Friday, September 26, 2008

Riders vs. Alouettes

I apologize in advance for today’s post. I’m in the middle of a very busy few days and can’t devote the time needed for my usual posts. I will be back in full force with my sentimonies on Monday but for now you will have to settle for some Random Quasi Coherent Thoughts on Sunday’s game.

- The never ending injury list can add 3 more names for this weeks contest. Unfortunately they are arguably 3 of our best players: Wes Cates, Anton McKenzie and Jeremy O’Day. My only theory to explain the injury situation is that winning the Grey Cup last year disrupted the balance in the universe and these injuries are the universe’s way of restoring that balance.

- At least we get Neal Hughes back this week. That will give us a boost on offense and special teams

- It’s somewhat concerning that our backfield this week will rely on Foord, Hughes and Bishop. To be fair though the only one I have concerns about is Bishop.

- Speaking of Bishop I wonder how long we will go before he screws up and gets pulled again. I’m taking the 10 minute mark of the 1st quarter.

- Montreal’s offense is dangerous and they are led by Calvillo who has found the fountain of youth. We will need to shut down the aerial assault if we hope to have any chance.

- Montreal’s defense is decent but as long as we sustain drives with short and medium passes and a heavy dose of the run instead of relying on the long bomb (I’m looking at you Bishop) we should be okay.

- So help me god if Tad Kornegay gets anywhere near the field I will unleash a string of profanities that the Osbournes would find offensive.

- While I don’t see this being a blowout, I have to be honest and say I don’t think the Riders win. We are missing too many key players and have to face a very good team on the road.

Alouettes by 9

If this prediction concerns you don’t worry, my predictions are about as accurate as a weather forecaster’s so odds are still good that the Riders will win.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday Morning Sentimonies: So Very Angry!

Riders 21 – Lions 27

It would be easy to sit here and rationalize the loss. We came into this game with a myriad of injuries (good word... myriad) and a roster featuring so many “no-name” players that even I, a devout Rider fan, have a hard time trying to figure out exactly who is on the field. On top of that, during the game we suffered injuries to the league’s top running back and arguably the best centre in the CFL. To top it off, we were facing the top team in the West Division the last 4 years running. We were up against overwhelming odds, so the fact that we lost isn’t mind boggling. Why is it then that this latest loss angers me so?

Simple… despite these overwhelming odds, the game was very winnable. We had every opportunity to beat the rivaled Lions but inexplicably let every single one of them pass us by as if we were a group of green-clad Liberaces at the playboy mansion. We turned in a pretty poor effort and still only lost by 6. If we could have done something… anything… we would have won. Are we ravaged by injuries? You bet, but I refuse to accept that as an excuse when we are a few basic improvements away from winning.

We could start by not turning the ball over 8 times!!! 4 fumbles, 2 INTs, a botched punt and a turnover on downs. The fact that we only lost by 6 despite 8 turnovers is a reflection on just how well the defense played. Congratulations to Tad Kornegay. I didn’t think it was possible for someone to supplant Michael Bishop atop my hatred list but you somehow managed to do it. 2 fumbles on kick returns in the same quarter… who do you think you are? Jason Armstead? I was not a big Kornegay fan to begin with (Heard and Patrick are far more talented) and after watching him do his best to give the game away I’m about as fond of him as I was of James Johnson last year. With that in mind here is a small list of things I would rather see than Tad Kornegay on the game day roster again: Mosaic Stadium enact prohibition, Michael Bishop Appreciation Day, Marcel Bellefeuille’s return to the Riders, 48 hour Teletubby marathon and the long lost Jim Hopson sex tape.

As if it was bad enough that our players were doing their best to give the ball away, our coaches decided to join the cause as well. It seems that Ken Miller and Paul LaPolice decided to forgo the usual good coaching the Riders are known for in favour of a strategy that I can only assume they picked up from a focus group featuring Jim Popp, Charlie Taaffe, and Rich Stubler. We had 1st and goal from the 1 and somehow failed to score. After a sound QB sneak call on 1st down that didn’t work, we somehow decided to move to the shotgun formation for the remaining 2 downs…which of course failed miserably. Now I may not be an expert in the realm of offensive play calling but when you are on the 1 yard line with 2 attempts remaining the decision to not try a QB sneak 2 more times (or at least hand off to Szarka) makes about as much sense as… I can’t even think of funny comparison since a shotgun formation on the 1 yard line is so absurd. The decision to punt instead of gamble with 1:26 left in the game was fantastic as well.

The one thing this game did accomplish was dispel 2 myths in Riderville surrounding QBs. First, it dispelled the myth that Michael Bishop is good. I hate to say I told you so… oh who am I kidding, I love saying I told you so. I told you so, I told you so, I told you so! Bishop lasted less than a quarter before being pulled. In true Bishop form, he went out with an INT thrown off his back foot into triple coverage, how fitting. Second, it dispelled the myth that Darian Durant is the saviour of the franchise. Now, I like Darian a lot but people were building him up to be invincible. Well after going 9/21 with an INT maybe people will realize that Durant is not a miracle worker.

There were a few bright spots in the game. Our defense did an amazing job of keeping the game close despite being on the field for the majority of the night. Also, seeing Mo Lloyd almost kill Buck Pierce was practically worth the price of admission on its own. I will never tire of seeing an unblocked Rider level a BC QB… despite the fact that I’ve seen it repeatedly over the years. Diminutive rookie receiver Weston Dressler turned in an amazing performance yet again, accounting for over half of our passing game. Another rookie also shone when given the opportunity - Regina product Stu Foord tallied his first and second career TDs while filling in for the injured Wes Cates with an 18 yard run and a 55 yard reception. Message to the rest of our offense: You are getting shown up by a Regina Thunder player and 5’7 receiver. Hang your heads in shame.

Another negative from Saturday's game came in the fourth quarter when several considerate Rider fans thought that the BC Lions players must be thirsty after a hard-fought contest, and thus tried to supply them with some free airborn beer. This display of poor judgement will no doubt go down in history along with the McCallum manure incident and alleged threats against Eric Tillman as an example of what terrible fans the Riders have, and that's unfortunate. What is even more unfortunate is that the very journalists and analysts that are sure to bring this up repeatedly in the coming years are the same ones that refuse to listen to the facts as reported by thousands of eye witnesses in the East stands. Dante Marsh came off the field after recovering the fumble and fired the ball into the stands. That drew a few beer cans. Then some Lions players picked a few cans off the ground and fired them back into the stands, which is what drew the barrage of beer that eventually sent the Lions to midfield. Now that said, I don't condone throwing anything at the field no matter what the circumstances are and I'm certainly not trying to defend those that did, but I'm tired of reading and hearing that it was in response to the replay on the Maxtron and all the Lions did to provoke it was make a good football play. Attention to any in the "legitimate" media that may read this: if you need to use a poor decision made by several drunk yahoos to try to make all Rider fans look bad, at least get your damn facts right.

One other thing: I've heard several people say that the beer throwers make them embarrassed to be a Rider fan. I think that's ridiculous too. I can't control what anyone else does, and I refuse to buy into the idea that their actions reflect on me. To say that I'm embarrassed to be a Rider fan because some people threw beer at the stadium when I happened to be there makes as much sense to me as saying that I'm embarrassed to have a blog because some people use their internet presence to promote racism, encourage hate, or even worse, support Michael Bishop.

Around the CFL…
Kenton Keith has officially signed in Hamilton. I really don’t understand this move by the Ti-cats. RB is the one position that Hamilton is fairly solid at so I’m not sure why they think their money is better spent on another running back as opposed to one of the other 23 starting positions that they are terrible at. Misguided spending priorities such as this are why Hamilton dwells in the CFL basement. The good news is that with Marcel Bellefeuille calling the shots, KK will be able to step into the starters role immediately… provided he can still execute the shotgun draw.

Friday, September 19, 2008

RIP Ron Lancaster

We start off today on a serious note as Riderville is in mourning.

Yesterday, the Roughriders and the entire CFL lost one of their all-time greats as Ron Lancaster succumbed to heart failure at the age of 69.

Lancaster leaves behind a legacy of greatness that is truly amazing. He led the Roughriders to 14 consecutive playoff appearances, 5 Grey Cup appearances and a Grey Cup win in 1966. He was a perennial all-star and was named the league’s Most Outstanding Player in 1970 and 1976. And what did it cost the Riders to acquire the greatest QB in the franchise’s history? $500 (Seriously)

In addition to his storied playing career, he also went on to become one of the League’s most successful coaches. A 2 time Coach of the Year, he led the Edmonton Eskimos to a Grey Cup win in 1993 and led Hamilton to a Grey Cup win 1999.

Unfortunately, I am too young to have seen Lancaster play (those of you that did should consider yourselves very lucky). I remember him more as a broadcaster and a coach. But whether you saw him don the Green and White or just came to know him through stories and TV highlights, there’s no denying that Lancaster is engrained in the history of the Riders and the CFL like no other.

Rest in Peace Little General, you will be missed.

Now that that sentimental moment is done let’s get back to the upcoming game… and more importantly, sarcastic commentary and inappropriate humour.

Tomorrow the 6-5 BC Lions roll into town for the 2nd game of a home and home against the 8-3 Riders. The Riders will be looking to avenge last week’s loss in BC.

We begin this week talking about what else… injuries. You can add another name to the 9 game injured list, which will soon require its own Reader’s Digest condensed version. In a shocking turn of events it’s another receiver - Henri Childs - with injured discs in his back. I always thought that the day that Childs suffered a season ending injury I would be jumping for joy… not because I wish Henri any particular harm, I just didn’t want him on the field given my general hatred for him. But this year, the news does not make me happy. Childs was doing decent in slot and quite frankly we need all the receivers we can get (see: the return of Patrick Thibeault). To make matters worse Vince Marhsall is also injured and won’t be able to play. Don’t worry though, Jimmy Farris is a very capable replacement. What’s that you say? …. Farris is hurt too? … Well isn’t that great. We are struggling to find enough starting receivers as it is and we lose 3 more this week. At this rate, an onfield appearance by Thibeault may not be far off (may God have mercy on our souls). One has to feel for Tillman in this whole mess. As if finding enough new receivers to replace the 2-3 we lose per week isn’t hard enough, now he has to convince those few remaining receivers out there to come play for a team that has injured more receivers this season than the rest of league combined has injured in the past decade. “You want me to play for the Riders? The receiver killers? Hell no!! I like being able to walk without crutches thank you very much.”

In other injury news, it appears Omarr Morgan will sit this one out as well after getting KOed in practice in a collision with Sean Lucas. Now, no disrespect to Morgan but this may actually help our team. Morgan has pretty soft coverage so he rarely gets beat deep but routinely allows 5-10 yard passes to be completed in front of him. This kind of play hasn’t been hurting the team (with the exception of last week) but it also hasn’t resulted in any game changing plays like we used to expect from Omarr. I can’t wait to see what one of the young guys (Heard or Patrick) can do in his place.

The big thing to watch will be how the O-line performs this week against the fierce BC pass rush. Last week their pass protection was about as useful as Lance Armstrong’s left testicle so they will be looking to rebound in front of a sold-out crowd. If we can complete a few more short passes and not take as many penalties, I think the hoggies will have a solid game.

This will also be a big test for Michael Bishop. Darian Durant is healthy and ready to go so Bishop will be on a very short leash this week. His inconsistent performance will no longer be tolerated; we need sustained production over 4 quarters. But to be fair to Bishop, he has played one solid quarter out of his 12 as a Rider, so he's still miles ahead of his career average. Tillman knew what he was getting us into. All that said though...

Riders by 7

Let’s win this one for #23. I want to see Mosaic the loudest it’s been all season. We owe it to our team and to the Little General.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday Morning Sentimonies: 4, 5, 6… 6 Broken Fibulas. Hahaha

Riders 23 – Lions 28

So how about that Michael Bishop? I realize that there were other factors that led to the loss (which I will get to later) but after spending the better part of 2 weeks having people bug me about how good Bishop is, I would like to take this opportunity to prove yet again that everyone is stupid but me.

A completion % just above 50%, an INT, 2 Fumbles (one of which he lost) and sacked 6 times including twice in a row on the final drive of the game… seriously, if Marcus Crandell had turned in that kind of production people would have been calling for his head. Bishop is quickly turning into the 2008 version of Rocky Butler. He wins 2 games against the worst team in the league and people inexplicably mistake his ability to look moderately impressive against a pathetic team for all-star caliber talent. Then we play a legitimate team and low and behold he no longer looks like the saviour of the franchise he was made out to be. Bishop has the same problem Steven Jyles had in his debut… he’s in love with his arm strength. A few of those sacks were a result of him ignoring short routes and looking for long balls that just weren’t there. Bishop made some good plays but overall failed to prove he’s capable of getting the job done against a strong western opponent.

To be fair to Bishop, our O-line and play calling were terrible and are equally to blame for what happened. The O-line was in tough against the best front 4 in the CFL but 2 guys were routinely breaking through into the backfield. You can’t expect perfection against Wake, Johnson and Hunt but I don’t think it’s too much to ask to not let them all through on every play. And the play calling?! Message to LaPolice: if you notice the D-line is getting ridiculous pressure on your QB why not try some hitches, screen plays or possibly a few short passes to ease the pressure. When a D-line as good as BC knows that you are looking for the long ball, they will just pin their ears back and run right at the QB. You have to change your play calls at least a bit to slow those big boys down.

Overall our receivers had a pretty good game. Dressler is now our leading receiver (ahead of the running back and another rookie receiver on the 9 game) and making a strong case for rookie of the year. And how about that catch from Michael Palmer? I couldn’t believe my eyes. Then he proceeded to fumble it and I started believing my eyes once again, but still it was a hell of a play. Special mention to Adam Nicolson who made his Rider debut. The 2007 1st round pick, managed to rack up 53 yards and a TD against the team that cut him. Hauling in that TD in front of Wally Buono must have felt pretty sweet. It’s too bad we were losing at that point because I would have loved to have seen Nicolson give Buono a DX-style crotch chop. Suck It!

Defensively, we did a decent job of stopping the run but unfortunately our secondary (which has been very good this season at limiting big plays) was unable to contain Simon and Jackson. Omar in particular had a bad day. I never thought I’d say this but I wish Morgan could be more like James Johnson.

The night of course started off in true Rider fashion… with a broken fibula. That’s 6 on the year and 3 at BC Place for those of you keeping track at home. This time the victim was Brandon Lynch, and while you can hardly consider him a key player, this is another blow to a team struggling to field a team week in and week out. Given that the Seattle Seahawks are in somewhat the same boat as us when it comes to receivers, maybe we could amalgamate for the remainder of the season so that both teams are at least able to field a full roster.

Speaking of injured players. The sheer number on our team has made a very busy man out of Eric Tillman. In addition to having to worry about finding enough players to field a 46 man roster, he also has to find guys for his practice roster (since most of our former practice roster is now starting). League rules state that we need at least one Canadian on our PR so Tillman had to go out and find one. He didn’t have to look far as he found a receiver right here in Regina by the name of Patrick Thibeault. Thibeault, as you may remember, spent several seasons with the Riders earlier in the decade before going on to become a big deal in the local boxing community. So now the Riders have a converted running back and a boxer catching passes, and a running back that was discovered while working at a gas station... they're pretty much a convicted felon, a SWAT team officer and Keanu Reeves away from a real-life version of The Replacements.

For the record, I wanted to write a joke that specifically focused on Patrick Thibeault, but that turned out to be a little harder than I thought given recent history. Just two weeks ago, I wrote in this space: "Yep, our receiving corps now officially falls directly between "Danny McManus looking to run" and "the return of Patrick Thibeault" on the list of things that scare a defense." And now he's back! What can I even say to that? It's as if he's become his own punch line. Two rabbis walk into a bar, yada yada yada... Patrick Thibeault! (Cue the laughter)

Overall the loss isn’t the end of the world. We played a close game with a very good team and still have a chance to split the home and home (which I think we’d all be happy with). Hopefully, a sold out crowd this Saturday will give the Riders the edge they need to bounce back.

Around the CFL (in point form this week since the other 3 games were brutal)…
  • Toronto is in shambles and if it weren’t for the fact the league mandates a 46 man roster, Don Matthews would probably cut everyone not named Dorsey.
  • Montreal’s defense should hang their heads in shame and every Alouette fan should get to boo them for a solid 5 minutes. What a disgraceful performance.
  • The Hamilton/Edmonton games featured 8 picks and was more painful to watch than that damn Rita McNeil Christmas special the CBC insists on showing every December.

Man In The Bush: Banjo Bowl Report

Good news, Man In The Bush has surfaced and even managed to file his report. To be fair he filed it on Friday and I was just too lazy to post it until now but what can you do…

Hello all, Man In The Bush here, reporting a tad bit late on my weekend road trip to Winnipeg, and what a great trip it was. Riders win, Bombers lose, what more could you ask for. Now the Rider Prophet has been insisting all week for me to get this report done, so as opposed to doing a report, I will just send some observations about my weekend in Winnipeg:

1. Kudos to all Rider fans who made the trek. For a supposedly sold out game, quite a few Bomber fans thought Halloween came early and disguised themselves as empty seats, cause if not for the Rider fans the stands would have been maybe half full.

2. What kind of province has never heard of a schooner? Ridiculous!

3. Try to avoid eating McNuggets while driving on the highway. That’s all I’ll say.

4. The game in Winnipeg had about as much hype in the media as the last Vanilla Ice concert. In the malls, Rider fans outnumbered Bomber fans around 30-5, and in the local paper, page 4 of the sports is where the Banjo Bowl had its first mention.

5. Memo to Bomber fans for this year, please do not come up to my face and say I or the Riders suck when you are battling with Hamilton for worst in the league. You’re just embarrassing yourself, your province and your mom who is married to her cousin.

6. Looked around and saw no paper bags on anyone’s face, how shocking.

7. Memo 2 for this year, do not tell me that you should have won the Grey Cup last year, your team clearly has demonstrated this year that they would have a tough time beating most high school teams, much less any team from the west.

8. After the collapse, most Winnipeg fans were blaming Berry for the loss, in fact many fans made their own signs out of the tears they had just shed, saying such things as “Fire Berry”, “Get Rid Of Berry”, how fitting. But as you read this the Bombers have already pummeled the Argos, so unfortunately for Bomber fans, they will have to wait one more week for Berry to be fired.

And those are some of my observations from the Peg, this is your Man (lost) In the Bush.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Riders vs. Lions Round 2

I had promised you a special Banjo Bowl report from Man in the Bush but he is still MIA so the report will have to wait (what’s this world coming to when you can’t expect prompt high quality work from people who work for free?). Anywho… there’s more important things afoot as Week 12 in the CFL is upon us.

Tomorrow the 8-2 Riders are in BC to take on the last place Lions (man that has a nice ring to it… Last place Lions) for the 2nd time this season. The last time these 2 teams met was Week 2 when all our injury problems began as Flick, Mitchell and Crandell all went down and we still ground out a victory.

To the casual observer, the status of these 2 teams coming into this game could be very confusing. The Riders are so decimated by injury that our we have been reduced to starting practice roster players, training camp cuts and, even worse, Michael Bishop (cheap shot I know but I’ve gotten to the point where I make Bishop jokes just to piss people off). Yet somehow we are the best team in the league.

BC, by contrast, has a healthy roster that is arguably the best team on paper. It features the best defensive front 4 in the CFL, a talented defense, a solid O-line and 3 very dangerous receivers. Yet somehow BC is struggling to be a .500 team. This is mainly because Wally Buono has opted for the Minnesota Vikings approach to football… build a ridiculously solid team around a terrible QB (or in BC’s case, 2 terrible QBs). To be fair, Buck Pierce is actually a very good QB, but the problem is he’s the West Division equivalent of Jesse Lumsden… all the talent in the world but about as durable as a Roughrider’s fibula.

This is a big game because a win puts us 8 points up on the Lions with the season series in hand and only 7 games to go, effectively eliminating them as a contender for first in the West.

Some things to keep an eye on: How will our O-line fair against the top sack team in the league (especially without Wayne Smith)? How will Bishop and our speedy receivers fair against a defense that doesn’t suck like the Bombers? How will the RB tandem of Roberts and Logan fair against the league’s best linebackers? How long will it take for Buck Pierce to get hurt? If anyone's wondering, I've got "midway through the second quarter" in the pool.

Two things will need to happen to walk out of BC Place with a win: 1) Bishop will have to buy time in the backfield by either using his legs or dumping the ball off to Cates in order to avoid the powerful BC rush and 2) our receivers will have to continue catching the ball consistently. Most importantly we will have to do this over 4 quarters (1 quarter of effort may be enough against Winnipeg but we are actually facing a legitimate team this time). This game will be closely contested and come down to the final minutes… in which case I’ll put my faith in the best 4th quarter team in the CFL as opposed to a team that failed to score in 3 tries from the 1 yard line just 2 weeks ago.

Riders by a Luca Congi Field Goal.

Around the CFL…
Newly appointed Ti-cats head coach Marcel Bellefeuille made a comment this week that has led me to believe he may be smarter than I have given him credit for. He said that Jesse Lumsden will not see more action until it is clear he can handle it. Wow! Marcel is actually the first guy in Hamilton to catch on to the fact that Lumsden is injury prone. Go figure. If he does nothing else in Hamilton (and believe me, he won’t) this revelation alone should be seen as a success. To be fair though, just before making that comment Bellefeuille did say that he honestly believes that Ti-Cats can still make the playoffs so that whole “smarter than I give him credit for” theory is obviously false.

Speaking of Hamilton, earlier this week a deal was struck to trade star linebacker Zeke Moreno to the Bombers for Tom Canada. The deal however got derailed when Canada first refused to report and later disclosed that he had an enlarged spleen and is unable to play. The deal was amended to Moreno and a conditional draft pick for a 1st round draft pick and the rights to Cory Mace (good ol’ Taman. When in doubt, trade a draft pick). Canada was subsequently put on the 9-game injured list and is just happy he gets to remain a Bomber because in his words “I've got better things to do than go to Hamilton and lose more games."… Yeah why go all the way to Hamilton when he can do the same thing without leaving the comfort of Winnipeg?

Finally, the troubled tenure of Rich Stubler came to an end this week. He was fired by the Argos. When Stubler took over, the Argos had a brutal offense and an amazing defense and special teams. Eleven short games under Stubler and the offense is even worse and the defense is trying it’s best to match the terrible play of the offense. Good work Rich. Fortunately for the Argos, management decided to make their first good decision of the season in naming Stubler’s replacement. Rather than promoting inept offensive coordinators (ala Hamilton), the Argos decided to go out and get the winningest coach in CFL history… Don Matthews. The good news for Matthews and the Argos is that their next game is against Winnipeg, so odds of The Don adding to his lead in career wins are pretty good.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Wow!

Riders 34 – Bombers 31

So allow me to summarize. We entered this game boasting a receiving core featuring a Canadian rookie, someone we cut in training camp, the back-up running back, someone we just signed a week or so ago and a mildly concussed midget. The return of John Chick lasted only a few series until he broke his hand. Chunky Adams also went down meaning Mike Abou-Mechrek briefly made his debut at D-Line. Wes Cates got hit hard and did his best impression of a towering sequoia falling in the forest. We were down 17 points with 11 minutes remaining in the game. And despite all this, we still won!!!! God I love Rider football!

In true Rider fashion, Sunday’s game took fans on an emotional rollercoaster ride. From the highs of scoring on the opening drive and the miraculous come from behind victory to the lows of… well pretty much everything in between.

Now you all know my feelings on Michael Bishop but I will give him credit for coming through when it mattered most. Now if you’re looking for me to retract the negative things I’ve said about Bishop and declare my allegiance to #17 you obviously don’t know me very well. When Bishop learns to quit sucking before the 4th quarter, learns not to take stupid objectionable conduct penalties and when he manages to not almost get pulled by the head coach (which Miller almost did) then I will think about saying he’s a good QB (I’ll think about but, I make no promises even then). So kudos to Bishop for doing what it took to come away with a victory (which in the end is all that counts). He looked good on Sunday but it will take more than one good performance to convince me.

How about our receivers?! For being the smallest and least experienced group in the league they certainly made an impression. Bagg was reliable, Marshall stepped up big time, Dressler played like an all-star and Gerran Walker looks like a keeper. What these guys lack in height and experience they certainly make up for in speed. It must be tough for Bishop to find his receivers since most of their helmets wouldn’t show above our O-line. Fortunately they are all fast enough for the “throw it like hell and hope someone runs under it” passing attack.

Man it must suck to be a Bomber fan. The only that would suck more than that is being an actual Bomber player or coach. The term “monumental collapse” just doesn’t do justice to the Bombers’ performance on Sunday. They outplayed us for 3 quarters and had the relatively easy task of making sure we didn’t score 3 times in 11 minutes to hold on for a big win for their hometown crowd. Suddenly they realized that they were the Bombers and they were playing far too well, so they proceeded to turn in a 4th quarter performance that was indicative of the 2-7 record they carried into the game. To be fair though, it’s hard to blame them for not expecting Michael Bishop to put up 196 passing yds in the final quarter. I mean really, no one saw that coming.

The win keeps us atop the CFL at 8-2 (which is a better start than last year) and leaves us with a 4 point cushion in the West over both Calgary and Edmonton.

Our own Man in the Bush was in Winnipeg for the weekend festivities and he’ll have a special report for us… assuming I can track him down.

As if an exciting Banjo Bowl win and a league best record weren’t enough… my day got even better this morning with this gem of a news story…

The Charlie Taaffe experiment in Hamilton is over, the Ti-cats fired him today. Under Taaffe’s direction the Ti-cats amassed a disgraceful 5-23 record and became the laughing stock of the league. To be fair Taaffe didn’t have a lot to work with… his starting QB is easily the worst QB in the league despite being the highest paid, his RB is the best in the league… well at least for the 6 or 7 quarters that he can stay healthy for in a season, his receivers still couldn't crack the Riders' depleted lineup, and the highly touted safety that was going to help shore up his defense broke his leg in the preseason. But still, coaches are paid to win and in Taaffe’s case Hamilton spent a lot of money on those 5 victories.

Now the fact that Taaffe was fired isn’t what made my day… I have nothing in particular against Taaffe or the Ti-cats. What made my day was the announcement that followed the Taaffe firing. The interim replacement for Taaffe as Hamilton’s head coach is none other than my good friend… Marcel Bellefeuille. Now regular readers will know that Marcel has been insulted more times in this space than anyone else (mainly because he makes it so easy) so it took me a good 5 minutes to stop laughing when I first learned of this move. We’re talking about a guy who has been responsible for some of the league’s worst offenses, most notably the Riders (man those were some painful years) and last year in Montreal where he somehow managed to ruin an offense featuring Calvillo, Cahoon and Watkins (look how good the Als are doing this year without Marcel). The sad thing is, all things considered in Hamilton, Bellefeuille was the best choice by virtue of the fact that he's not Denny Creehan. When Bellefeuille is your best option for head coach, you know your franchise is in shambles.

This move really makes me question what people see in Bellefeuille. After we didn’t rehire him in ’06, he gets an offer to be the receivers coach in Montreal (who was a stronger franchise than us at the time), they then promote him to Offensive Coordinator, he sucks and they cut him loose, then Hamilton picks him up and now they too have promoted him. Not sure how someone who sucks so much keeps getting work… he must interview really well.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

My Kingdom For A Receiver

Sunday the Riders travel to Winnipeg to face the Bombers in the Banjo Bowl. The now famous event was of course made popular by former Bomber kicker Troy Westwood, who was cut this year in favour of Alexis Serna. How low must Westwood feel knowing that the Bombers think that Serna, the league’s worst kicker, is better than him? Probably lower than Serna’s kicking percentage... which would make him feel as low as his own kicking percentage (zing).

Michael Bishop will once again get the start for the Riders. Hopefully, with an extra week’s practice he will look more like a decent quarterback this time around and less like Michael Bishop. That said, even if Bishop does somehow manage to improve it will be offset by the continued obliteration of our receiving core. Adarius Bowman is the latest starter to succumb to injury and will be out 4-6 weeks. That means this weeks receivers will include such feared names as Bagg, Grant, Palmer, Childs, Marshall and the only moderately concussed Dressler (Never thought I’d see the day when a mild concussion was good news). Yep, our receiving corps now officially falls directly between "Danny McManus looking to run" and "the return of Patrick Thibeault" on the list of things that scare a defense.

The good news is that despite our limited offensive fire power, we are playing an offense even worse than our own. The Bombers are dead last in scoring this season so even a meager offensive showing will be more than enough to beat them. Of course the Bombers are hoping recently acquired Joe Smith will give their offense a boost but Fred Reid will likely get the bulk of the carries this week while Smith learns the offense. So to make a long story short, after a disgraceful offensive output last game the Bombers only adjustment is a severe downgrade to the run game. God bless the logic of Doug Berry. If Glenn struggles again this week, I wonder if we’ll see Ryan “I single-handedly made James Johnson a star” Dinwiddie come in. Not that it really matters, both are quite capable of throwing INTs so either one is fine by me.

While our offense continues to weather an unprecedented amount of injuries, the defense is a different story. John Chick is expected to make his return to the line up on Sunday, giving our already stellar defense a huge boost! Seriously, if Dan Goodspeed was overpowered by Kitwana Jones’ pass rush, how bad is Chick going to make him look?

I expect the Banjo Bowl to be a lot like Labour Day except both teams will likely score one more major and the crowd will be a lot more inbred.

Riders by 12.

Around the CFL…

Arland Bruce was fined an undisclosed amount of money for donning a Spiderman mask during a TD celebration in Monday’s game in Hamilton. This is the latest in the long line of football celebrations that make zero sense. Maybe I’m missing something here but exactly what does Spiderman have to do with a touchdown? Can he swing from a web? No he can’t, he’s Arland Bruce. Not sure how this either adds to the glory of the TD or adds to the insult of the opponent (unless this is the kind of Spiderman he was referring to). The Spiderman joins such distinguished touchdown celebrations as the Argos’ “They All Fall Down” and the “Overly Homoerotic Calgary Bobsled”. The good news is that despite Bruce's best efforts, Kerwin Bell's legendary touchdown celebration is still unrivaled.

It appears Dave Dickenson’s career is over. He was placed on the 9-game injured list by the Stamps after suffering yet another concussion during his limited action in the Edmonton game. This should come as no surprise to anyone. Years of bone jarring hits have left Dickenson’s head so fragile that it’s a miracle that the water pressure in the post-game shower didn’t concuss him … in fact the only thing surprising about the concussion is that it didn’t come at the hands of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Belated Labour Day Edition

Riders 19 – Bombers 6

Well I’ve sufficiently recovered from my post-Labour Day celebrations to sit down and comment on the weekend. Now the game itself was a lot like that special massage I got from that discount masseuse… it wasn’t all that pretty and it’s nothing to brag about but at least it had a happy ending.

The big story going into the game was of course the debut of Michael Bishop. In what should have come as no surprise to anyone, Bishop turned in a less than stellar performance going 10 for 24 for just over 100 yards and tossing up an interception on the first series. In fact, some of his throws led me to believe we hadn't released Crandell at all, we had just changed his number to 17. But to be fair Bishop did enough to win (which is more a reflection on how bad Winnipeg is) and for only having a week to get up to speed I guess it wasn’t that bad a game. His mobility did extend a number of drives and led to our only TD. He was good enough on Sunday but he will have to be much better next time if he wants to keep the starter’s role.

Although we managed only a few completions, I was somewhat impressed with our receivers. When I saw Bowman and Palmer both make catches in the same quarter (and not only did Palmer catch his, but he got tackled without fumbling), I knew we were going to win. After Dressler got KO’d on the first series the only players who ran deep routes were Cates and Childs. Now at first this may seem like cause for concern until you realize that they are legitimately our best chances at a long completion. Fortunately, what I consider a minimal offensive attack, Winnipeg considers an overwhelming offensive onslaught from which there is no recovery.

Once again our defense stepped up big time. Seante “Big Te” Williams came through and closelined Glenn on the second play and the D dominated from that point on. The Riders put up 4 sacks, 2 INTs, allowed only 66 rushing yards and most importantly gave up 0 TDs. Mo Lloyd had a huge day with 2 sacks and a forced fumble.

The Bombers continue to amaze me. They have a vast array of talented players but each week they find new ways to embarrass themselves. Glenn turned in a performance that wouldn’t cut it on my touch football team and when your offensive MVP is the league’s worst kicker, Alexis Serna, you know you’ve got problems. Special mention goes out to Jason Armstead - you can change the jersey and change the teammates but the same old Armstead will still shine through. With his team down only 13 points, Armstead made the ill-informed decision to run a missed FG out of the endzone rather than concede the single. He only got as far as the 5 yard line before he ran into special teams legend Jocelyn Frenette, thus costing his team valuable field position. At this rate I’m hoping that Winnipeg cuts him and someone else picks him up so he can try and screw up 3 kick returns at Mosaic for 3 different teams. Jason said when he got here in ’06 that his goal was to win us a Cup. It's good to know that he plans on seeing that goal through to the finish.

As with every win, it wasn’t all good news. Apparently the price this year for a Rider win is 2 receivers minimum. This week the sacrificial lambs were Dressler and Bowman. Dressler suffered a mild concussion on a nasty hit on that Bishop INT, and though he hasn’t yet been ruled out for the Banjo Bowl, I have my doubts as to whether he’ll be ready. Bowman suffered a torn quad and will be out for at least a month. This leaves Corey Grant as the only starter from week 1 that is still healthy, though rumours are he is being fitted for a cast in anticipation of next game.

The win leaves the Riders alone atop the CFL standings at 7-2 and leaves Winnipeg nestled next to Hamilton in the CFL’s basement at 2-7. The Bombers were quick to begin the adjustments for next week’s rematch however. This morning they traded Charles Roberts to BC for Joe Smith, in a move I don’t understand at all. I’m not sure how swapping one underperforming RB for another one helps either team but what do I know. At least BC gets a player who values running the ball ahead of yoga and gardening. After watching the game Sunday I didn’t think it was possible for the Bombers to get worse… but I think Brendan Taman has proved me wrong.

I would like to end by commenting on a couple of recent NFL cuts who are garnering a lot of speculation in Riderville… Kenton Keith and Jon Ryan. Now admittedly both guys are extremely talented at their respective positions and under different circumstances I would love to have both on our team. However, unless KK is willing to play receiver for back-up type money or Ryan has discovered the cure for the broken fibula neither will be coming here anytime soon.

I’m the Rider Prophet and those are my sentimonies.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Monday Morning... Hangover

After last night's celebration I neither have the ambition nor the ability to put together coherent thoughts so my sentimonies will have to wait until tomorrow.

For now I will leave you with a picture of the new Rider Prophet robe I debuted yesterday at the game.