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.