Good Day Rider fans. I have finally recovered enough from the weekend to throw some coherent thoughts together. More or less anyway.
It was one of those moments you will always remember (unless you drank too much, in which case most of this will be news to you). The atmosphere at Mosaic Stadium was like nothing I’d ever seen. From the pre-game warm up to the final whistle the stadium was practically shaking. It was even loud enough to drown out Henry Burris complaining to the refs (which is no small feat). People were so excited that not even the fact that the stadium ran out of beer could dampen their spirits (although it helped that many had smuggled said spirits in with them).
Henry Burris was right on cue for his annual playoff choke (the 3rd consecutive for those keeping score at home). When he coughed up that fumble on their second play from scrimmage, I knew the game was over (Hank never has just 1 turnover. He either has 0 or 4). Then, like clockwork, he goes out and throws an INT in the endzone two series later. It’s almost as if Henry Burris is George W. Bush and playoff football is his pretzel. And what did Burris have to say about his third straight playoff loss? “It’s not three years in a row because it’s one year at a time.” I don't know what kind of gorilla math he used to come to that conclusion, but I guess it means that he will quickly put this game behind him and start working on how he can blow next year’s West Semi.
For the Riders, it was all Kerry Joseph. He set a record for most rushing yards by a QB in a playoff game with 109, eclipsing the previous record of 102 which was held by none other than Reggie Slack. Joseph added another 391 yards through the air, including a 62 yard touchdown to DJ Flick on the first play of the game. Unfortunately that would be the only time the Riders found the endzone all afternoon, and I have to be honest - if you'd told me earlier in the day that the Riders would score only one major, I might have skipped the game and gone straight to drowning my sorrows. Fortunately the combination of Luca "I used to be an all-star" Congi and Calgary's spot-on high school football team imitation was enough to make sure the good guys were on the right side of the result.
The Stampeders' strategy of avoiding defensive breakdowns, not turning the ball over, and getting off to a fast start to take the rabid fans out of the game was a sound one, and I'm impressed that Flanders and company were able to identify these key areas. Even more impressive than their ability to develop these objectives is their ability to fail at all three of them with over 13 minutes remaining in the first quarter of a football game. That takes a special kind of ineptness usually reserved for the likes of Danny Macocia and Marcel Bellefeuille.
Despite Calgary's best efforts to give the game away, some combination of Rider errors and blind luck left the Stamps close enough to make the final minutes interesting. If not for an offside penalty called against Calgary on their onside kick attempt with less than a minute to play, we could very well be sitting here contemplating which heads should roll (since we obviously don't have the Calgary efficiency of getting this all planned out prior to the end of our season) rather than looking forward to a showdown with BC next Sunday. I have already heard from Calgary fans that felt the penalty shouldn't have been called since Sadrick Williams, the offending player, had no impact on the play. If this policy of not penalizing a player that doesn't make an impact was implemented, Williams just might become the least penalized player in the history of football.
On a sadder note, it appears that another Rider running back has gone down to injury as Josh Ranek suffered a concussion on Sunday after a nice 16 yard run and another 5 on a brilliant fake FG. This unfortunately opens up a hole at RB and Henri Childs is the most likely candidate to step up. That said, knowing Childs, he will probably be unable to find the hole.
That’s it for now, I will have the video footage from pre-game posted tomorrow. Imagine that, me posting videos while they are still somewhat relevant.