Riders 23 – Eskimos 20
I won’t lie, I was a tad worried about our chances in this game. We were in a stadium that we always struggle at, we gave up a pick 6 early, we took a too many men on the field penalty because someone who wasn’t even on FG formation mysteriously decided to insert himself in the game, we had a touchdown negated because Chunky Adams didn’t report as an eligible receiver, we ended up playing a rookie at corner… yeah things definitely weren’t looking good. Yet somehow we managed to overcome all of that and come away with the win and a share of first place.
Hats off to our defense. After getting embarrassed by Ricky Ray last week, they stepped up big time, allowing him to complete just over 50% of his passes and allowing no passing TDs. They also held Stamps to just 13 yards and Mann without a catch (no small feat). They kept the Esk offense in check all night despite Darian Durant doing his best Michael Bishop impersonation. I was pretty worried when I saw Tamon George out there consistently but I thought he played alright for it being his first game. As for Leron Mitchell, I swear the poor guy is cursed. Last year, he looks awesome on special teams in Game 1 and breaks his leg to start off game 2. This year he looked really good on the corner but ends up pulling a hammy before halftime. He’s becoming the new TJ Stancil… really awesome on those few series when he’s not hurt.
Offense was a mixed bag. Obviously I was less than impressed with Durant’s 3 picks but I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is what we will get from Durant all year: great plays mixed with bad plays. The thing that has always impressed me is his ability to fight through the mistakes and do what’s needed to win the game. I was shocked to see that Cates managed to rush for over 100 yards, it sure didn’t seem like that watching him. He still seems very tentative in his running. If he can put up 100 while running like Henri Childs just imagine what he could do if he ran like he did at the start of last year.
I though that Jamie “The Juggernaut” Boreham was a real difference maker in the game. His running punts into the wind really helped with the field position battle and on one occasion he even ended up extending a drive by deciding to hold the ball and run. He’s the only punter I know whose kicks actually improve when he kicks on the run.
The Renauld Williams touchdown may go down as the worst series of events leading to a TD in Rider history. Luca Congi made a FG but it was wiped out by a too many men on the field penalty. Then 2 of the players went off the field so we had to take a timeout because we now had too few people. Then Boreham punts followed by a series of grown men flailing themselves in the general vicinity of a loose ball (the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Man In The Bush reported on an after party during Gay Pride week) that somehow ended up with Rey Williams in the endzone with the ball. I’ve never seen anything quite like it (and hopefully never will again).
Other random observations…
- Seeing Keith Shologan go in motion to the slot was the funniest thing I have seen in weeks. Nothing like seeing a 290 lbs D-linemen in a full out sprint (though if the play clock were any shorter he might not have made it). The scary thing is that since he was going in motion, you know there’s a play in the book somewhere that involves him running a route and getting a reception. Can you say Shologan streak?
- A close second was seeing an Edmonton defender desperately holding onto Fantuz’s hand as he casually reached the ball in for the 2 point conversion.
- How amazing was it that 62,000 people attended that game? That is unheard of in the regular season and is certainly great news for the league.
- As great as Shologan in motion was, in terms of hilarity it was trumped later that night when I saw Michael Bishop bounce a pass off his slot back while attempting a quick screen to the wide receiver. Just when you think Bishop has found every conceivable way to embarrass himself, he proves you wrong.
It may not have been pretty but it was hard fought victory in a tough road game. Hopefully they can keep up that momentum because we travel to another tough stadium on Friday to face the Lions.