Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Him? Seriously?

In my last post I promised a return to football related sentimonies today. I almost had to reneg on that promise since there wasn’t much Riders news to talk about. Then as I was preparing to draft some poor attempt at a filler post, I heard the news that the Riders had brought in a new player that they expect to start on Labour Day. For those of you who haven’t yet heard who it is I’ll give you some hints.

- He is a former all-star receiver
- He played for the Riders for a year and a half
- He would have been part of the Grey Cup run in 2007 if he didn’t ask to be the focal point of our offense and subsequently get traded away
- He has been cut by 3 teams over the past 2 years
- The last time we heard of him he was waving his gun at his girlfriend as she sped away in her car

That’s right, today the Riders are welcoming back Jason Armstead.

After mulling things over during the bye week it seems as though the powers that be have decided that the answer to our non-existent return game is to bring back Armstead. While I have to give credit to Tillman for attempting to something about our return game, I’m pretty skeptical about how effective this will be. Armstead was the last Rider to return a kick for a TD but to be fair Jerald Baylis was the last Rider to be named Defensive Player of the Year but I doubt he’d give much of a boost to our defense today. Furthermore, the last time I saw Armstead play at Mosaic he was costing games the Als and Bombers games by either kneeling when he should have run, running when he should have knelt or fumbling when he should have not been on the field in the first place. So forgive me if I seem a bit skeptical about the move.

It seems Tillman and Miller are getting into the spirit of the league retro weeks. A few weeks ago we brought in the ’89 team as special guests. This week we are bringing in members of the ’06 team… as players. In addition to Armstead, our injuries at tackle have led to the return of Antonio Hall and injuries at LB are paving the way for the return of Reggie Hunt. I guess since Tillman is not allowed out of his house he has resorted to using a Delorean or possibly a phone booth (ala Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) to conduct his scouting duties.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Maritime Thoughts From The Rider Prophet

The combination of me being on vacation and the Riders being on the bye week has led to me having absolutely nothing football related to talk about… well aside from the once mighty Calgary Stampeders almost embarrassing themselves by losing to an Argo offense that consisted entirely of the check down to Jamal Robertson last night.

Anywho, since I have nothing to say about football and today is the last day of my quasi-deserved vacation, I figured I would relay to you some random thoughts/observations from my trip to PEI…

- The economy in PEI seems to be based entirely on potatoes and Anne of Green Gables. In a surprising coincidence, the economy is not doing so well.

- Though there are many tours that allow you to see seals, none of them allow you to actually club one (what a gyp!).

- There are no restaurants on the island … only eateries. In fact, everything ends in “ery”. Eatery, winery, creamery, fishery, shopery, prostitutery, drug dealey, etc…

- Peeing in the ocean is as satisfying as it sounds.

- Orca whale steaks are incredibly hard to find. I was very disappointed.

- Mermaid tears = false advertising

- I was not brave enough to try “potted meat” so it will forever remain a mystery.

- My apologies to the members the Rider Prophet staff who were informally promised presents… I inadvertently spent all my money at the aforementioned prostitutery so there will be no gifts.

- Lastly and most important, congratulations to my cousin Kyle who won a silver medal in the 1500m wheelchair race in the Canada Games. I was proud to be on hand to see it first hand

I’ll be back Monday with some football related sentimonies.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Celine Dion!

Riders 25 – Als 34

Today’s edition of Monday Morning Sentimonies comes to you live from the shores of PEI. The Prophet is currently enjoying some quasi-deserved vacation time. In a great display of timing, my first trip to the Maritimes has allowed me and Hurricane Bill hanging out quite a bit. Good times.

Right now you’re probably wondering why I’m still blogging while on vacation. Surely I could have left one of my other staff in charge of things. Well as much as I would like to say that it’s because I’m so dedicated to you my faithful readers… that would be a lie (nothing personal). The truth is I’m doing this because I have the most useless group of employees next to senate. PR Guy is less comprehensible than most newly landed immigrants, Man in the Bush hasn’t been heard from in days and may be currently serving 5-10 for a variety of offenses I’m happier not knowing about and Media Consultant… well I just plain don’t trust him. I guess you get what you pay for.

Anywho, I suppose I should make an attempt to comment on the game…

I was actually surprised at how well we played on Friday. I figured it would be a close game but the fact is we outplayed the Als in many aspects of the game but yet again fell victim to the same problems that have plagued our team all season… goal line offense, turnovers, special teams and 3rd quarter futility.

If you would have told me that we would have held Anthony Calvillo under 200 yards passing and sacked him 4 times I would have laughed at you. But amazingly that’s what our defense went out and did. Fell credit to them for an outstanding performance against the premier offensive unit in the league. Other than some piss poor tackling on the one TD I was very happy with how our defense performed.

Offensively, apparently Paul LaPolice took the advice that Dressler should be used more a bit too literally. He was pretty much our entire offense… even that 2 point convert was intended for Dressler, Getzlaf just jumped in front of him. It really didn’t surprise me that we couldn’t establish a run game against a Montreal run D that is stiffer than (insert sexually inappropriate comparison here; I’m too lazy to think of one on my own). Normally, the lack of a running game grinds our O to a halt. This time however, we simply started pushing the ball downfield instead… and with great success. Durant looked real good on his long passes (at least until Mathieu Proulx figured out our game plan and picked him off). In most cases, a strong defensive performance and a passing game that successfully stretches the field should be enough to win. But we’re the Riders and never do anything the conventional way.

While I have to give LaPolice credit for the passing game he called, I’m still left to wonder if his parents are related, or he was dropped on his head as a child… because man does he make some retarded decisions. One such example was when we got stuffed in the redzone early in the game. For reasons, I can only hope were alcohol related, LaPo decided to run our smallest RB up the middle twice in a row… and in a shocking turn of events we were stuffed both times. Most people would have used a bigger back such as Cates or Szarka to run up the middle, or at least ran to the outside to use Charles’ speed to our advantage, but not LaPo (maybe he just wanted to see a back flip really bad). Of course it doesn’t help matters when Durant throws brutally bad picks to the Als’ LBs.

Then we come to our special teams who have to be labeled as the worst unit in the league at this point. In all fairness to Kavis Reed we are currently missing our top 3 special teams players in Hughes, Williams and Stewart and they are being replaced with rookies… mostly DBs, which is a reason our blocking is so atrocious. That said it’s not like our issues on special teams are anything new, so maybe we should get around to addressing them. The only thing getting worse returns at this point is my pension fund.

If you look objectively at the game, if you take away the Als’ goal line stance and the punt return TD we could have easily beaten the best team in the CFL, which is extremely impressive. That said the reason that the Als are 7-1 and we are 4-4 is because they aren’t making the same mistakes that we routinely do (INTs, special teams screw ups and 3rd quarter holidays). Hopefully the bye week will allow the team a chance to heal up and the coaches a chance to start addressing our chronic problems because we are so close to being a premier team in this league but if we better start improving soon because Labour Day is coming up and we don’t want to get embarrassed like BC.

On that note, how bad do you have to be to give up 393 rushing yards in a single game?! I get mad when the Riders give up 100. Everyone in the country knew that Fred Reid was getting the ball on every play but somehow BC looked shocked and unable to do anything each and every time he got the ball. BC is in major trouble. For all the criticism that Mike Kelly has taken this year, I have to give him credit for one thing: he is the only coach to design an offensive attack that Michael Bishop couldn’t screw up… hand the ball off on every play.

Now if you’ll excuse me, me I gotta to get back to hanging with Hurricane Bill. I still have lots to do here this week including punching Anne of Green Gables, peeing in the ocean and starting up a lobster fighting ring. Catch you when I get back.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Riders vs. Alouettes: Part Deux

Given that this weeks’ game takes place in “La Belle Province” I will randomly insert meaningless French words here and there in order to comply with official languages legislation.

Friday the Riders travel to Montreal to play the 1
st place Als. The last time these 2 teams played, the Als came away with an embarrassingly lopsided victory. Zut Alors!

Trying to find weaknesses in the Alouettes is like trying to find a polite, non-smoking French person with good hygiene… although I’m sure one must exist somewhere, good luck trying to find it. Anthony Calvillo is so good it’s almost robotic. He is completing an amazing 74.5% of his passes. He is blessed with one of the league’s top RBs and 2 of the top 3 receivers in terms of yards so far this year in Watkins and Cahoon (oh yeah and their 3
rd option just happens to be Jamel Richardson). To be fair though the offensive force known as Keith Shologan has more TDs this season than the diminutive mormon. On a side note, due to the injury of Kye Stewart, Aaron Wagner will be moving back to LB so there’s a chance we may finally get to see who the toughest mormon in the CFL is (Go Wagner!). On top of all of that his O-line is offering a level of protection that would make Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy very envious. They have allowed a league low 6 sacks this season. The Alouettes are among the league leaders in virtually every offensive category. Syrop d’Érable!

Defensively, well, as Fred Reid learned the hard way, the Als are more than just “okay”. They have the stingiest defense in the league, allowing an average of 15 points per game and a microscopic 63 rushing yards per game. They lead the league in sacks and are tied with the Riders for the league lead in takeaways. The only aspect of the D that comes close to being labeled as just okay is the secondary.

The Riders counter with an offense that next to impossible to figure out. They are among the league leaders in points scored but among the league’s worst in yards gained. One game our run game looks unstoppable, the next they look useless.
Mon Dieu! Durant looks like a poised, veteran starter some drives and a Frankenstein QB that was made of Michael Bishop’s brain and Marcus Crandell’s arm strength on others. Bibliothèques!

Defensively, we are about as puzzling. We are among the league leaders in total yards and passing yards
allowed but dead last in terms of points given up. Celine Dion! It was reassuring to see Etch make some adjustments last week that actually resulted in consistently stopping the run. And with John Chick back in the mix, consistent pressure seems to be a realizable goal. Rock Voisine! We are the best in the league at creating turnovers and that will need to continue if we hope to steal a win in Montreal.

The key to the game will be pressure. We need to get to Calvillo and disrupt him or he will eat us up like a plate of poutine. Stunts, HB blitzes, whatever, just make sure you hit him and get in his face. We also need to limit the ferocious Alouette pass rush or Durant won’t be completing much of anything. That means the O-line has to step up and Cates will need to run hard.
Coq au Vin!

Most aren’t giving us a chance in this game but I think it will be a close game (provided we decide to do something in the 3
rd). Our secondary is good enough to limit the passing attack, our receivers are good enough to exploit the Als secondary, so it comes down to the battle in the trenches, where the Als have the edge. There has also been much talk of the humidity the team will encounter in Montreal and as we all know it's not possible to overstate the crippling effects of water vapour in the air on a hot day. It's no laughing matter, to be sure. We will fight hard but fall just short. Bonhomme Carnaval!

Als by 7 (This should actually be a good omen, the only other time this year I picked the Riders to lose they ended up winning)
Crêpe Suzette!

Around the CFL…

- Apparently the Riders have been in contact with Reggie Hunt about the possibility of bringing him in if it appears Kye Stewart’s knee will be a long term injury. And given the amount of injuries we’ve sustained at LB they are also fitting him for a knee brace and booking surgery time just in case.

- Word is the Riders have made a multi-year contract extension offer to Andy Fantuz. Given the success that my beer offer had in the negotiations with Jason Clermont, I would like to extend a similar offer to Andy… sign with the Riders and I will buy you beer after every game.

- Buck Pierce has suffered his 2
nd concussion in 5 weeks and 4th head injury in 9 months. And all this is on top of the rib, foot and shoulder injuries that perennially plague Pierce. I don’t know what’s stupider, the fact that Pierce still wants to keep playing or the fact that Wally Buono still wants to play him? Why is Wally always so fond of the uber-fragile QBs?

- Mike Kelly forced Stephan LeFors to accept pay cut from $150K to $90K. While many people are feeling empathetic towards LeFors, I actually envy the guy. I mean how awesome would it be to suck so much that the boss replaces you yet still pays you $90K to sit on the sidelines and watch your replacement embarrass himself?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: 75% Happy

Riders 33 – Ti-Cats 23

As I sit down to write this I have to admit that I’m very conflicted. I mean the Riders won at home based on 3 fantastic quarters of football… but that other quarter was so abysmal that it almost overshadows the win.

While I have been highly critical of our coaching staff this season, I have to give them credit for their game planning. We always start very strong. Last night the coaches looked like they were finally starting to earn their pay. Offensively, Paul LaPolice actually got creative in his play calling. He finally decided that Jason Clermont was worthy of some touches and even went so far as to call a goal line pass to the defensive tackle… no one saw that coming (Shologan’s smile was wider than
Darrell Hackney’s waistline following his big TD). Etcheverry learned how to stop the run and effectively take Cobb out of the picture all game and the returning John Chick helped the D-line turn in a dominant performance in the trenches. The defense as a whole did not allow a single 1st down in the first half and kept Hamilton to negative net yards. For the record, I guess it should come as no surprise that a Bellefeuille-run offense was that futile. Combined with a strong offensive output, the Riders were up 23 at the half.

Now to the casual fan that kind of lead and defensive performance going into the half would be cause for great rejoicing. But anyone who’s followed the team closely this year was probably more worried than confident. The Riders are bar none the worst second half team in the league and they gave the hometown fans a firsthand demonstration of that. I’m not sure what it is exactly that the coaches do in the locker room at half time… read romance novels, take naps, play Parcheesi, hookers and blow, their taxes… all I know is that it obviously has nothing to do with football. If you include last night’s 3
rd quarter implosion the Riders have now only scored once in the 3rd quarter this season (that’s equals out to an average of 1 point per 3rd quarter). That is clearly a coaching issue. I mean once you can forgive but putting up 0 points in 6 out of 7 3rd quarters?! Even Mike Kelly’s sorry excuse for an offense has done better than that.

Fortunately the team came to their senses in the 4
th and came away with the win and a share of first place. Outside of that 3rd quarter there are many positives to build on. Durant played well despite the wind and controlled the ball, we actually established a ground game with Cates, we are spreading the ball around really well making it hard for defenses to key on one player, the entire D-line looked really good and got consistent pressure, Jyles managed not to screw up on 2 separate occasions on the goal line (alleluia!), and McCullough and Freeman did a decent job in place of the injured Rey Williams.

Other random observations:

  • What’s the deal with Gainer’s new gay cousin?
  • According to Man In The Bush, Mo Lloyd and Kitwana Jones attended the game.
  • I guess it’s a good thing that Etch’s defense involves converted DB’s playing LB because with Kye Stewart going down we are quickly running out of actual LBs. At this rate he's going to have to start converting kickers by mid-September.
  • I was amazed at how well Durant was able to run on the wet turf while missing one shoe.
  • How bad was that missed no yards call? I wasn’t aware it was legal for defenders to gently spoon with the kick returner prior to him catching the ball.
  • How funny was that guy who casually walked out onto the field to talk to the refs after that call though? I think all he wanted was clarification from the refs on why there was penalty on the previous play. We were all thinking it, he was just brave enough to actually do it.
  • I never thought I’d say this but the futility that our special teams has shown under the direction of Kavis Reed has made me long for the days when Alex Smith was in charge (for the record that is not a compliment to Smith but rather a harsh insult to Reed).

While the game may have been way closer than it should have, it was a win nonetheless and a good showing overall.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Riders vs. Hamilton: How Did It Come To This?

I never thought I’d see the day where we came into a game against Hamilton with a worse record than the Ti-cats. For years now, the two Hamilton games that appeared on our schedule each year were widely considered gimme wins. We even started Rocky Butler a couple times to give them a fighting chance but we still won.

This year is a completely different story. We’re only a 1/3 of the way through the season and Hamilton has already won more games than in each of their last 2 seasons and currently are only a game behind Montreal for best in the league. And their success is coming from the most unlikely of sources. They have developed the 2nd best rushing attack in the league with their 4th string RB, but even more concerning, they’ve developed into a legitimate team under the direction of Marcel Bellefeuille. Never thought I’d have to use the term legitimate team in the same sentence as Marcel Bellefeuille… unless I was saying that Marcel Bellefeuille was fired thus making this a legitimate team again.

Hamilton’s long overdue resurgence is due to three very good offseason moves. They strengthened their O-line by bringing in Goodspeed and Gauthier, they dramatically improved their defense by bringing in Greg Marshall to run the show, and they made 2 key early season acquisitions in Jamall Johnson (who solidified their LBs) and Arland Bruce (who has turned a mediocre receiving group into a dangerous group overnight).

Offensively the Ti-cats are, and always have been, a run based team. Cobb has come from relative obscurity to become a feared RB in the league. Their passing game has been mediocre (I know, shocking that Bellefeuille’s team is good at running and bad at passing) but like I said with Bruce in the mix now I expect that area to improve. The most surprising thing about the Ti-cats this year is that they have committed the least turnovers in the league including just one solitary fumble. (I’m convinced there’s a holding on to balls joke here but can’t think of one). The Riders counter with a league high 24 takeaways but manage to completely offset that with 24 giveaways.

Defensively they are the definition of a bend but don’t break defense. They have given up more yards than any defense, yet are 2nd in the league in points allowed. Their D is at their best in the 2nd half where they have allowed only 13 points in the past 4 games (none of which came in the 4th quarter). The way to beat them is defiantly through the air where they have allowed more yards than anyone. They are kinda like a celibate girl… you can make a pass on them but it probably won’t lead to you scoring.

The Riders, by contrast, can be scored on as easily as a Maple Leaf goalie. Our defense is allowing a league worst 33 points per game. Many of which are a direct result of the 136 rushing yards per game we’ve been allowing… and with Rey Williams out for the foreseeable future the Riders will turn to Mike McCullough to try and stop the bleeding. No offense to Mike but I just don’t consider him to be knight in shining armour material. Our defense is an all or nothing mentality... either they create a turnover or they let their opponents score. There seems to be very little middle ground. The return of John Chick should help out a bit up front but until we start adjusting our philosophies and formations, we will just have to settle for the turnover or TD rollercoaster we’ve had all season… which is not easy on ones heart, blood pressure or (if you're anything like me) liver.

As for the rest of the team you just never really know what to expect. Our O-line looked great in Calgary but got steam rolled in BC. Cates was productive in Calgary too but has done absolutely nothing in his others games. Our play calling looked somewhat imaginative in Calgary but in most other games its stupidity has made Marcel Bellefeuille look like an offensive genius by comparison. Durant has thrown more TDs than anyone but when he’s not doing that he’s either throwing picks or going 2 and out. There is just no middle ground anywhere on this team. So I have no clue which version of the Riders will show up on Sunday.

There’s some favourable match-ups on both sides here. Hamilton’s outstanding ground game gets to face our porous run D but the Riders’ TD throwing QB gets to face an equally porous Hamilton secondary. Offensively the key will be for our O-line to step up and help Cates establish some semblance of a run game (I’m not asking for much but something more than his 40 yards last week). A legitimate running attack should open up some big plays of play-action given that the secondary is Hamilton’s weakness. Durant needs to play consistently. He’s made good plays all season… he just needs to stop following them up with bad ones.

Defensively it should be no surprise that stopping Cobb is the key. Porter doesn’t really scare me as a QB, he’s alright, just nothing special as far as I’m concerned. And Bruce is the only receiver that worries me. So if by some miracle we can contain Cobb and force Porter to beat us through the air, that’s a battle we can win.

While I have to admit that this game worries me somewhat, I hold out hope that a home crowd will give the team the boost they need to rise to the challenge and win.

Riders by a Luca Congi field goal.

Monday, August 10, 2009

So Good You Just Wanna Watch It Again

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Rider Loss + Rye = Rage

Riders 20 – BC 35

Well I didn’t think it was possible to screw up the 1 yard plunge any worse than Steven Jyles. I evidently didn’t count on the infinite idiocy of Jarious Jackson who somehow managed to throw an interception on first and goal at the 1 thus supplanting Jyles atop the list of worst 1 yard plunge gaffs on the season. It also was a great start to the game for the Riders. The offense wasn’t able to capitalize mind you but no worries because Luc Mullinder forced a fumble on BC’s next offensive series… of course yet again the offense failed to capitalize. Slightly more concerning but along comes Sean Lucas with a beauty of an INT on the next offensive series. Mercifully Durant connected with Rob Bagg on the next play for a long TD (which must have felt pretty sweet for Bagg after being stopped on the 1 yard line twice last year). So there it was, BC had committed turnovers on their first 3 offensive series but instead of dominating the scoreboard like we should have, we were only up a measly 7-0.

And that’s how the rest of the game went for the Riders… one display of futility after another. After an inspiring performance last week, our O-line evidently decided to take this week off, because they couldn’t have blocked an amorphous blob let alone the BC defense. We were unable to run the ball at all despite being matched up against the worst run D in the league. Outside of Rob Bagg’s breakout performance our offense was essentially non-existent. And Durant, well he was responsible for the 3rd dumbest play of the game, with his insanely ill-advised pick 6 to Banks. While I realize that it was a tremendous catch by Banks and in most cases that would only be a knockdown, the fact remains that a QB should probably not throw a ball directly at an oncoming defender. Just another example of how Durant can go from looking like an all-star QB to looking like he spent too much time with Michael Bishop in an instant. This is further supported by the fact that he now leads the league in TDs yet is also 2nd only to the rapidly regressing Kerry Joseph in INTs. For me the INTs aren’t as concerning as the utter failure of our offense to move the ball in key situations… like say the 3rd quarter or even 2nd half for that matter. I have made my thoughts quite clear on what I think of Paul LaPolice’s play calling so I won’t bother rehashing that… mainly because my doctor has indicated my body can only take so much rage filled ranting in one week.

Our O of course received no support from our special teams. Not only is our return game better suited to moving the ball backwards than forwards, they are also making some very costly mistakes. Such as Gerran Walker who was responsible for the 2nd dumbest play of the night (I wanted to make him #1 but BC’s INT on 1st and goal from the 1 just can’t be topped). Now I’ve heard the stuff about the refs botching the call on that one and as infuriating as that is, the fact remains that Walker made a really dumb play. Returners must secure the ball above all else (especially since they are not advancing the ball in our case) but he tried to make some sort of failed diving catch instead of just letting it bounce and then securing it. Bad reffing or not, Walker should have been smarter than that. Eric Morris can’t get healthy soon enough because the parade of failures we’ve been auditioning in his absence is getting ridiculous (though I doubt Morris will do much better if we don’t learn how to block but that’s a rant for another day). The icing on the cake was how our special teams managed to screw up the most automatic play in football… the convert. It was at that point that I was thankful I didn’t have any fragile valuables in my living room because they would surely have been thrown in a fit of rage otherwise.

After that fantastic start our defense regressed into their old ways of getting eaten up along the ground and failing to get much pressure on the QB. And that won’t get any easier now with news that Rey Williams injured his MCL in the first quarter and will likely be out 8-10 weeks. Knowing Etcheverry he’ll probably just use this as an opportunity to insert another DB in the starting D… you can never have enough coverage you know.

While I was mad enough to punch small animals following that infuriatingly futile loss (don‘t worry animal activists… I punched some kid instead), my weekend took a turn for the better thanks to an old friend… Michael Bishop. I didn’t anything was going to be able to cheer me up... until I saw Michael Bishop knock himself out cold on his own blocker and fumble the ball. Physical comedians couldn’t come up with anything that funny if they tried. Fortunately Bishop seemed to be okay and even finished off the game in true Bishop form… by throwing a pick to the safety. Seriously, how bad must Stephan Lefors feel? It must be pretty depressing to realize that you’re not as good as a guy who knocks himself unconscious on his own player.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Rider vs. BC: Friday Night Football

Friday the Riders and Lions square off at BC place in their second meeting of the season. The teams are coming off very different results last week. The Riders are coming off a last minute come from behind upset over the Stampeders, while the Lions are coming off losing the season series to Hamilton (which is the CFL equivalent of hitting absolute rock bottom considering the Ti-Cats have only amassed 6 wins over the past 2 seasons and only 2 of those wins have been against western opponents).

Its strange to see the Lions struggling so much since up until last year it was pretty much a given that Wally Buono would lead them to first place. While it’s strange, it’s certainly not surprising. They lost a game breaking RB, a 2 time lineman of the year, 2/3 of their starting LBs and the most dominant defensive player in the league all it once… and they were only a 3rd place team even with those players.

Their offense is a chain reaction of incompetence. Their O-line has given up a league high 18 sacks and when your QB is the not so mobile and even less durable Buck Pierce, that’s a big problem. Those rare times where Pierce does get enough time to get the ball away he tends to direct it to the hands of the defenders. He and Jackson have combined for a league high 9 INTs. Those rarer times where Pierce actually manages to get the ball to the correct coloured jersey, they usually drop it (e.g. Grice-Mullen in Game 1). And finally those rarest times when the receivers manage to squeeze the ball, they usually end up fumbling it away. BC has committed a league high 21 turnovers. About the only bright spot on this offense is the play of RB Martel Mallett (just our luck that their only strength plays into our main weakness).

The thing that I’m still shocked about is BC’s debacle at QB. Buono has consistently fielded elite QBs such as Dickenson, Garcia and Flutie but for some reason he now thinks that the combination of Buck “I’m always hurt and not that great to begin with” Pierce and Jarious “Almost as good as Bishop” Jackson is good enough to win games consistently. That’s about as misguided as making Eli Manning the highest paid player in the NFL.

I can sum up the performance of the Lions defense with one stat. They are the only team in the league who are more futile than the Riders when it comes to stopping the run (and by a wide margin too). That’s like losing to a blind man in a game of I Spy. Their front 4 look very mediocre without Wake and their linebackers are so futile that Buono was forced go out and sign Jojuan Armour and anoint him the starter over Javy Glatt before Armour even got his orange jersey on. Maybe Wally is hoping Armour can knock some sense into his receivers like he did to Copeland.

For the Riders, they need to continue to build on the success of last week. We played better in Calgary but are far from playing great football consistently.

In week 1 we would have destroyed the Lions if not for the turnover-fest our offense produced. So this time around we need to hang on to the ball above all else. Our running game seems to be back on track with the addition of Geno back in the O-line and Cates now running with authority. The key to this game will be running the ball down BC’s throat. It’s not often you play a team that has worse run D than us so we need to take full advantage. Durant also needs to continue controlling the ball as he did in Calgary (minus 2 very ill advised throws). A strong run game should also open some long passes as it did last week. BC still has a bunch of ball hawks in the secondary so we need Durant’s throws to be right on the mark.

Defensively it is still all about tackling. In our 2 loses we were abysmal in that area. Last week we were okay tacklers and it led to holding a very potent offense to only 2 TDs (imagine what would happen if we ever get really good at tackling). In game 1 our D beat up on the Lions like they were Tina Turner and we were Ike (God rest his soul… well okay maybe not God… but you know what I meant). I don’t expect that kind of slaughtering this time around, but I still think that our front 4 should be able to get consistent pressure against a struggling BC O-line. Provided we can control Mallett, the BC offensive attack should be minimal. Simon and Jackson are good receivers but I’m not overly concerned about Pierce’s ability to get them the ball. And I’m not overly concerned about the other receivers since it appears none of them can catch.

Same as last game, if we can win the battle in the trenches and establish a stronger running game than them we will win. This should be an easy win for the Riders but you can never really count out a team coached by Wally Buono, especially when they are playing at home.

Riders by 6.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Rider Prophet Remembers Scott Schultz

Tuesday, the career of one of the most entertaining Riders came to an end. Over the past 9 years, Scott Schultz’s on field intensity and off-field hilarity endeared him to both his teammates and the fans and etched his place among the franchise’s best.

In honour of Schultz’s illustrious career in Green and White, I present to you a look at #96’s most memorable moments on and off the field.

Top 10 Scott Schultz Memories

10 – 1
st Round Success
The Riders aren’t exactly known for their success in the 1
st round of the Canadian Draft. This franchise has used their precious 1st round selections on such future all-stars as Curtis Galick, Ducarmel Augustin and Nathan Hoffart. Schultzy will go down in history as one of the few 1st round picks we actually got right.

9 – Tough SOB

As funny and entertaining as Schultz could be off the field, when he stepped on the field he was the polar opposite. He was intense, mean, angry and above all else he was tough as nails. This famous photo says it all…

8 – Firing Up The Team

Before every game the Riders circle up at midfield to get jacked up for the upcoming battle. Right in the middle, jumping around and firing up the team was #96. As Media Consultant pointed out to me “The team will miss having a 300 lb white guy getting crunk in the huddle before every game, that's for sure. If that doesn't fire you up, what will??”

7 – Banjo Picker

During the 2003 West semi-final, the Riders were eager to make the Bombers pay for Troy Westwood calling us a bunch of banjo picking inbreds. Early in the game Schultz and Nate Davis sacked Khari Jones and proceeded to pick their air banjos in celebration.

6 – Punting In The Rain

Just before the refs stopped the Thunder Bowl game due to lightning, another classic Schultz moment took place. Sean Fleming was attempting to punt the ball but he mishandled it, and Schultz ended up scooping up the ball. In the ensuing celebration he ran a few steps and hoofed the ball himself.

5 – Champion

It read like a story book. Kid from Moose Jaw, grows up cheering for the Riders, gets drafted by them and goes on to win only the 3
rd Grey Cup in franchise history. And as always, Shultzy celebrated in style…

4 – Television Star

When Rick Mercer came to town to do a segment on the Riders, Schultz, as always, took full advantage of the camera time and stole the show with such memorable lines as “Richard get out of my A Gap” and “You had me at Piffles”

3 – Sassy Pigs
Schultz was always one to speak his mind, which made him a favourite among the both the media and the fans. One of his most famous quotes came in 2003 when he referred to the BC O-line as “Fat Sassy Pigs”. The line is so infamous that Schultzy referenced it at his retirement press conference.

2 – Moose Jaw Stomp

You knew it was coming anytime Schultz got a sack. It was Shultz’s trademark and quickly became one of the most famous dances in the CFL. It’s like John Madden said in the replacements: “I love seeing a fat guy score. Because first you get a fat guy spike, then you get the fat guy dance.”

1 – Spergeon Wynn

In 2006, the Argos came to town and were in the unfortunate position of putting Spergeon Wynn in at QB. In a play I will never forget, Schultz got loose in the backfield and had an open shot at Wynn. Not one to squander an opportunity, Schultz delivered a vicious hit that nearly decapitated Wynn and sent his helmet flying farther than most of Wynn’s passes went.

Original Video - More videos at TinyPic

As devastating as that hit was, the quote that followed will go down in history as the greatest Scott Schultz quote ever...

“I would have made that hit on Jesus himself”

So long #96, you will be missed.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Unbelievable!

Riders 24 - Stampeders 23

I have to admit that even though I drove to Calgary to see the game first hand, I never really expected the Riders to win. The Stampeders are a solid football team and going into this game we were not. Add in the fact that we were missing Andy Fantuz and our offensive strategy involved a game of musical QBs. And with just over a minute left in the game everything had gone as expected. Of course being a Rider fan I should know that nothing ever goes as expected. In a grand total of 3 plays we went from seeing a thus-far perfect kicker lining up a FG that would have sealed our fate to seeing Dressler and Getzlaf move the ball the entire length of the field for a game winning major. Unbelievable!

Huge props go out to the O-line. Led by the returning Gene Makowsky, they turned in a great performance. They opened some huge holes for the run game and actually offered protection to our QB. I said before the game that the game would be won and lost in the trenches and our hoggies did not disappoint. Their performance led to something we haven’t seen in a while... a strong rushing performance by Wes Cates.

While I had my doubts about the QB shuffle, I guess it worked out in the end. Durant… well he was about we you can expect all season… some great plays and some plays that make you wonder if we dressed a retarded zoo animal in a Rider jersey and put him under centre (like we did for the last half of last season). The good news was that this week the good outnumbered the retarded zoo animal. What I liked the most was seeing passes over 15 yards… more than once. They play calling was somewhat imaginative. I mean how often to you see a triple reverse check down to the RB? We also managed to score in the 3rd quarter for the first time this season (as sad as that is).

Defense, was better… not great but better. We are still vulnerable to the run but not as embarrassingly vulnerable as in previous weeks. Don’t ask me how we we’re able to somewhat control perennial all-star Joffrey Reynolds but we’re unable to with the very mediocre Calvin McCarty but that’s a topic for another time. The D limited the high powered Calgary offense to only 2 TDs and a few FGs which is no small feat. Most importantly, when the game was on the line, they didn’t let Henry Burris move at all.

While it far from a perfect performance, all that matters is that we came away with a win. More importantly my hours of driving to support the team we’re rewarded with an exciting come from behind victory (normally I’m not in favour of things coming from behind… especially when they are excited but I digress) and the ability to rub it in the face of snooty Stamp fans. Not to mention I was also treated to the best mascot soccer half time show I’ve ever seen!

One last note about the game. Stampeder fans are incredibly stupid. They need the announcer/jumbo-tron to tell them when to cheer. If that happened at Mosaic I would be utterly embarrassed to call myself a fan. Its not hard... cheer loud on defense… pretty simple. Though in retrospect maybe the announcer telling them when to cheer is a good idea for Calgary because the people sitting around me kept starting a “Go Stamps Go” chant when the Stamps were on offense… so in the spirit of things I joined right in with them. Why discourage them?

As with every Rider win, there was a price to be paid. This time since we miraculously emerged from the game injury free (knock on wood), the football gods had to take a different route. As you’ve probably heard by now Scott Shultz will announce his retirement tomorrow to pursue other business opportunities.

To those of you keeping track at home we have now lost our best O-linemen to a freak accident while training in the offseason, a versatile RB/ special teams demon to an injury suffered 7 years ago and now our starting DT to a midseason business opportunity he couldn’t pass up. Seriously what’s next? Rey Williams joins a secret underground cult who are morally opposed to organized sports?*

*The Rider Prophet takes no responsibility if by some strange coincidence this comes to pass.