Thursday, October 29, 2009

Riders vs. Hamilton

Saturday the Riders (9-6-1) travel to Hamilton to take on the Ti-Cats (7-9) in a contest that is very important for both teams for different reasons. The Riders can clinch their 3
rd straight home-playoff game with a win, while the Ti-Cats need to win to stay in contention for a playoff spot (and possibly even a home playoff game).

Normally discussion about Hamilton involves heavy mockery of coach Marcel Bellefeuille but for awhile there it looked this year would be different (much to my dismay). After a brutal first game, the Bellefeuille-led Ti-Cats won 4 of their next 5 games and we’re essentially a lock for 2
nd place in the East. Bellefeuille was even being discussed as a potential Coach of the Year Candidate (again, much to my dismay). But just as things were finally looking up for the beleaguered Hamilton fans Marcel remembered just who he was and proceeded to resume coaching as effectively has he had done in his previous coaching stints in the league (i.e. terribly) en route to losing 7 of their next 9 games and ending up in a battle with the Bombers to even make the playoffs.

To be fair, unlike in the past, Bellefeuille only made 1 mistake this time… problem is it was a pretty big mistake. I’m talking of course about Quinton Porter. Anyone who has watched him play this season can tell that he’s play
ed terribly. Anyone that is, but Marcel. Despite Porter’s repeated turnovers, microscopic offensive production and being responsible for 2 of the abysmal Argos’ 3 wins, Marcel inexplicably decided to stick with him. Kevin Glenn must be wondering why Marcel hates him so much. When they were both in Regina, Glenn was kept on the sidelines in favour of Nealon Greene, and now in Hamilton he was benched again in favour of someone who can only dream of playing like Nealon. Simply put, if Bellefeuille had been smart enough to name Glenn as the starter sooner, the Ti-Cats would have clinched a home-playoff game. Then again, smart is not a word generally associated with Bellefeuille’s coaching (the preferred words tend to be laughingstock, brutal, ineffective and failed shot-gun draw on 2nd and long).

Onto the game…

While much hype has been generated over rookie RB DeAndra Cobb, I happen to think he’s insanely overrated. If you take away his 2 monster games against BC (because let’s face it, other than us everyone runs over BC’s terrible run D), he is averaging only 55 yds/game and has only 2 rushing TDs. Tell me why that is so exciting? A mediocre RB and non-mobile QB mean that the run is not a huge concern for the Riders this week.

There is only one thing to fear about the Hamilton offense and that is Arland Bruce. He is the focal point of their passing attack and a threat to score on every play. If you can control him you’re only left with feared names such as Dave Stala, Drisan James and the scoring machine known as Corey Grant. Problem is controlling Bruce is a difficult task at the best of times… let alone when your most experienced HB is injured.

By now I’m sure you’ve heard that Eddie Davis will have to undergo surgery after suffering a torn meniscus is his knee in the 1
st quarter of last game and is out for the foreseeable future. That is a big blow to the team heading down the stretch. The good news, at least, is that Lance Frazier should be back on the field this week. Chris McKenzie looked alright for his first start so I’m hoping that with Frazier back and a full week of practice for McKenzie that we won’t allow another 300 yards through the air.

The keys to the game are fairly simple. Defensively we need to stop Bruce. The Ti-Cat O-line has given up the 3
rd most sacks so we need to take advantage of that to disrupt Glenn’s passes. Even with Bruce, the Ti-Cats are still among the lowest scoring teams in the league, so if Frazier, McKenzie and the rest of the secondary can step up it will make for a rough night for Glenn (expect Chick and Baggs to add to their sack totals).

Offensively, the key will be ball control. Durant has proven he can put up points so as long as he keeps the ball out of the defenders hands I see another good game for him. The Ti-Cats don’t allow a lot of points but they can be exploited with an aggressive yet balanced attack.

The Riders seem to be hitting their stride at the right time of the season. With a chance to clinch a home playoff game for the 3
rd year in a row I expect the Riders to come out strong.

Riders by an Andy Fantuz TD in a close game.

One last note…

It seems that former Rider Kennedy Nkeyasen has gotten himself in some trouble. He allegedly broke into his ex-girlfriends house and beat up her new boyfriend. Poor guy… whether its covering people on the football field or satisfying women it seems there is always someone who is better qualified than Nkeyasen.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Overtime Again

Riders 33 – Lions 30

16 games into the season, the decision to play James Patrick at safety finally paid off. Hazah!

I won’t lie, following the Durant pick 6, I wasn’t very optimistic about our chances (fortunately I wasn’t dumb enough to leave the stadium and miss another amazing finish). Even in OT, the Lions seemed to be moving the ball at will and it looked like they were poised to score a game winning TD. Then along comes James Patrick to snag the game winning interception. To be fair I will give the assist to Omarr Morgan on that one as he managed to get away with a level of contact on Geroy Simon that would generally require a home pregnancy test the next morning.

The way the finish unfolded, I think it’s safe to say that no less than 5 years of my life expectancy were lost. I can take excitement, I can take disappointment and I can take anger but it’s the quick back and forths that are killing me. Its times like that when I wonder how Wally Buono manages. What with his cholesterol issues and all.

If there was ever a worse game to lose both our start HBs this was it. Facing the top slotback combination in the league and seeing Chris McKenzie having to get the start for Lance Frazier (who was hospitalized with severe dehydration due to the flu) was somewhat concerning. Then seeing Eddie Davis get hurt leaving us with McKenzie and Tad Kornegay as the guys tasked to keep them in check was scary to say the least. It predictably led to a big game for Simon but all things considered it could have gone a lot worse (though it appeared that any 2nd and long situation was an automatic BC first down).

It didn’t help that we were facing a QB with an amazing ability to escape pressure and throw on the run (which I warned would be dangerous). I knew before the game that Printer’s was by far BC’s best QB (even if the others were healthy) and he went out and proved it. While that game losing INT was classic Printers circa 2007, the rest of the game was more Printers circa 2004 – mobile, elusive and strong armed. BC is a better team with him under centre heading down the stretch. I wonder if he gave himself one of his famous motivational speeches before the game.

Much like my heart rate, Durant seemed to bounce up and down, flat line and eventually recover. There were times when the offense was frustratingly ineffective but when it mattered most Durant did not disappoint. He seems to be able to drive for a game tying TD and 2 poitn covert at will (now if he could just learn to do this before the 4th quarter we’d be set). Unlike last year when our QB was our biggest liability heading into the playoffs, this year it appears to be one of our strengths. I have been saying Rob Bagg is a monster for a while now and hopefully you have now joined me as proud Bagg supporters.

Man that Sudoku kid can kick! I will definitely miss the Juggernaut but Sakoda seems to be a more than capable replacement as he was booming those kickoffs. Now I just need to see him punt. If the hype on this kid is accurate (and we all know that’s always the case), he should be able to hit City Hall… with his left foot… blind folded… into the wind… while making pancakes. It appears as though Luca Congi has decided to take over as our overly aggressive kicker in Boreham’s absence as evidenced but the hit he threw on the first return. That last FG attempt in the 4th was a heart breaker; he had the leg but was just inches too far left. Despite his 2 misses, I’m still confident in his abilities to hit the clutch kicks come playoff time… provided he grows a dirty playoff moustache.

Armstead turned in another fine performance and it feels as though it’s only a matter of time before he finds the endzone. To be fair the refs blatantly missed an illegal block call on the one long return… but that was definitely a make-up call as they also missed a blatant illegal block on BC on the previous kick which led to a long return. Still Armstead has managed to turn a return game where maintaining possession and not losing yards was considered a massive victory to one were we are now expecting good returns every time.

I would also like to give props to our O-line. BC leads the CFL in sacks and had managed 11 sacks in our previous 3 meetings but the hoggies came to play and did not allow a sack. Even the run game was half decent… which is a monumental increase over the normal ineffective we’ve come to expect when we face BC.

It wasn’t pretty but we certainly got our money’s worth and for once the Riders are managing not to choke with 1st place on the line. For now I will focus on resting my heart because I have a feeling that the November 7th game against the Stampeders with 1st place on the line will take its toll on the old ticker.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Riders vs. BC: Here We Go Again

Saturday the Riders (8-6-1) take on the Lions (8-7) in front of a sell-out crowd at Mosaic Stadium. This will be their 4th and final meeting of the year with the home team taking each of the previous games. Hopefully that’s a good omen because I’m not sure my body can handle too many more Post-BC Loss Rage-Filled Evenings (also the Humane Society is none too impressed at my tendency for punching small animals when I’m in said state).

BC comes into this game on a 3 game win streak and look to be finally hitting their stride after struggling out of the gates. Travis Lulay was the hero last week for the Lions. Unfortunately he seems to have taken Buono’s request to step up and play like a starter a bit too literally and has already suffered a shoulder injury like all of his predecessors. That’s the thing about BC QBs, they are either white, talented and ridiculously injury prone or black, dumb as bricks and almost as injury prone. Which is a fantastic segue to Casey Printers…

After spending the bulk of this season promoting himself as a motivational speaker (and by that I mean sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring), Printers will return to the starter’s role in BC for the first time since 2005. The big question is of course which Printers will we see? The 2004 version that was named league MOP or the 2008 version that closely contested Michael Bishop for most embarrassing QB in the league. Personally I’m expecting something somewhere in the middle but closer to the embarrassing side than the MOP side (seriously he was cut in favour of Quinton Porter… that should tell you something). Besides as Rider/Lion history will dictate, we should be more worried about the unknown 3rd stringer than the starter. We’ve made household names out of Printers and Pierce so consider me officially more worried about a breakout performance by Zac Champion than Printers. This is an offense that is #1 in the league in giveaways and has given up the most sacks of any western team. Simon and Jackson are a dangerous combo but only on those rare times when the QB manages to avoid the sack and throw to the correct coloured jersey.

The bigger concern going into this game is Mallett (and to a lesser extent Harris). With a rapidly depleting stable of QBs, you know that BC will try to rely on the run… and Mallett is very capable of chewing up big yards. This is concerning because we’re still not that great at stopping the run. Also, an effective run game will set up play action and I think that’s Printers’ only chance at being dangerous. Also playing into my concern is word that Kitwana Jones will spend some time at DT. We all know I’m a big Kitwana fan but it’s extremely concerning to think that against a strong running team it might be up to him to plug things up in the middle. That’s kinda like hiring a bunch of fine arts majors to serve as your muscle for your loan sharking operation (What are they going to do? Choke someone with their designer scarves?).

For the Riders I’m not quite sure what to expect. Three weeks ago against BC, the defense played like champions but the offense pooped the bed. Last week, the offense turned in their best performance of the season but the defense couldn’t hold up. If they could ever synchronize their strong play we might actually come away with wins on a consistent basis.

Every time we play I mention that BC has the absolute worst run defense in the CFL and every time the Riders seem to go out of their way to disprove my claim. So this week I won’t even bother. I’m just going to go ahead and assume that our running game will be unimaginative and ineffective and hope that Durant can win us the game through the air.

Offensively the key will be to eliminate turnovers. If Darian can play as well as he did last week I see us putting up a lot of points. Defensively the key will be to stop the run and force Printers to beat us through the air… mainly because that is about as likely as a Jackson 5 reunion tour… too soon?

We’ve blown 2 BC games that we should have won, so I figure this time we finally get our act together in front of the home crowd. Let’s hope for a storybook ending where a Paul McCallum shank leads to a Clermont TD.

Riders by 7

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: A Tie?!

Riders 44 – Stamps 44

My poor heart. I already live a lifestyle that is not conducive to longevity but these crazy Rider games that go down to the wire are quickly erasing any remote chance I may have had to live ling enough to start enjoying the senior’s discount. Saturday’s thrilling double OT game was definitely worth the 8 hour drive… even though it ended in a tie. They say tying is like kissing your sister… which would explain why a tie is considered a great accomplishment in the province of Manitoba.

Here are my thoughts on the game:

- Though I must give credit to the residents of Calgary for correctly guessing my costume as Moses (not Santa, Jesus or Rosie O’Donell as I have been mistaken for before), I was somewhat concerned at the number of men that asked me what I was wearing beneath my robe. Guess I shouldn’t expect any different in the town responsible for the homoerotic bobsled celebration.

- The Riders started off very shaky. They were taking multiple offsides on both sides of the ball and didn’t really seem to have their head in the game. Fortunately they got their act together in the 2nd quarter and started making a game of it.

- Durant stepped up big time and played one of the best games of his career. Big yards, spread the ball around, came through under pressure and most importantly 0 turnovers.

- Luca Congi did a great job on punts and kickoffs. After being called out by the Rider Prophet, Congi responded by proving that given that chance he can be a superior kicker to an unemployed RB, back-up DB and an aged WR. He stepped up big time when we needed him and justified the coach’s decision to stick with him.

- Can we now label our offense “The Great White Hype”? After Walker went down to injury, we were fielding an all white O-line, all white receivers (at times all Canadian) and Foord and Szarka were regulars on the field... leaving Durant as the token black man on our offense.

- Clermont’s still got game and Johnny Quinn has good hands.

- That roughing call on Chick was absolute BS plain and simple!!

- That said if our defense had managed to stop the run once or twice during the game that ridiculous call would not have screwed us over. Reynolds ran the ball at will including 3 TDs so to say that call cost us the game is only part of the picture. No excuse for not winning when your offense puts up 44 points. Defense has to take responsibility for continually letting Calgary drive on them.

- Part of our run stopping problem had to do with Etch’s messed up formations. Numerous times I saw the front 4 line up normally only to have Shologan move out and line up outside of Stevie Baggs. Not surprisingly, Reynolds would often run at the spot vacated by Shologan.

All in all it was an exciting game between to of the top teams in the CFL and the Riders showed a ton of resiliency. With the exception of the overwhelming smell of feces for part of the game, it was an enjoyable road trip for the Rider Prophet crew. This Saturday’s game is just as big so hopefully the Riders can it up.

One last note... I think we should sign this guy as a special teams player

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Riders vs. Calgary: HEEENNNNRRRYYYYY!

Its time for the annual Rider Prophet Team road trip. This weekend Man in the Bush, Media Consultant and myself will be hitting the road to go see the Riders take on the Stampeders in a first place showdown. Normally a good boss would reward his employees’ hard work by covering their expenses. That will definitely not be happening in this case for a number of reasons. #1 – I am not, nor have I ever pretended to be, a good boss. I tend to subscribe to the sweatshop style of management. #2 – my employees don’t work hard. I would be better off replacing Media Consultant with a monkey (and believe me I’ve tried, unfortunately it truly is the blurst of times) and Man In the Bush’s only tangible contribution to this site of late has been being the punch line for my jokes. #3 – This blog currently lags behind buskers, dumpster divers and sweatshop employees in terms of yearly income. But being the generous boss that I am, I will not leave my employees empty handed. They will be offered first choice of items to pilfer from our hotel room. Choose wisely my friends.

Onto the game…

Last time the Riders played in Calgary I had an ominous feeling that we were going to lose… mainly because Calgary looked to be the better team. This time around I have that same ominous feeling but for a very different reason. I’m convinced we have enough talent on this team to go head to head with the Stamps, the problem is our propensity for choking. For as long as I’ve been following the Riders headlines such as “Riders Have Chance At 1st” and “Riders Control Their Own Destiny” tend to be followed up by headlines such as “Riders Blow It Again”, “Riders Come Up Short” and “Michael Bishop Is A Giant Piece Of Dog Feces”. We always seem to come up short when we get a chance at first place.

The Stamps come into this game reeling from 4 straight lacklustre performances, though there’s no real reason why they should be sucking. Their defense is second best in the league in points allowed and third best in total yards. Their offense has scored the 3rd most points, has allowed the 2nd least giveaways and sacks and features the top running game in the CFL. How can you explain their struggles despite this embarrassment of riches? Two words… Henry Burris.

He has three former 1000 yard receivers to throw to, the best RB in the league to take the pressure off, a solid O-line to protect him, a defense that can keep games close and is blessed with 3 of the top offensive coaches in the league… yet he still manages to suck. Good Ol’ Hank, nobody can choke quite like him. In his past 4 games he has only 1 TD and 4 INTs while struggling to complete 50% of his passes. Actually that 4 game span coincides with when Ryan Thelwell went down to injury. Who knew he was the key to this offense?

The problem is you just know Burris is capable of breaking out of this funk at any time. With him struggling, the key to beating the Stamps will be to eliminate Reynolds. If we force Burris to try and win the game by himself by beating us through the air you just know he will self destruct and serve up the patented Burris turnover trifecta. I’m confident in our secondary’s ability to cover the Stamps receivers so it’s up to our front 7 to stop the run and just as important, keep Burris contained in the pocket and knock him on his ass.

Offensively, we need consistent production. We are the #2 scoring offense in the league (and have the most TDs) so we know we are able to put up points… we just need to do it consistently (cough… 3rd quarter… cough). The Stamps corners are above all else ball hawks, douche bags and overrated as well, but ball hawks nonetheless. Durant needs to make smart passes and exploit the corners with pump fakes and double moves. Strong running by Wes Cates was a key to victory last time around and we will need another strong performance to help keep Burris on the bench crying about his most recent INT. As always, win the battle in the trenches, win the game.

One area that does concern me is special teams. While it seems that our return game is finally kicking into high gear, we will unfortunately have to endure Luca Congi’s punts and kickoffs on the other side of things. Just so you're fully aware of how bad Luca is when it comes to kickoffs, he is currently dead last in the league in that department and has thus far been bested by the following “kicking sensations”: BC backup DB Tad Crawford, Hamilton receiver Dave Stala and currently unemployed RB Jarrett Payton. Hopefully Luca will step up his game a bit because if not that could put immense pressure on the cover team and defense.

Calgary will come out strong and if I were a betting man (which I most certainly am) I’d say Nik Lewis will reach the endzone for the first time this year. However, I think the Riders’ resiliency will shine through in the end and Rob Bagg will be the hero as he fills in for Weston Dressler.

Riders by 3 in yet another game that takes years off my life expectancy due to immense stress.

In other news…

Huge news is breaking today that Andy Fantuz has agreed to a contract extension with the Riders. We are still awaiting official confirmation but this absolutely awesome news!

There are some new faces appearing at practice this week. DE Willie Evans was added to the practice roster. The Riders also traded a 5th round pick in 2010 and conditional 2011 pick to Toronto for OL Cliff Washburn. More importantly they brought in a pair of kickers to hopefully help out with punting and kick offs. First was Ryan Elaschuk of Edmonton Wildcats fame (well okay, fame is probably not the right word) and second was Louie Sakoda of Utah Utes fame (and in this case fame is an accurate word since he was one of the top kickers in the NCAA last year). We actually acquired Sakoda’s negotiation rights from Winnipeg in exchange for the neg rights to QB DJ Shockley. Hopefully one of these 2 can get up to speed quickly because our only other option is to teach a horse to kick and that is apparently against the rules anyway.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Belated Liberty Bird Weekend Edition

Riders 32 – Argos 22 (Exactly as I predicted for the record)

Despite the fact that I was way warmer and paying far less for booze (well at least per beverage. I’m pretty sure when it comes to total expenditures on the night I still somehow managed to surpass you all), I’m still very jealous of those of you who actually got to go to the game. Don’t get me wrong weddings, are fun but there’s just nothing quite like game day.

Anywho, here’s some random observations after watching the replay of the game:

- Holy return game Batman! It has been so long since I’ve seen the Riders consistently get good returns that I was starting to assume that it would never happen.

- Those gains in field position were even more important given that Luca Congi wasn’t gaining us much position on his punting and kick-off attempts. Attempts is actually a good way of describing them since they definitely weren’t successes. I love Luca but he punting and kick-offs definitely aren’t his forte.

- Darian played an unspectacular yet effective game. Ran well, controlled the ball and found the endzone repeatedly. No surprise that those 3 things led to a victory.

- In the spirit of the early winter season we’re enduring, the Riders were visited by 3 ghosts on Saturday. The ghost of failed 3rd quarters past, the ghost of presently can’t stop the run and the ghost of future 9 game injured list occupants with broken legs.

- Seriously, anyone but Dressler!

- Did I seriously see Antonio Hall field a kick-off return?? … upon further review, yes, yes I did.

- Pass defense was good with the exception of all those pass interference calls. Aside from penalties never being a good thing, I’m really not sure why our DBs felt the need to interfere with Toronto’s receivers. That’s like buying an expensive dinner for a hooker... you know they are just going to end up sucking so why go through the trouble.

- How do you end up be left with a choice between someone who just got concussed and someone who just tore their oblique as your only option at QB?

- And how do you end up opting for the concussed guy?

We might not have finished the game as strong as we should have but at the end of the day we won when we should have so you gotta be happy with that. Next up is a first place battle in Calgary. And you know what that means... ROAD TRIP!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Riders vs. Argos: Send My Regards

Saturday the Riders (7-6) take on the Argos (3-10) at Mosaic Stadium. The timing of the game is just further example that the schedule makers are just trying to piss off the fans. After enduring afternoon games in the scorching summer heat, those geniuses now offer us up evening games in the chilling cold of winter. Maybe it’s just a conspiracy by the league to drive up sales of team blankets, jackets, and toques.

Unfortunately the Rider Prophet will be unable to attend Saturday’s frigid affair because I have to attend a wedding. Believe me I am none too impressed. Given that the bride and groom are both from Saskatchewan, they should have known better. In the hopes of preventing others from encountering this unfortunate wedding inconvenience, I have developed 3 guidelines for scheduling weddings in Saskatchewan that I feel should be enacted into law:

1 – Every attempt should be made to schedule the wedding between December and June.
The first 2 Saturdays in September are also acceptable.
2 – Failing #1, two tentative dates for the wedding should be scheduled. That way if the first date happens to conflict with a Rider game, a quick switch to the second option can be made.

3 – Don’t get married. Seriously… poor life decision.

Bold prediction for Saturday… Prophet spends excessive amounts at the toonie bar and ends up offending at least one member of the bridal party’s family.

Anywho, given that most of you will actually be able to attend/watch this one I suppose I should at least make an attempt to break down the game.

Toronto is terrible, there’s just no way of putting it lightly. Personally I’m shocked that a head coach with zero CFL experience who hired a coaching staff also with zero CFL experience is failing so miserably. It seemed like such a great idea at the time. Under the direction of Count Andrus-ula, the Argos offense has been atrocious. Here’s a list of reason why the Argos offense does not scare me…
- they are last in points scored
- they are last in rushing and second last in passing
- their top receiver is a guy they signed partway through the season and he wouldn’t crack the top 3 on most other teams. Their #2 receiver is the running back
- close to half of their entire offensive output comes from Jamal Robertson
- they have the worst giveaway-takeaway ratio at -16
- the only thing they lead the league in is sacks allowed and penalties.
- they can’t decide which of their QBs is crappier at this point
- their head coach is most likely a vampire only instead of saying “I want to suck your blood” he tends to drop the last 2 words.

That list is by no means exhaustive.

Defensively they actually aren’t all that bad. They have allowed the 2
nd least yards and have the #2 best run D in the league. They have a pretty solid front 7. While they are good at playing defense they are even better at taking dumb penalties. Couple that with a weak secondary and an offense that couldn’t sustain a drive if their life depended on it and you can see why the Argos have given up more points than any other eastern team. Though if you ask the Argos defensive coaches (who like Andrus) are new to the CFL, their struggles on defense are due to their inability to force their opponents into 4th down situations.

The Riders will be without the services of Jamie “The Juggernaut” Boreham who suffered a neck injury while turning Grice-Mullen into a human carousel. So for the foreseeable future Luca Congi will handle all the kicking duties. Congi is a decent enough punter but hopefully he’s improved his kick-off skills since the last time I saw him because otherwise we might as well just go for the onside kick every time since his actual kick offs historically haven’t gone much farther.

The keys to the game are fairly simple. On defense, shut down Robertson. There is no way that the Argos will beat us through the air. We also need to take advantage of a weak O-line and repeatedly hit whichever QB they decide to serve up. Offensively we just need to control the ball. A couple big defensive plays from the Argos could swing momentum to their side. If we can just control the ball and sustain drives our defense should be able to easily keep them out of the endzone.

Toronto will fight hard and it won’t be the blow out many are predicting but in the end even if we turn in a mediocre performance it will be more than enough to defeat the lowly Argos who have yet to beat a western team this season.

Riders by 10

Around the CFL…

The Riders are taking advantage of the expanded practice roster to take a look at a couple prospects who have been cut by NFL teams. RB Marcus Thigpen, DT Vaalyn Jackson and WR Jeremy Gilchrist (who was supposed to be here for training camp but had passport issues) arrived in town this week. Sadly, the additional players on the practice roster came at the expense of another player. Justin Beaver was released to make room for the new trio. When asked about the move, Rider staff said the decision was not an easy one but in the end it was in everyone’s best interest to trim Beaver from the roster. Personally, I don’t think it’s that hard of a decision. Cutting Beaver is always a good decision… much like cutting Bush was.

In Winnipeg, my old friend James Johnson had his season ended when he was placed on the 9 game injured list. While I’d prefer to be able to watch him join Michael Bishop in embarrassing himself for my viewing pleasure, I guess you can’t always get what you want. JJ kind of had a rough go in Winnipeg this season though. When he arrived he was determined to be the second best J Johnson at
on the corner and saw Jovon take the starters role. Then they put him on kick returns but before long he was yet again the second best J Johnson at that spot and had Jovon take that role away from him. I think the only suitable ending for this story would be if Jovon suffered a season ending injury and ended up rendering James as the least talented J Johnson on the 9-game.

Lastly, does anyone else find the parallels between BC and Winnipeg amusing. In BC, Buono told Paul McCallum that he was old, crappy, had no place on the team and should pursue a trade. A few days later Buono abruptly changed his tune when he realized Sean Whyte was terrible and offered McCallum his spot back. In Winnipeg, Kelly told Barrin Simpson that he was old, crappy, had no place on the team and should pursue a trade. A few weeks later Kelly abruptly changed his tune when he realized Joe Loebendahn was injured and offered Simpson his spot back. Personally I hope both these players are still pissed off at their respective head coaches and look to screw them over. Just imagine McCallum lining up for a game winning FG, intentionally shanking it and flipping off Wally as he walks off the field and into retirement. Or Simpson squaring up for a tackle that would prevent a game winning TD by the opposition then suddenly turning around and spearing Mike Kelly through the trainer’s table instead. Maybe I just watched too much wrestling a kid.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Friday Night Failure

Riders 16 – Lions 19

Today’s letters of the day are the letter F and the letter U. And I would like to dedicate these letters to the Riders’ offense. Generally speaking, when your defense comes up with multiple goal line stands and holds your opponents to 13 points heading into the 4th quarter you should have a pretty good chance of winning the game. That is unless your offense decides to give them about as much support as a dead beat dad.

BC has the worst run defense in the CFL. They made a star out of DeAndra Cobb. They allowed Fred Reid to break a record. They have allowed an average of 147 yards rushing per game. Everyone seems to run over them at will… everyone, that is, but us. There is no excuse for only managing 44 rushing yards against a team that consistently gives up over triple that amount. That’s like managing to only get to second base with someone that’s been rufied. Part of the failure has to do with Wes Cates running like he’s auditioning for the ballet and part of it has to do with extremely unimaginative play calling. The run up the middle for a 1 yard gain didn’t work the first 10 times, what made you think it would magically start working if you kept trying it?

While I was happy to see the offense finally do something late in the 4th it was a matter of too little too late. Football games have 4 quarters and you won’t win too many when you only put in effort in one of those quarters. Especially when you consistently serve up INTs… yeah I’m looking in your direction Durant. As much as I like Durant it’s getting harder and harder to support a guy who leads the league in INTs. Michael Bishop was regularly insulted in this space last season for his propensity (big word for a Monday) for throwing picks, and somehow Durant is managing to throw more than his retarded predecessor. 18 picks over 13 games is completely unacceptable. Learn to control the ball or learn to hold a clipboard.

It’s a shame that a very gutsy effort by the defense had to go to waste. By no means am I saying that the defense was perfect (they did allow a heavily concussed Buck Pierce to throw for over 300 yds on them) but they allowed only 1 TD and gave the offense every opportunity to take control of the game. If stuffing our opponents repeatedly from the 1 yard line doesn’t fire up your offense I guess nothing will. They missed tackles and seemed to have no answer for Simon and Jackson but at the end of the day they did their best to keep the Lions out of the endzone so I give them full credit for a game well played.

I still can’t believe that Buck Pierce was still able to stand at the end of that game. He was battered and tossed around about as bad as Kimbo Slice but still somehow stayed in the game. He’s dumber than this guy but I’ll give him credit for being tough.

The loss is by no means apocalyptic (despite what my alcohol fuelled ranting on Friday night may have indicated), but I’d be lying if I said I’m not somewhat concerned about the trend that is forming. We are currently in 2nd place ahead of Edmonton and BC. Problem being so far this season we have a losing record (1-2) against both teams. Not exactly the most comforting thing at this point.

Bottom line the Riders have yet to show the ability to consistently play at a high level. Hopefully we use the upcoming Argo game as rebound game.

Random thought of the day….

The NFL season is only 16 games long yet they do not require tie breaker games… Baseball’s season is 483 games long but still somehow needs an additional tie breaker game to decide things. How ridiculous is it that?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Riders vs. Lions: Cloudy With 60% Chance of Death

It was just 2 months ago that a Rider team fresh off a narrow victory over a western opponent travelled to BC to face a Lions team fresh off a disappointing loss, on Friday Night Football. With any luck the parallels with our last game against BC will stop there because I’d rather not have to endure another disappointing loss and league issued apology for a blown call. Actually if you look back on Rider history, there’s a surprising number of situations that lead to a disappointing loss and league issued apology. But I digress.

The Lions are probably also hoping that history will not repeat itself. Over the past few years it has been pretty much a certainty that the Lions lose a QB to concussion during the course of a game with the Riders. That doesn’t bode well for Buck Pierce. He already has 5 concussions in the past 11 months and the way he’s been playing, a 6th can’t be far behind. Nor can death. I mean seriously, that many head injuries in a lifetime would be concerning but cram them into a one year period and there can’t be much functioning brain left amid all the mush that surrounds it.

Though you gotta give credit to Wally Buono for breaking the all-time win record, I am getting really tired about how every reference to Buono is prefaced by “The CFL’s All-time Winningest Coach”. You can stop now, we get it. You don’t see every reference to Noel Prefontaine prefaced by “CFL’s All Time Leader in Punting Average” (didn’t know that did you?) or Diamond Ferri prefaced by “CFL’s All-time Most Effeminate Name”.

Only 3 Lions players worry me heading into this game. 1) Martell Mallet – he’s the league’s #2 rusher and was a big factor in the last game. 2) Ryan Grice-Mullen – he may not be much of a receiver but since taking over the kick return duties he has looked very dangerous. 3) Ricky Foley – BC leads the league in sacks and he’s the driving force. Outside of those 3 though there’s not a lot of good to be said about the Lions. They have surrendered the most giveaways, have the worst run defense in the league (allowing 147 yards per game) and as I mentioned before, their passing attack relies on a guy who's one hit away from losing to Michael Bishop on an IQ test.

For the Riders there are 3 keys to victory. 1) Stop Mallett. If we can force Pierce (or his eventual replacement) to beat us through the air BC won’t be putting up many points and it will also lead to increased pressure on the QB. Conversely we actually need to exploit BC’s terrible run D this time. 2) Win the battle on special teams. Lions have very good special teams and last time a gaffe by Walker on teams proved to be the difference. We have been improving lately in all areas of special teams and we need that to continue. 3) Eliminate turnovers. Odd stat for you – Durant is 3-1 in games that he throws 3 INTs. While I commend his ability to overcome adversity, I’d prefer if he could just do it the easy way.

On paper there’s no reason we shouldn’t beat the Lions. Practically speaking though, it never seems to be as easy for the Riders to beat the Lions as it should be. That said I still can’t help but feel confident when matched up against a QB who boasts more concussions this year than wins.
Riders by 7

Around the CFL…

One Lion who won’t be dressing is Paul McCallum. Although he’s ready to return from an injury after a 9 week hiatus, he has been informed by Buono that his services are no longer required as they are happy with his replacement Sean Whyte. While it can never be easy for an aging veteran on the downside of his career to be replaced by a younger, cheaper player, the news must be especially hard for McCallum to take given that Whyte isn’t all that good. He’s hitting only 74% of his FGs and his punting average is among the worst in the league. Ouch if you’re McCallum. Maybe him and Troy Westwood can form an “I’ve Been Replaced By A Really Crappy Kicker” support group.

On the topic of kickers, it was a good week for Luca Congi. He was named Special Teams Player of the month and also signed a 2 year plus an option extension with the Riders. The only way this news could have been better is if Luca had shown up to the press conference in overalls, a green hat and a moustache, enthusiastically saying “Itsa me, Luca Congi!”

Lastly, it was announced this week that a regular season CFL game would be played in Moncton next year. Even though the game will likely feature 2 of the crappiest teams the Easy Division has too offer this is still the most exciting thing to happen to Moncton since the 1992 Canadian Figure Skating Championships.

Sadly though, much like the skating championships, this event is likely to be ruined by the presence of Rod Black.