|Photo: Electric Umbrella/Saskatchewan Roughriders|
It was a tough one to watch Sunday afternoon at Mosaic Stadium.
The Calgary Stampeders played a great road game, grinding out a 15-9 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders and tightening their stranglehold on first place in the West Division. Even with the loss, the Riders managed to keep a step ahead of the B.C. Lions for the crossover playoff bid.
First the positives: The Rider defence was solid, but not in the usual way. Fans are getting used to the team flying around the football, getting to the quarterback and forcing a slew of turnovers. This time, there was a lot of bend, but no breaking. The Green and White defence kept the vaunted Stampeder offence out of the end zone.
Six times, the Stampeders passed the Rider 35-yard line, coming away with five field goals and once even turning the ball over on downs. They also held Bo Levi Mitchell to just 222 yards passing.
The special teams also did a great job, especially on coverage teams, holding the dynamic Roy Finch to a seven-yard average per punt return.
The negatives begin with the run defence. It was gouged again by Jerome Messam. The big Canadian running back carried the ball 23 times for 123-yards and kept extending Stampeder drives.
The most glaring setback for the Riders was the offence. To manage just seven points, even against a great Stampeder defence, was tough to watch. The Riders crossed the 55-yard line into Stampeder territory just five times - scoring once, turning the ball over three times (interception, fumble, and turnover on downs) and a deep pass on the final play to end the first half.
They could only muster 13 first downs, and finished with seven 2-and-outs.
To make things worse, if you add in the miserable second half in Hamilton last week, the offence has just 14 points and 14 2-and-outs. The second down efficiency has been atrocious and the running game virtually non-existent.
Brandon Bridge finished the game against Calgary and led the Riders on their only touchdown drive, this sparking the usual debate in Rider Nation of who will start next week.
It is a lot to worry about for any Rider fan, but with three straight winnable games against East Division foes (the next two on the road), there is still time and the opportunity to climb the West standings. It begins Friday at Ottawa.
- The Winnipeg Blue Bombers looked solid on a miserable Friday night against Ottawa. In the rain and cold, Winnipeg forced a late first half turnover and converted it into a touchdown and the 16-2 lead. It was academic the rest of the way in a 29-6 victory.
- Matt Nicolls is evolving into one of the top quarterbacks in the CFL, while the Winnipeg defence continued to force a mass of turnovers. What stood out the most was how inept the Redblacks offence was with Ryan Lindley at the helm. Without dynamic starter Trevor Harris or capable backup Drew Tate, Ottawa is in big trouble offensively, and with the B.C. Lions sandwiched between a pair of games against the Riders, it is a tough road ahead in the nation’s capital.
- It’s been tough sledding for the Edmonton Eskimos. After ripping off seven straight wins to begin the season, all the injuries caught up to them and it has been followed up with five straight losses. It is tough to tell when the misery will end for Edmonton, but with players slowly coming off the injury list, it may come soon…maybe this week against Winnipeg.
- Finally, what is going on in the dumpster fire that is the Montreal Alouettes? They look old, slow and disinterested. Hamilton lost their first 11 games of the season and has passed them in the standings and it looks like the basement is where the Alouettes will stay. With an aging core: Darian Durant, Nik Lewis, Stefan Logan, Chip Cox, John Bowman, Luc Brodeur-Jordain and Kyries Hebert all 34+ years old, a rebuild in Montreal may be a long, slow process.
Canada West Diary
- The Manitoba Bisons went on the road and knocked off the number six team in the country, Regina Rams 18-16 (fun fact - in the two games played at Mosaic Stadium this weekend, neither team could top 20 points). Turnovers were key to the Bisons win. Noah Picton was picked off three times, twice by Jayden McCoy (who took one back for a touchdown) while Atlee Simon fumbled the ball at the Manitoba one-yard line. It was Manitoba’s first win of the season while the Rams fall to 2-2.
- It was the Saskatchewan Huskies turn to feel the wrath of the Calgary Dinos, losing 51-28. It was close after three quarters with the Huskies trailing 30-28, but an interception deep in their own territory led to a quick touchdown, which was followed by a 60-yard punt return for a score was the difference in the fourth quarter. The Huskies forced four Dinos turnovers in the loss.
This leads to a huge game Friday night, 7 pm at Griffiths Stadium in Saskatoon with the Rams and Huskies, both 2-2, meeting up for the only time this season.
UBC picked up their third win in a row and now find themselves in sole possession of second spot in the Canada West with a 41-21 road win over the Alberta Golden Bears, who are still winless in 2017.
Canada West this week (all times local):
Friday, September 29th:
Alberta at Manitoba 4:30pm (CDT)
Regina at Saskatchewan 7:00pm (CST)
Calgary at UBC 6:30pm (PDT)
- The Edmonton Wildcats needed a big second half comeback to escape with a 40-37 victory over the Hamilton Hurricanes. The visitors from the OFC had the 30-16 lead late in the third quarter but couldn’t hold on for the win.
- The Saskatoon Hilltops continue to roll along cruising to a 52-26 victory over the Winnipeg Rifles at SMF Field. The game wasn’t as close as the scoreboard indicates with the Rifles picking up 19 points in garbage time in the fourth quarter. Logan Fischer scampered for 175 yards on the ground and two touchdowns in the win.
- In a wild game in Edmonton, the Regina Thunder trailed the undefeated Huskies 32-30 heading into the fourth quarter, but it was all downhill from there. Edmonton scored 30 points in the final frame for the 62-30 victory to up their record to 6-0.
- The Calgary Colts were not welcoming hosts to the Ottawa Sooners. The final interlocking PFC-OFC game saw Calgary crush their visitors from the east 58-0. With the victory, the PFC went 5-0 (with a combined score of 289-66) against the OFC in the first regular season interlocking games in CJFL history.
PFC this week (all times local)
Saturday, September 30th:
Edmonton Huskies at Winnipeg Rifles 7:00 (CDT)
Sunday, October 1st:
Calgary Colts at Regina Thunder 1:00pm (CST)
Edmonton Wildcats at Saskatoon Hilltops 1:00pm (CST)
Canadian to watch in the NCAA
J.J. Molson – K
Hometown – Montreal, Que.
Class – Soph.
Molson was an early enrollee with the Bruins in 2016 attending spring practice and winning the starting job as a freshman. Struggling at times, he finished the season 12/20 with a longest of 45 yards.
2017 has been a little better for the sophomore out of Montreal going 4/5 with a longest of 45 yards in the first four games of the season. He also handles kickoff duties for the Bruins.