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.