (4). The team also registered three sacks which is already a big leap ahead of last year at this time. By my records, the takedowns came from Newsome, A.C. Leonard and Davis Tull.
Who won the Line of Scrimmage battle? In this one, it was about even with each team recording three sacks and the Bombers counting 87 rushing yards to the Riders' 77.
The game was in no way relatable to the regular season because there were 141 players dressed and the teams used them all. But overall, I liked the way the Riders stacked up against the Blue Bombers man on man, and #1 Winnipeg quarterback Matt Nichols didn't look overly spectacular. (He had the third-highest efficiency rating of the four QBs they used).
5 - KEEP THE LIGHTS ON: It was another of those nights where we didn't want to leave the stadium once the game was over. I was thrilled to have the game end in a 25-25 draw at the conclusion of regulation time but in my excitement, I forgot there's no overtime in the preseason. Saturday night was only the second time in my 19 seasons that an exhibition game was tied after 60 minutes and I forgot the protocol.
Oh well, it wasn't a big gaffe and there were plenty of mistakes to go around on the evening. That's what the exhibition season is for. I'm thankful to colour commentator Luc Mullinder for clarifying!
That's what makes live broadcasts fun.
6 - THE BROADCAST: Overall it was fine for the maiden voyage but it wasn't without its hiccups. Our broadcast feed dropped at least 20 times during our portion of the pregame show which is considerably unnerving when you're live on five radio stations across the province and there are literally hundreds of thousands of listeners either over-the-air or online. It does make it difficult to concentrate on what you're supposed to be talking about.
|The First Broadcast: Hoffman, Pedersen & Mullinder|
As far as Luc and my broadcast went, I thought he was verrrrrry good. He's already developed a real nice style and it's going to be a pleasure to work with him.
And about New Mosaic Stadium, it's an honour to set foot in there each and every time we do and an even bigger thrill to call a game in that plush environment.
I left the facility Saturday night feeling very grateful and fortunate to have this role. I still "gulp" every time I think about it.
7 - MORE ON THE STADIUM: One Rider fan informed me that the "Paid Parking" lot at Evraz Place was empty during the game and featured acres and acres of vacant parking spots as Rider Priders declined to pay $300 for the season.
That fan took a city bus to the game, and then cabbed it home in the second half. But wouldn't that cab ride have cost far more than $30?
Call me crazy but I've paid $45US to park at Century Link Field in Seattle and $40US to park at Lakers and Cowboys games. To me, it's just part of the deal if you want the luxury of having your own car there.
So several of these parking spots are still available for purchase from the Riders? My guess is that after this weekend, they won't be around for long.
8 - STILL MORE ON THE STADIUM: You only open a stadium once so let's look back at Saturday night from all angles. It was entertaining to sift through my friends' Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds on Sunday and read their reviews of the game and New Mosaic Stadium.
Among the complaints were: 1) Not being able to leave the stadium to get their jacket from their car, 2) $9 beers and 3) other expensive concession items.
Fortunately, I didn't see many complaints about bathroom lineups so that seems to have alleviated itself. The concession lineups are no longer than any other stadium on the planet so if you want to eat at the game, you need to be prepared to wait in line.
And regarding the cost of everything, that's what it's going to take to enjoy this beautiful new stadium!
That's why over the past couple of years I begged fans to enjoy the low cost of everything at Taylor Field because you got what you paid for.
The same goes in the new place. You can't move into the most decadent facility in the Canadian Football League and expect to enjoy low rent prices.
For instance, I purchased two $30 tickets for Saturday's game but my Visa total was $97. "WHAT THE... ?"
That's the price of success but hopefully before long that sting will wear off and this team will be so good you won't mind paying for it.
9 - THE CUTDOWN: The Roughriders bussed back to Saskatoon immediately following the game and it gave the coaches an extra two hours to go over the video of the game on their Ipads. Again, that is video that would be real nice to watch again.
Normally by this date the Roughriders would've had to make their initial wave of cuts (likely 10-12 players) but the rules have been changed and now there's just one cutdown day: Saturday, June 17. Frankly, those first dozen cuts likely would be relatively easy for the coaches to have made but that's not the case anymore.
The final cuts, however, will be extremely difficult with this bunch. It's a very talented group and there's not a ton separating the top of the pack from the bottom. Saturday's game didn't provide any clearcut decisions. This isn't a surprise when you consider the training camp invite list was manicured for months ahead of time, and the coaches had a chance to see almost all of the rookies at the Florida minicamp in April.
But the good news is, just like the Green & White mock scrimmage on June 3, this team has a lot of talent and it's working together.
This looks like it's going to be a fun summer.
THAT'S IT! SEE YOU ON THE RADIO AT 4!