Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Riders vs. Argos: Regular Season Finale

Thursday the 11-6 Riders take on the 4-13 Argos in their final game of the regular season.

It’s a good thing this game has playoff implications because otherwise it would be very hard to get excited about it. I mean I love Rider game day as much as anybody but when the team we’re playing boasts such impressive accolades as lowest scoring team in the league, most points allowed, most times punted, most penalized, worst run defense, and have not won since Sept 1, the game just doesn’t have that same level of intensity. Face it, when the winningest coach in CFL history can’t help your team you know you’re screwed (just ask the Riders of the early 90s).

It would be easy for the Riders to overlook this game but fortunately the stakes are too high for that. This game is a must win if we hope to host a home playoff game.

This game will mercifully bring to an end what has no doubt been a trying season for Kerry Joseph. The lone bright spot in his short Argo career was cashing his cheques this year; everything on the field was terrible to say the least. The Argos learned what the Ti-cats already knew… simply adding a former MOP quarterback to a really crappy offense won’t improve your offense. Go figure. While Joseph no doubt had a bad season, he sure didn’t have much to work with. He had no O-line, no running game, only 1 talented receiver and ludicrously bad coaching. Not to mention the gong show at QB he had to deal with to start the year.

Speaking of QB gong shows it’s time for me to address the Rider QB situation. It’s been announced that Michael Bishop will get the start against his former team and likely be the starter in playoffs as well. Now we all know how highly I think of Bishop but unfortunately the coaches had no other choice. Durant and Jyles were both given the opportunity to seize the starter’s role but each managed to figuratively and literally throw the opportunity away. Now Bishop did the same thing not 3 weeks ago, but when faced with the choice between 3 guys who seem to go out of their way to give the ball to the defense, I guess the veteran of the bunch becomes your best option going into the playoffs. Bishop showed on Saturday how effective he can be if he sticks to short passes (mainly because he can’t be intercepted by safeties when running 7-10 yard routes) and if he continues doing that he could be very successful. The problem is Bishop has shown a complete inability to do this on a consistent basis and there won’t be an 80km/hr head wind to prevent him from throwing deep when he plays in Skydome.

Another week, another return from the 9 game injury list. This week it’s last years leading receiver DJ Flick who returns after missing 15 games with a gruesomely broken fibula. I expect Flick to be eased into the offense much like Dominguez was so he can get a feel for game speed again and play with our QBs (2 of which he has never played with and the other one he probably wishes he hadn’t played with). Hopefully all goes well in Flick’s return because adding him to our offense for playoffs can only mean good things. To make room for Flick, Dominguez will rest this game as a precautionary move so he’s healthy (or at least as close as he’ll ever get) for playoffs.

The injury plague that ravaged our team and surely brought Eric Tillman to the verge on insanity may actually end up being a small blessing in disguise. Teams around the league are seeing their top guys fall to injury (Glenn, Roberts, Pierce) and even the healthy ones are banged up from a long and grueling season. The Riders by contrast are just starting to welcome back their stars from the injured list and by virtue of not playing a full season they are considerably less banged and bruised. So while we spent the entire season as the most injured team in league history, we may actually enter the playoffs as one of the more healthy teams. Could this all have just been part of Tillman’s master plan?

As for the game I expect another strong showing. Last week was a statement game and this week should be no different. Our defense is playing rock solid and our offense has its playmakers back so I see no reason why we don’t stomp the Argos. They have good pass defense but no run defense so Cates should have a big game. They have no run game and we have one of the stingiest pass defenses in the league so I expect very little Argo scoring. They have Joseph and we have Bishop... well slight edge Argos on that one.

Bold prediction... Riders by 273

Then on Saturday we all have to do the unthinkable and cheer for the Stampeders. It’s terrible I know. Personally, I would rather eat a 5 gallon pail of feces while someone beats me with a hickory stick as I listen to a Kevin Federline CD than cheer for those douche bags but unfortunately we need them to win. So for the first and only time ever on this blog… Go Stamps (though if in the process of losing if BC we’re to seriously injure 2 or 3 Stamps I’d be perfectly alright with that… leave Burris though, I want to see his 4th annual playoff choke).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday Morning Sentimonies: We’re Back!

Riders 55 – Eskimos 9

Ohh so that’s how good our starting line-up is… It’s been so long since I’ve seen them that I forgot (The best part is we are still missing last year’s leading receiver and the best centre in the CFL).

In the final regular season game at Mosaic, in front of 30,950 fans, the Edmonton Eskimos managed to blow more than the prairie wind… no small feat since it was gusting up to 80 km/h. For me, the TSN turning point in this one came in the first quarter when Mo Lloyd put such a vicious hit on Ricky Ray that he fumbled the ball (the first of 7 turnovers on the night), which was returned by Kitwana Jones for a touchdown. It was at that point that the game pretty much ended for the Eskimos as the Riders handed them their second worst loss in franchise history. From what I understand, Esks fans weren't as upset about the touchdown or even the possible helmet to helmet contact on Ray as they were that it wasn't Danny Maciocia getting leveled.

I’m not sure what’s more embarrassing… the fact that they lost by 46 or the fact that they’ve actually done worse in the past. After the game, Maciocia told the media that "We're just playing dumb right now. Collectively we're a bunch of dummies." I guess it took him the better part of 4 years to figure out what we’ve known all along.

The game featured a number of anomalies that Rider fans have not been accustomed to seeing. Our D-line got pressure on the QB and even managed to collapse the pocket; John Chick managed to go a whole game without being injured; and most surprisingly, Corey Grant scored a touchdown. This quote from Grant pretty much sums up how rare a TD is for him: “The coach is like, ‘Act like you’ve been there,’ but I haven’t been there before. It had been a while, so I didn’t know what to do.’’ I couldn’t have put it better myself Corey.

Full credit to our defense for an outstanding performance. Bolstered by the return of McKenzie and Chick they put up 3 sacks, 2 INTs, 2 forced fumbles, 2 defensive TDs and allowed 0 TDs. The key was the pressure generated by our front 4. I’m not surprised that Edmonton’s O-line had trouble with the pressure. I mean really… they couldn’t have been expecting it. I know I wasn’t. Hats off to the defense for making perennial all-star quarterback Ricky Ray look like Michael Bishop. While I’m on the subject, hats off to Edmonton’s defense for making perennial failure Michael Bishop look like Ricky Ray.

With our starters back in place, our offense seems to be rolling again. I like that we no longer have to rely on the long ball to move the chains. With possession receivers like Dominguez, Getzlaf (who continues to impress) and the returning Andy Fantuuuuuz we can once again use short to medium passes, complemented by solid running from Cates. Saturday was a good example of how effective that can be. How awesome was it seeing Fantuz back in there? You would hardly know it was his first game back with the catches he was making. He looks like his old self already and he will only get better the more he plays. For the first time in a long time, I thought the play calling was great, seems LaPolice is finally returning to his early season form.

FYI for those of you keeping track at home… we are still undefeated when Belton Johnson plays the whole game. #58 for MVP??

About the only negative to come out of this game surrounds our QB situation (go figure). For the 3rd week in a row, our starting QB threw enough interceptions to get himself pulled. While he wasn’t terrible, Stephen Jyles failed to establish himself as a bona fide starter. Like his predecessors, his downfall was his failure to protect the football. This led to Michael Bishop coming off the bench. Yes, we’ve now gone through the QB batting order and are back at the top of list. To be fair, Bishop played a good half, completing 90% of his passes including 2 TDs. It’s pretty clear that Bishop is now the chosen one going into the playoffs… though to be fair he wasn’t really chosen so much as he was given the spot by default. I will save my thoughts on our QB situation for my next post.

It was a statement victory for the Riders but there’s little time to savour it as we are just 3 sleeps away from doing it all again in Toronto.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Riders vs. Edmonton: Round 3

Okay before I get into this weekend's big game I have to address some things with regards to Rider QBs. People have gotten in an absolute furor over this topic in the past few days. Overnight Darian Durant became the most hated guy in Riderville and can’t even get the flu without being jumped all over; the announcement that Stephen Jyles would start hasn’t been well received; and worst of all people are starting to call for Bishop to be given another chance.
With that in mind it’s time for another edition of “Addressing Uninformed Opinions” or as I prefer to call it, “Everyone Is Stupid But Me”.

Addressing Uninformed Opinions: Rider QBs
Uninformed Opinion #1: Darian Durant is worse than Michael Bishop
False. Check the stat sheet ladies and gentlemen because they will show you that Durant is more accurate than Bishop, has a better QB efficiency rating and is a far more effective runner. Also Double D put up 7 TDs compared to 6 INTs whereas Bishop has put up 6 TDs and 8 INTs as a Rider (and he has played more than Durant). Bishop has a long history of failure and general mediocre play. The only thing in Durant’s history is 3 wins and 1 solitary bad game. While Durant may lack Bishop’s arm strength, he outdoes him in every other category and most importantly he gets results (not to mention the fact that he’s at least able to look off a safety).

Uninformed Opinion #2: Darian Durant is a terrible QB
False. He had 1 bad game people, calm down. Ricky Ray also threw 3 INTs in a game this season… bad games will happen. Now I’m not comparing Durant to Ray, but still. Other than a poor showing last game, Durant has been fairly effective at moving the ball. While he’s not all-star caliber yet and certainly can’t walk on water, I’m not ready to give up on him based on 1 bad game.

Uninformed Opinion #3: We Are In Trouble With Jyles As Starter
False. One QB leads the Riders in completion % (by a significant margin), QB efficiency and rushing average… that man is Stephen Jyles. How quickly we forget than Jyles has come in games we are trailing and scored the game winning points on 2 occasions. Aside from his struggles in BC to start the year, Jyles has had nothing but success when he’s on the field. We will be just fine with Jyles running the offense.

Hopefully that clears things up. Now onto the game…

Tomorrow the 10-6 Riders take on the 9-7 Eskimos at a sold-out Mosaic Stadium (17th straight sellout, including every single game this year) in a game with huge playoff implications. Essentially, the loser of this game will finish 4th in the West and cross over to play Winnipeg in the East Semi-Final. The winner remains in the hunt for 2nd place and a home playoffs game.

QB situation aside, the big news for the Riders this week is people returning from the injury list. On defense, Anton McKenzie returns after missing 4 games and John Chick returns (for the 3rd time) after missing 1 game. I’d like to be excited about Chick’s return but given he’s been about as durable as a cheap kleenex this year, I will contain my excitement until he lasts past the 4th quarter stretch. Our offense will get a huge boost from the return of Andy Fantuuuuuuuuuzzz who returns after missing 11 games with a broken fibula. Also returning from a broken fibula is Belton Johnson. For some reason people are overly excited about Belton’s return and are even saying he’s one of the starters we’ve been missing all season. That statement would be true if you changed “starter” to “back-up” and “missing” to “mildly inconvenienced by his absence”. To be fair, we were undefeated until he was injured but that fact is about as meaningless as the relationship I had with that prostitute in Calgary last Thanksgiving. No disrespect to Belton, I think he’s a pretty decent tackle and his return is well-timed given the injury to Smith but I’m just not as excited about it as everyone else seems to be. It is nice to finally be moving in a positive direction injury-wise (though I’m sure this is only a false sense of security and the trend will reverse itself shortly).

The game itself features some interesting match-ups. It will be the 2nd ranked Edmonton passing attack led by the ever dangerous Ricky Ray against the Riders defense which is 2nd against the pass; our dangerous running game against their porous run D; and the best linebacking group in the league against a Eskimo ground game which ranks dead last in the CFL and has been brutal since Maciocia took over. Judging by his rotund figure, Maciocia must avoid running as much in his personal life as he does in his football life.

For the Riders there will be 2 keys to victory. 1 – Stephen Jyles must remain calm, take what the defense gives him, control the ball and use his powerful arm sparingly. Short to medium passes to the likes of Fantuz, Hughes and Dominguez as well as a heavy dose of Cates should keep the chains moving and lead to points on the board. 2 – The defense needs to disrupt the Edmonton passing attack. We need solid coverage on their receivers, particularly on crossing routes and dump passes to the RB (which are Edmonton’s bread and butter). We also need pressure on Ricky Ray. He’s the best in the league and if you give him time he will pick you apart no matter how good your coverage is. Hopefully Chick will give our front 4 a boost because if they continue to get zero pressure, we are in for a world of trouble.

With the regular season almost over and the stakes higher than Pacman Jones’ legal bills, both teams will be going all out (let’s face it, both teams would probably rather be kicked repeatedly in the crotch while being forced to listen to a Bryan Hall marathon than travel to Winnipeg). I expect a heated battle that will come down to a field goal to win the game. Good news for Rider fans is that we have the league’s most accurate kicker in Luca Congi, who, in addition to kicking the longest FG in the league this year, has been lights out this season when it comes to kicking under pressure. Also Edmonton does not have a great record when it comes to kicking game winning FGs against the Riders. If history is any indication if it came down to the Esks kicking a game winning FG, either Omarr Morgan will block it or Edmonton will take an untimely holding call.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Public Opinion on Rider QBs: A Chronology

There has been no hotter topic this year in Riderville than quarterback. We have seen a carousel of starting QBs. In fact, it seems the only thing that changes more often than our QB depth chart, is public opinion on the individual QBs. Here’s a brief chronology of how public opinion has changed regarding each QB throughout the season.

Marcus Crandell
  • Kerry Joseph traded – Marcus Crandell is considered terrible, old and incapable of leading the Rider offense
  • Game 1 win – Crandell immediately becomes a dangerous QB and the leader of a potent Rider offense
  • Crandell gets hurt – Crandell’s status quickly changed from offensive leader to old, washed-up and out of shape
  • Rumours surface of a trade to Winnipeg – Fear runs rampant in Riderville that we are giving an opponent a quality back-up QB
  • Crandell is cut – Status returns to old, washed-up and ineffective

Darian Durant

  • Training Camp – His talent is questioned and talk of Drew Tate leapfrogging him begins
  • Game 2 win – Status upgraded from Butler-esque career 3rd stringer to minimally competent back-up QB
  • Back to back wins – Durant is dubbed the next great QB and the future of the Rider franchise who must be re-signed at all costs
  • Injury – Opinion remains unchanged, general view is that upon Durant’s return he will reclaim his role and continue to walk on water
  • Returns in relief of Michael Bishop – Looks less than stellar and some questions begin but it’s generally attributed to rust
  • Named starting QB again – The saviour of the franchise had returned. Allelulia!
  • 3 Ints before halftime – Saviour of the franchise immediately becomes noodle armed failure who’s big mouth and poor play make him expendable come the offseason… if not sooner

Michael Bishop

  • Traded to Riders - Heralded as a great move by Eric Tillman
  • Wins 2 games – Dubbed the most physically gifted and exciting QB in the league, a true franchise player
  • 4 poor games culminating in 3 INTs and a benching – Bishop suddenly dubbed an idiot who can clearly not lead us in the post season
  • Durant falters – People start questioning why Bishop is not playing

Stephen Jyles

  • Traded for Perry – hated since we traded an all-star for this 3rd string QB
  • 1st Appearance – hated for almost costing us the game
  • Wins Toronto game – hated for not being Durant
  • Wins Hamilton game – hated for throwing an INT in a winning effort
  • Named starter against Edmonton – hated for reasons I still don’t understand

Stay tuned because with 2 regular season games and the playoffs remaining there is still a large part of this chronology left to unfold. I can only assume it will somehow involve Dalton Bell becoming the public's new golden boy... and quickly just as quickly falling back out of favour.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday Morning Sentimonies: We’ve Played 4 QBs and THAT Was The Best One

Riders 30 – Ti-Cats 29

Well… to say the Riders should be proud of this latest win would be like saying you should be proud of barely beating Rick Hansen in the long jump.

Darian Durant came into this game having climbed his way back to the starting role. He looked sharp early and was moving the ball fairly well. He then proceeded to take a page out of Michael Bishop’s book and throw 3 interceptions (2 of which were in the endzone). In true Durant fashion though, he was far more efficient at it then Bishop as it only took him one half to do it. Enter Steven Jyles, whose early struggles did little to appease the sold-out crowd (especially when he added a pick of his own which was returned for a TD). Fortunately he recovered and put together a couple decent drives and that ended up being enough in the end… mainly because Denny Creehan has evidently never heard of the QB draw.

Now I’m sure many of you will be saying that I should be hating on Durant as I did with Bishop given his performance. While I admit that Durant had a bad outing and fully deserved to be pulled I will not equate him with Bishop. While Bishop has a long and storied history of sucking, Durant has done pretty good in his limited action this season. While I’m guessing Jyles will get the start next week, I would not be opposed to Durant being given a 2nd chance on a short leash. He moved the ball effectively, he just made some very poor choices in the redzone.

I was surprised to see James Johnson relegated in favour of Tad Kornegay this week. It’s not that Johnson didn’t deserve it since he’s been fairly brutal the last couple weeks and kudos to Coach Miller for holding him accountable, but I find 2 things odd about this. Last year when Johnson was terrible and getting burned week in and week out, they kept him in and dubbed him an all-star. This year (with the exception of the last couple games) Johnson has been doing very well... and coming from the former president of the James Johnson Hater Club that means a lot. Also, Johnson is far from our worst corner (see: Morgan, Omarr). So if we’re in the business of holding poor performance accountable maybe we should be looking to the other side of the field. Just saying is all.

Seems defensive end is the new receiver when it comes to injury. This week our mandatory injury was Stevie Baggs who injured his MCL. For those of you keeping track at home, our DE position has gone as follows this year: Dek Bake replaced the injured John Chick, Bake was then hurt and replaced with Seante Williams, who was hurt and replaced with Stevie Baggs who is now hurt and his replacement has yet to be named. One would think that finding a DE at this point in the season would be tough but then again how hard can it really be to find another defensive player who can’t get pressure on a QB?

Our kick returning is atrocious and I demand fiduciary compensation for being forced to watch it repeatedly. I would say our return blocking is brutal but that would not be accurate because something has to actually exist before it can be classified as brutal. While Johnson’s impression of playing Dance Dance Revolution may be uncanny, it is not all that useful in a game situation. Also, why do we keep taking holding calls on returns that don’t go anywhere? Generally holds result in impeding the cover team from tackling the returner as he attempts to make forward progress… evidently not in the kooky world of Alex Smith though.

As much as I respect our coaches for the tremendous work they’ve done this year, it’s gotten to a point where I have to question their intelligence of late… particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Why did we do nothing but pass in the 1st quarter when going into the wind and then proceed to run in the 2nd when the wind was at our back? Why did we concede a single point near the end of the first half only to kneel to end the quarter? If you are going to kneel anyway why not run the ball out since field position doesn’t matter! The fact that we were out-coached for the majority of the game by Marcel Bellefeuille should be cause for great alarm.

People keep saying the Riders play to the level of their opponents. That’s not true. This week we played just good enough to beat the Ti-Cats… last week we also played just good enough to beat the Ti-Cats.

To be fair it was not all doom and gloom. It was great to see Wes Cates back chewing up the yards. Matt Dominguez may have been used sparingly but just seeing him catch a ball and bounce back up was pretty awesome. Chris Szarka took full advantage of getting the ball more this game than all season. And Chris Getzlaf turned in another stellar performance and is looking more and more like a keeper each game.

It may not have been pretty but as Man In The Bush always says “Pretty or not, you gotta take what you can get.” For some reason though I don’t think he was talking about football when he made that quote.

Next up is the Edmonton Eskimos in a “Loser travels to Winnipeg” game. That's such a terrible punishment that I'm told Vince McMahon has considered using it as a stipulation in a match at his next pay per view.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Calgary Videos

I finally managed to upload the interviews we shot in Calgary. Enjoy...

Rider Prophet and Danny Brown

Rider Prophet and Nate

Rider Prophet and Gov

Rider Prophet and Sheldon

This last one is a bit outdated but funny nonetheless...

Rider Prophet for Prime Minister

Saturday, October 18, 2008

My Prayers Have Been Answered

Ask and ye shall receive…

Wednesday I made a plea to Ken Miller to realize that Michael Bishop was terrible and it didn’t take long for him to take heed. He has announced that Darian Durant would be starting on Sunday and Bishop would likely be dropping to 3rd on the depth chart behind Stephen Jyles. Furthermore, coming into today Bishop had yet to take a single snap in practice. Alleluia!!!! Seems as though the coaches’ patience with Bishop has finally worn out. I guess only managing 5 good quarters of football over 7 games (28 quarters) will tend to put your security in jeopardy. (Hmm 5 for 28… guess Bishop’s good quarter % mirrors his standard completion %).

As much as I love Bishop bashing though, we have more important things to address… Sunday’s game against the Ti-Cats. To be fair though, a lengthy discussion on crocheting techniques would be more important that Michael Bishop but I digress.

Sunday the 9-6 Riders take on the 3-12 Ti-Cats at Mosaic Stadium. Hamilton is of course coached by my old friend Marcel Bellefeuille. Last year Marcel was my most insulted sports figure. This year I have gone fairly easy on him… now that doesn’t mean he’s improved as a coach to the point where it would be wrong to insult him, it’s more a product of that fact that I’ve been too busy insulting the likes of Bishop, Kornegay and Morgan to have any time for Marcel’s failures.

In typical Ti-Cat fashion, their season is already officially over and they are looking to next year. Their string of failure is almost sad… almost but not so sad that I won’t make fun of it. They entered this season with 3 franchise players… Moreno, Printers and Lumsden. Here we are with 3 weeks left in the season and Moreno has been traded for a draft pick, Printers has dropped down the QB depth chart faster than Michael Bishop (which is quite a feat) and Lumsden has dressed in 9 games, played the equivalent of 5 and is now entering his annual season ending surgery. I’d really like to feel bad for them except we also lost our QB, star LB and RB… and managed to turn a plus 500 season in spite of it… guess you can chalk that up to not hiring Bellefeuille and Creehan as coordinators.

How sad is it when we are missing our centre, LB, DE and anything resembling a receiver and we still outmatch Hamilton at virtually every position?

We actually get some good news for a change as we are expected to get 3 offensive players back this week. Vince Marshall is set to return and more importantly so are Wes Cates and Matt Dominguez! Talk about rejuvenating an offense. Last week we played the back-up RB, an idiot QB and our “veteran” receiver was Weston Dressler by virtue of being the only one on the roster for game 1. Now we have one of the League’s top RBs, a QB whose IQ actually exceeds his jersey number and an actual veteran receiver. This can only mean good things in terms of offensive production. Not to mention we get to face a defense run by the worst D-coordinator in the league.

Despite the fact that Hamilton is currently competing with Toronto for the “Most Embarrassing Team of ‘08” (I currently give the edge to the Argos for the record) they cannot be overlooked. They have nothing to lose and have proven that they can be dangerous. Quinton Porter looks like a decent QB (though when following Printers anyone would look like a decent QB), a few promising young receivers and the most amazing depth at RB in the league… well except Lumsden is done for the season… and so is Caulley… and Kenton Keith may have to miss his homecoming due to a laceration on his arm… I guess all Hamilton really has at RB is a white guy named Tre (you should never trust a white guy named Tre).

The key for this game will be for Darian Durant to do what he does best… manage the game. Use short passes and a heavy dose of Wes Cates to move the chains. Defensively, with their RBs decimated, Hamilton’s only real offensive play will be tossing it up high to Rodriguez on the corner route so as long as we can eliminate that (please don’t suck Omarr, please) we should win.
Riders by 10

See you in the stands on Sunday.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wednesday Morning Sentimonies: At Least I Was On TV

Stampeders 42 – Riders 5

Well… that was like watching an alligator have sex with a hippo. Yeah… it was that bad.

In front of thousands of Rider fans, including the Rider Prophet, and with 1st place and the season series with Calgary on the line… the Riders put in one of their worst performances of the season. They seemed to have the X-factor, or as I like to call it, the Michael Bishop Sucks factor.

Seriously, I challenge anyone of you out there to legitimately question my Michael Bishop hatred at this point. He’s terrible. 3 INTs (2 of which were in the endzone), 1 fumble, a failed 1 yard plunge… and to top it all off 0 points scored. Simply outstanding Mr. Bishop. Both endzone INTs were to the safety which Bishop consistently fails to account for. Marcus Crandell was released for production that didn’t even come close to this garbage so why are we forced to put up with it just because it’s Michael Bishop? Ken Miller seems to have an affinity for the partially retarded signal caller that is bordering on the Barrett/Nealon love fest (although at least Miller has been willing to pull Bishop) and if he doesn’t smarten up, Mr. Miller may find himself on my hatred list. You’re doing so many things well with this team Miller, don’t throw it all away for Michael Bishop. That’s like leaving your supermodel billionaire wife to elope with a one-legged inbred prostitute named Bertha.

Speaking of quarterbacks, Darian Durant made a late game appearance to try and mop up the mess made by Bishop. The man dubbed "the future" of the franchise by many then promptly slipped while trying to walk on water and was sacked. I wish Darian no ill will, I just thought that was funny given that he received a huge cheer from the crowd only seconds before.

As much as I’d like to, I can’t pin the entire loss on Bishop. The defense shares some guilt in this one as well (just not as much as Bishop). Admittedly, Calgary possesses one of the top offenses in the league and even the best defenses can’t expect to contain them completely so I’m not mad at the defense for letting the Stamps put up points. I’m mad at the defense for making the genius decision to leave the CFL’s top receiver wide open down field and for being completely unable to tackle someone along the sidelines (seriously, I was having flashbacks to the game in Calgary last August when we also seemed unable to tackle). Look I know our offense is giving you no support and Bishop’s repeated turnovers are keeping you on the field more than is reasonable but come on… you gotta do better than that boys.

The lone high point of the game was once again Weston “soon to be rookie of the year” Dressler. He amassed 133 yards including a ridiculous one handed grab. I’m not ashamed to admit that I have a man-crush on Dressler.

It’s now time for your weekly “Serious Rider Injury” report. You didn’t think we’d escape Calgary with only a Stampeder boot mark on our asses did you? Add 2 more receivers to our injury list (which is now large enough to legally be considered a village)… Corey Grant pulled an abdominal muscle and Gerran Walker sprained his clavicle (funny word, clavicle) and both are expected to miss a few games. Also, John Chick celebrated his 2nd return from the 9-game injured list by sustaining another injury, this time his shoulder. Fan-freaking-tastic! I was unaware that the Chicks were related to the Lumsdens but that appears to be the case given their respective durability.

If by some miracle we can find 42 healthy players come Sunday, the Riders will take on the lowly Ti-cats… though at this rate we may have to forfeit. The good news is talented players such as Flick, Fantuz, Dominguez, Cates, and McKenzie are only a week or 2 away from returning… the bad news is none of them play QB so it will do nothing to improve our offense.

We shot some quality interviews while pre-gaming in Calgary and I will have those posted sometime tonight.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Liberty Bird and Football: A Winning Combination

One of my favourite times of the year is but days away… The annual Rider/Stampeder Thanksgiving Day Clash. What better way to celebrate all the blessings in my life I’m thankful for than by ditching my family and partying in Calgary for the weekend (though Mom if you are reading this could you please save me some turkey… and disregard the previous line while your at it).

Monday these 2 rivals meet with the season series and a good shot at 1st place on the line. The stakes are higher than my blood alcohol level will be this weekend in Calgary. With a sellout crowd expected this will have all the intensity of a playoff game (which can only mean good things for us Rider fans given the Stampeders recent playoff track record).

First, I guess I have to address the gong show of a week courtesy of the Stampeders. It all began in the moments following Friday’s game at Mosaic. After the game, Stamps D-Line coach Cornell Brown as well as DBs Brandon Browner and Dwight Anderson confronted and verbally berated the referees outside the locker rooms. For this fantastic display of professionalism and sportsmanship, Browner and Anderson were fined undisclosed amounts and Brown was fined $2500. The thing I find funny about this is that $2500 is the same amount Eric Tillman was fined for voicing his concerns over the injury list rules. So apparently in the league’s view, voicing legitimate concerns in a calm and intelligent manner is as grave an offense as verbally abusing a CFL official. That’s the equivalent of a judge laying down the same sentence for aggravated assault as for participating on the debate team… but I digress. In Calgary’s defense, I’m sure these 3 loud mouthed idiots were complaining about the No Yards calls against Calgary that were missed as opposed to the correct on-side kick ruling, you know in the spirit of sportsmanship towards the Riders.

But the stupidity didn’t end there. In the days that followed, we were treated to Henry Burris taking shots at Rod Pedersen and JoJuan Armour alleging that the refs were trying to pump up the Regina crowd and encouraging them to cheer (turns out it wasn’t a ref, it was merely Joe Hadesback). The fact Armour can’t differentiate between a radio broadcaster and a uniformed CFL referee would definitely concern me if I were Jon Hufnagel. While the whole ordeal has been ridiculous it did effectively cover up the fact that the Stampeders (heavily favoured to win the West) were defeated by the Riders 4th string offense. All week, all the media cared about was the reffing, the fines and the allegations. No one was questioning the Stampeders on why their defense couldn’t stop the offense formerly know as the Riders practice roster. No one was questioning Burris’ screw ups (1 INT, 2 fumbles). No one was questioning the Stampeder O-line for allowing 3 sacks against a team that generally struggles to manage 1 sack a game let alone multiple. So maybe this whole gong show was just a way for Hufnagel to take the pressure off the team for the week. If so the plan worked to perfection… though to be fair, if Hufnagel is putting this much effort into diverting media pressure away from his team’s bad performance rather than simply working on improving, he’s a lot dumber than I have given him credit for.

Now onto the game itself…

The Riders (as always) are ravaged by injuries and no big names are expected to return from the injured list for the game (though there is word John Chick may be ready to return (again) on Monday). To top it off we are playing one of the top teams in the west on the road. On paper things don’t look good. However, for one thing this can hardly be considered a road game since half the stadium will be Rider fans. For another, our injury problems are offset by the fact that the Stampeders are beginning their annual October collapse. With so much uncertainty in the world it’s nice to know you can still count on something. In 2006, the Stamps went 1-3 in October and ended up losing the WSF. In 2007, they went 1-4 and once again lost the WSF. Seeing the pattern? They are the CFL equivalent of the NY Mets (who are my favourite squadron).

For the Riders, there are 3 keys to success. First and foremost Michael Bishop needs to turn in another solid performance. If he’s patient and takes what the defense gives him our offense should move the ball effectively. Second, we need to remain committed to the run. They are certainly no Wes Cates, but Charles and Hughes can gain yardage and keep the defense honest. Third, we need to contain Calgary’s receivers (I’m looking at you Omarr Morgan... unfortunately so is Henry Burris) and keep the scoring low.

It will a very close game and the intensity will be way higher than last time. I expect Calgary to play a better game but still…

Riders by a Luca Congi Field goal.

See you in Calgary!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Monday Morning Sentimonies: I Stand Corrected

Riders 37 – Stamps 34

Well, this is what I get for making bold predictions. Thursday I stated that the Riders would not win another game with Michael Bishop at QB… well that looks like a stroke of genius now. I managed to time that prediction with the best game of Bishop’s career. While he didn’t put up massive stats, he did manage the game better than I’ve ever seen from him. He took what the defense gave him and focused on short to medium routes. With the exception of that one fumble where he remembered that he was Michael Bishop and was therefore playing far too well, he played a great game.

I always thought that the moment I saw Bishop get hurt and take his pads off would be the happiest moment of the season. Unfortunately, it was not a happy moment and for the first time in my life I found myself hoping Bishop would return (it was very awkward, like realizing the stripper you’re watching is your cousin awkward). So I will give credit where credit is due, Bishop played a good game. This does not however mean I no longer hate him. This latest outing gives Bishop a grand total of 5 good quarters played over the past 6 games. It will take a little more consistency than that before I start rethinking my Bishop hatred. (It took being named the Grey Cup MVP for James Johnson to make it off my hatred list so that gives you an idea of how far Bishop still has to go).

With Bishop looking like a decent QB this week, the “Worst Player on the Team” role now firmly belongs to Omarr Morgan. Morgan has one kind of coverage… giving a 5-10 yard cushion and letting WRs catch everything in front of him. While this strategy is alright on 1st and 10, it does not work out so well on 2nd and short. Did you notice how the majority of the Stamps offense involved lining up Rambo against Morgan? Guess even Henry Burris is smart enough to figure out that attacking Morgan is a good strategy. Morgan is looking more and more like Scott Gordon every game… his coverage is questionable and he tries to make up for it by tackling hard. Well guess what? It isn’t working and Morgan is the weak link on our secondary. I think it’s time to give either Patrick or Heard a shot at corner. They can’t do any worse than Morgan… unless they play with a 30 yard cushion I suppose.

How about them Regina boys? They accounted for all our offensive TDs. The coaches decided that establishing a running game once again would be a good idea and lo and behold it led to 2 TDs by Neal Hughes, including 1 from the 1 yard line (I won’t lie, I thought we were screwed when the ball was placed on the 1 given our past record). Fellow Regina product Chris Getzlaf added another TD in a fantastic debut.

Other notable mentions include newcomer Hugh Charles (or as I call him Charleston Chews) who looked pretty good running the ball, our O-line which allowed 0 sacks and our defense which once again turned in an impressive performance (3 sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles, 1 INT and 1 TD). It’s amazing what they can do when their offense gives them a decent breather.

I was unaware that the league amended their rules so that the restraining zone for no yards was reduced from 5 to 2 yards. If anyone out there knows when this change occurred could you please send me an email? I can only assume that I do not know the rules correctly since I refuse to believe that one of our highly esteemed referees would make a mistake. Actually to be fair the reffing wasn’t that bad but come on guys, those missed no yards calls were ridiculous!

In a shocking turn of events this latest win resulted in… you guessed it more injuries. This week’s victims were Jeremy O’Day (done for at least 6 weeks with a torn ACL) and long-snapper Jocelyn Frenette (hyper extended knee). That’s right, we lost our long-snapper and centre who happens to be our back-up long-snapper. That bodes well for our snaps next week.

The win leaves the Riders in a 3 way tie for first heading into Monday’s rematch in Calgary (it also guarantees us at least a crossover playoff berth). Myself and Media Consultant along with a few others will be making the trip to Calgary to take in the Thanksgiving festivities so if your going to be up there please be sure to stop by and say hi (hint: I’ll be the one with the white beard and hobo cloak).

Thursday, October 2, 2008

My Apologies

Sorry for the lack of posting this week. I am in the process of moving and was without internet up until last night. While I’m sure many of you were disappointed that my Monday Morning Sentimonies did not appear this week, I assure you, you didn’t miss much. I can sum up my post-game sentimonies with 1 sentence… Michael Bishop has reached a level of retardedness I didn’t think even he was capable of and the condition appears to be contagious and rubbing off on our coaches. (Needless to say I was a very angry man on Sunday).

Unfortunately I won’t be able to do a full post on tomorrow’s game as I am headed off to Saskatoon with work shortly and will roll back into town just in time for the game. While I don’t have the time for a proper analysis of the game, I will go out and make a bold prediction… We will not win another game this season with Bishop at QB. And since Bishop will be starting again, expect another embarrassing performance this Friday. It's times like this I'm thankful for Wisers.

Stamps by 14

Thanks for bearing with me through this week and rest assured I will return in full force on Monday