Friday, November 27, 2009

On This Day In Roughrider History: Good Old Inflation

As Rider fans clamour to snap up the last remaining Grey Cup tickets, I thought it would appropriate to look back on an interesting bit of Grey Cup ticket history.

43 years ago Rider fans were doing the exact same thing in preparation for the 1966 Grey Cup to see the likes of Ron Lancaster and George Reed attempt to win the first Grey Cup in franchise history. While you know how that story ends, what you might not know is the great financial lengths fans had to go to to get their hands on those tickets.

On this day, back in 1966, Grey Cup tickets could be purchased for the exorbitant price of $10… 43 years later the Rider Prophet would pay a heck of a lot more for such a ticket. In fact, I could have bought an entire section at the ’66 Grey Cup for what I paid and still had money left over for a post-game prostitute… err… I mean post game pros…perous trip to the casino. (Ah, I covered that up nicely).

Inflation, an unfortunate part of our Grey Cup heritage.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Rider Prophet on TV

Be sure to check out CBC's The National on Friday. Your friendly neighbourhood Prophet will be featured in one of the stories.

Grey Cup 2009: Any Given Sunday

The CFL season has 77 games. 76 of those have came and went. Some we remember, some we’d like to forget, others we’d like to remember but can’t due to alcohol related amnesia. The 77
th game is greater than all of the others combined. When it kicks off on Sunday afternoon the results of the previous 76 games will become as valuable as my Akili Smith rookie card. It’s one game for the top prize in Canadian Football.

This time around is a weird feeling as a Rider fan. Normally, Rider trips to the Grey Cup come decades apart and as such seem like a brand new event those rare times they come up. This time though, we are but 24 months removed from hoisting the Cup in Toronto... it almost seems like business as usual this time around. If history is any indication this Grey Cup appearance is about 8-10 years earlier than expected.

Of course all the talk so far this week has centered around how good the Alouettes are. They are 15-3, they have the top offense in the league, they have the stingiest defense, Calvillo is robotically efficient in picking apart defenses, they beat the Riders twice, their sweat has been reported to cure rare blood disorders in underprivileged kids, and their linemen donate their back hair to make winter coats for hairless dogs. The way the picture is being painted, it would take 7 simultaneous miracles for the Riders to even be competitive in this game. And while much of the hype in well founded. There are plenty of reasons for optimism as Rider fans…

This “top offense” only scored one more TD than the Riders and relied on FGs for the rest of their output.
This “top defense” was torched by Durant for over 300 yards the last time we played and Durant has improved greatly since that game.
Calvillo is not as good as last year. He threw for 17 less TDs and 1000 less yards compared to last year. He was a better QB last year and couldn’t win the big one, why are his odds suddenly better this year?
In our last meeting we held AC under 200 passing yards and sacked him 4 times. If not for some costly turnovers and a bad punt return TD we had a chance to beat the Als.
This is essentially the same Alouette team that lost last year at home but instead of the friendly confines of Olympic Stadium they get to experience Mosaic’s Stadium new temporary location… which is anything but friendly.
This decade the Calvillo led Als are 1-5 in the big game. They're like a French Buffalo Bills (well except the Als at least managed to win once and the Bills likely bathe once in a while).

Don’t get me wrong, the Als will be extremely tough to beat but the odds are nowhere near as impossible as they are being made out to be. The Als are the best team in the CFL and admittedly a better team than us on paper but when it all comes down to 60 minutes, anything can happen. Sports history is littered with highly favoured teams who came up short when it mattered most: the ’76 Riders, ’89 Eskimos, the ’02 St. Louis Rams, the ’07 Pakistan Cricket team, ’75 Chess Grandmaster Nicolas Rossolimo. Most famously remember the ’08 Patriots. They were shattering scoring records and treating their opponents like speed bumps on their way to eventual perfection and seemed unstoppable… until one fateful Sunday when they dominance was abruptly halted by a supposedly inferior team. Sound familiar?

Two things will have to happen for the Riders to emerge victorious. #1 – Darian Durant will have to be our MVP. He has to play turnover-free football. He’s proven before that he can beat the Als through the air, so he needs to step up and do it again. I think Bagg and Fantuz will have big games. #2 – Our secondary needs to play the game of their lives. They need to make Calvillo hold the ball long enough for our pass rush to get there. If the short passing game is there for AC and his cast of talented receivers, he will pick us apart without even coming close to taking a hit. We need to hit him hard and often. That will require good coverage in the secondary to give our line that extra second to get to the QB.

Special teams will also play a big role in this game. Both teams feature returners capable of taking one back at any time and I predict we will see a return TD on Sunday… I just pray that Armstead is the one to do it.

Montreal has the advantage in terms of skill but I think the Riders bring an emotional edge which will be heightened by a raucous home crowd… not to mention the presence of their very own Prophet who will lead them to the promised land. It will be a high scoring, closely fought battle that will be decided late in the 4
th quarter. Calvillo may hoist the league MOP tonight but on Sunday the Riders resiliency will shine through and they will be the ones to hoist the Cup for only the 4th time in franchise history.

Riders by an Andy Fantuz TD.

If you will be one of the thousands of Rider fans joining me in the streets of Calgary on Saturday or the stands of McMahon on Sunday let’s get ready for a crazy weekend culminating in the biggest game of the year (which will likely coincide with the biggest hangover of the year).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: West Division Champions!

Riders 27 – Stampeders 17


If you are like me, you are still shaking with excitement following last nights win (you are also tired, have a hoarse throat and wish you were currently riding an ostrich). The Riders turned in a tremendous team effort and outplayed the Stamps in every facet of the game. Most notably, our QB played like a champion while their QB… well he played like Henry Burris.

The crowd was outstanding. It was so loud that no one could hear the entrance music and the intensity did not diminish.

The start of the game was eerily similar to last year’s playoff game… defense busting their asses and offense offering no support. Fortunately Durant’s struggles, unlike a certain moronic QB that preceded him, didn’t included a bevy of INTs and were only short lived. The defense did their part to keep things close until the offense could get things going. And once they did, we never looked back.

Our defense was ferocious. There were times when all the Stamps linemen could do was hold us because our pass rush was powering through them. Rey Williams was a beast notching up 10 tackles and 3 sacks. And how about James Patrick? He’s finally being the difference maker at safety we all hoped he could be. I was also impressed at how they were able to limit Reynolds. To be fair, the main way they did so was by flustering Henry Burris and making him try and be a hero and win the game by himself… but hey it worked.

Offensively, you gotta like Durant’s poise. Even when we are trailing he never seems to get flustered. When we weathered that poor start and tied it up before the half you just knew momentum was swinging our way. That momentum was given a giant push in our direction by a huge return to start the second half by Armstead. If it weren’t for the fact that none of our blockers can keep up with him once he gets in the open field. That return and the ensuing Fantuz TD were the TSN turning point (though oddly enough TSN disagreed).

With the energy in the crowd and in the team you just knew we were not going to be denied.

Other random thoughts:

Our receivers are no longer just good Canadian receivers… they are just plain good receivers.
I’d be interested to see what Jyles’ conversion rate is on 3rd down. Actually on second thought, I’d be happier not knowing.
I love seeing the supremely overrated Brandon Browner take an objectionable conduct penalty
I was hoping that Dwight Anderson would take one too. He came dangerously close to picking up a penalty flag in the first quarter.
That may have been one of the worst onside kicks in a while. DeAngeles somehow managed to boot it 15 yards farther than he was supposed to (maybe he was just trying to add to his list of “records” by kicking the longest onside kick attempt in playoff history).
I love how Wes Cates remembered how to run for like 4 plays late in the game (apparently they weren’t lying when they said we were saving him)
Speaking of saving things, we were evidently also saving a strong 3rd quarter for the playoff run too.
I feel sorry for any bosses who require productivity from their workers this week.

An outstanding team performance lands the Riders as West Division Champions… well beyond what most people thought they would accomplish this season. There may be better players in the league but I don’t think there is a better
team out there. Guess we’ll see come Sunday.

We came to the conclusion last night that the Rider Prophet should be there in person to lead us to the promised land so me and the entire Rider Prophet team will be making the trip this weekend to witness the Grey Cup first hand. We still have some minor travel arrangements to work out such as tickets and accommodation (and if you can help us out on either of those please let me know).

This will be one of the longest weeks in memory, but it will be worth wait for the chance to see the Riders compete for their 2
nd Grey Cup in 3 years.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

It All Comes Down To This

The wait has seemed endless at times. It’s already been 12 days since the Riders last played and there’s still 3 more sleeps to go (or 2 sleeps and 1 passed out drunk, in my case - not necessarily in that order). But the West Final is definitely worth waiting for. Besides, we already waited 33 years, what’s a few more days?

Over 4 months of football, 18 games, struggles, successes, wins, loses… all become about as meaningful as the MTV Russia Music Awards (I, like most people, assumed that communists weren’t allowed to listen to music… though I guess the likes of Sergey Lazarev can hardly be considered music). It all comes down to 60 minutes of football. The winner goes to Grey Cup. The loser will be cleaning out their lockers on Monday.

Home crowds play a very important part of this game for both teams. The Riders get to play the biggest game of the year in front of a capacity crowd at home. The Stamps are playing for a chance to play for a 2nd straight Grey Cup in front of their home crowd (to be fair though, it will essentially be a home game for the Riders should they win too).

The fact is that Calgary failed to beat us in three attempts this season but lots of people keep telling me that means the Stamps are due. Sorry but I call BS to that logic. The Riders were “due” for another Grey Cup for 18 years, the Blue Bombers are still “due” for another Grey Cup after 19 years and counting, the Maple Leafs have been “due” not to suck for so long that most people can’t even recall a time when they weren’t “due”. If you believe in being “due”, then I guess that means Megan Fox is due to return my 7,000th phone call after shutting me out on my previous 6,999 attempts and that she's also due to drop the pending lawsuit she filed against me for spying on her through her bedroom window and rummaging through her garbage because her lawyers finally buy my “its her fault for having windows and garbage cans that aren’t locked" defense. "Due" is something that people too stupid or lazy to apply actual logic come up with for lack of something useful to say.

Lots of focus is being put on Henry Burris heading into the game. We all know how dangerous he can be with his legs and his arm but quite frankly Burris is the least of my worries (what with the recession, flu pandemics and a pending lawsuit). In 3 games against us this season, Burris was quite average. Mid 200s in passing yards each game and only 3 passing TDs offset by 2 INTs and 2 fumbles overall. Even last week, when Burris was given the relatively easy task of beating the worst secondary in the CFL, he looked very mediocre. If he couldn’t light up that group of failures then I can’t see him torching our vastly superior secondary (featuring a returning Eddie Davis) with great ease. The man we need to worry about is the man we always need to worry about - the Western MOP, Joffrey Reynolds. He has run for over 100 on us every time this year. He’s a lot like the rash on Man in the Bush’s inner thigh… you can’t stop it, you can only hope to contain it. This is the way I look at it… Reynolds will probably run for 100 but the key will be keeping him out of the endzone. In our 2 victories he didn’t find the endzone. In the tie he scored 3 times. Stop Reynolds, stop the Stampeder offense.

For the Riders, it’s all about Durant. As important as the play of our defense is, it’s his play will dictate the outcome of the game. The Stamps play a very aggressive D but thus far it hasn’t fazed Durant. He’s thrown for over 250 yards/game and 7 TDs with only 1 turnover against the Stamps this year. If he can keep up that level of play and receives some defensive support, the game should be very similar to the regular season finale. His methods may seem unorthodox and at times down right scary but he has an unstoppable will to win that pays off in the end more times than not. He instills confidence in his team and the fans.

This is a battle of 2 of the most potent offenses in the league and the winner will be determined by which defense steps up more in the face of that adversity. We have a boat load of talent on defense and though they have struggled at times this year, I fully expect them to be up to the challenge.

I can barely contain my excitement/nervousness. Even just typing this, my hands start shaking and my heart starts racing. We are so close to the Grey Cup. The stakes are the highest they’ve been at Mosaic in decades. As fans we need to make sure our intensity matches the intensity we are expecting out of the players. Mosaic should be literally shaking from the player entrances to well beyond the final whistle (unless of course we are on offense, then absolute silence is a must… yes I’m talking to you morons in the back rows of the upper deck… shut up or I will punchasize your face so they have to wire it shut!!). The energy should be beyond anything we’ve seen this season. If you can speak on Monday morning you are not a true Rider fan.

Much to the detriment of my heart and physical well being, I expect an extremely close game that will not be decided until the dying minutes of the game. A late Burris INT to Lance Frazier leads to a game winning drive by Durant, capped off by a TD to the “Stampeder Killer” Chris Getzlaf.

Riders by 4

In other news…

Though I expect the Alouettes to easily handle the Lions, I secretly hope Casey Printers leads the Lions back to the Grey Cup only to have Wally bench him for the big game in favour of Buck Pierce (who goes out and loses the game). It seems the only fitting end to his Cinderella-type return story.

Lastly, the Riders announced that they have re-signed CB Donovan Alexander to a 2 years plus an option contract. This is great news for a couple reasons. First, we are locking up a very talented young Canadian who exceeded all expectations in his first year starting on the corner. Second, since we are re-signing guys like Congi, Fantuz and now Alexander it likely means we are under the cap and have extra money to spend on signing bonuses. Hazah!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Semi-Final Thoughts

Since the Riders were on I bye, I was hoping to sit back and relax and just enjoy watching some good football without any stress… unfortunately, save for a few moments, it was hardly what I would call good football.

It started out East where Casey Printers finally turned a good performance in Hamilton… unfortunately for Ti-Cat fans it came over a year too late to earn a return on the ridiculous $500K investment they made in him. Simply put the Ti-Cats D had no answer for Printers. Admittedly they did not have an easy task as it seemed someone coated Printers in Crisco before the game but still across the board the defense was no match for the Lions. On the other side of the ball, it took Kevin Glenn over half the game to figure out the Lions’ D. He made it an exciting finish when he did, forcing OT with a 2 point conversion (at that point I was hoping that Printers would throw a game losing INT in overtime again... but alas it never happened). I guess this will teach me for thinking that Bellefeuille could beat Buono… in retrospect, I of all people should have known better.

In the end, this game didn’t really matter as the East-Semi is a lot like the March Madness play-in game between the 64th and 65th seeds. Really they are just playing for the privilege of getting eviscerated by the top team in the nation and being nothing more than a footnote on the annals of history.

Then it was on to the west, which is traditionally considered the stronger division but you wouldn’t have guessed it by watching that game. I am by no means cocky about our chances this coming Sunday but the way both the Esks and Stamps were playing it had me convinced that even if the Riders showed up with a half assed effort, they would still be able to compete no problem with their opponent. The Esks offense struggled and Burris had trouble despite facing the atrocious Edmonton secondary. As per usual, Joffrey Reynolds was the quiet workhorse that made the difference. The rest was pretty boring unfortunately. I still get a kick out of the Scott Gordon blitz that Richie insists on running… it hasn’t worked since well before we traded Gordon to Hamilton in ‘06 but Richie the faithful person that he is, has stuck with it and one of these days it just might work (though I’m pretty sure for that to happen, all 5 O-linemen would have to simultaneously suffer blown knees and fall to the ground… and even then there’s a good chance Gordon would just disappear into that pile too).

So now that that disappointing display is out of the way we can move on to what really matters… a Sunday showdown with the arch-rival Stamps with a spot in the Grey Cup on the line. The excitement and the tension are starting to grow and by the weekend will be at a fever pitch.

6 more sleeps until the biggest home game in 33 years!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Carefree Mockery

It’s been a long time since Rider fans haven’t had to care about the outcome of the division semi-finals… and you have to go back even farther to find a time when are reason for not caring didn’t involve an embarrassing season that was mercifully already over. That’s definitely not the case this time around. The Riders are on a bye week after finishing in 1st for the first time since the Fonz ruled the airwaves. Eeey!

With the Riders off this week awaiting the winner of the Stamps and Esks (and me really not caring about who wins this weekend), I get to devote more space then usual to mocking other teams. So let’s get right to it…

We’ll start in the east where the Ti-Cats host the Lions. The Lions and their winningest coach have gone from perennial lock to win the West to being relegated to squeaking into the playoffs via crossover. Meanwhile, the Ti-Cats have gone from perennial punch line to half decent team, which in the atrocious East, is good enough to coast to second place… unless of course you’re stupid enough to repeatedly start Quinton Porter. But seriously who would be that dumb? … Oh wait… awkward.

The way things are going for the Lions, they may have to spend this week’s practices implementing an all-wildcat offense… they certainly can’t count on anyone being able to actually throw the ball. Apparently Printers will start (despite his injured thumb), backed up by Lulay (despite his injured should), backed up by Champion (who must really suck to be healthy and still only the 3rd option behind an injured thumb and bad shoulder). I really think the Lions are covering up the severity of the injury to Printers thumb. Their whole QB situation reminds me a lot of this. I expect bad throws and repeated fumbles (much like when Printers was a Ti-cat). In a cruel twist of fate, the man who is famous for finding an endless supply of future all-star QBs will be done in by a QB stable that is either too injured or too stupid (and in some cases both) to salvage his season.

I never thought I’d see the day where in a battle between Buono and Bellefeuille, I would be favouring Bellefeuille and mocking Buono… it’s like I’ve stumbled into some sort of Bizarro world. What’s next? A “Bring Back James Johnson” post on my blog? (*Rest assured that the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Lions will win championships in the same year well before I consider writing such a post).

We then move onto the battle of Alberta, where the Esks take on the Stamps for the right to lose to the Riders next week. Henry Burris will no doubt be near tears over being passed over for both team MOP and Western All-Star nominations and we all know that when Burris doesn’t feel he’s getting enough respect, he goes out and tries to make himself look like a hero, which leads to the ball ending up in Reynolds’ hands very little and the defender’s hands quite a bit. It also leads to embarrassing displays such as this.

As for the Esks, I haven’t been sold on them from day 1. I just don’t think they are that good and their .500 record is very flattering. If their final 3 games of the season hadn’t been the Argos twice and the QB-less Lions, they would probably have missed the playoffs. Their pass coverage is as useful as Jesse Lumsden’s shoulder and that’s a concern when facing Burris. Not to mention that if you take away Fred Stamps, the Esks have a pretty sad looking set of receivers. Arkee Whitlock is a very lucky man. Any other coach would have cut him on the spot after his atrocious debut but Richie Hall (being the good guy that he is) stuck with him and is reaping the benefits of his decision. The Esks now have a credible running attack for the first time in the Maciocia era.

I picture this game being an offensive shootout with less defense than most All-Star games. Ray gives the Esks a legit shot at winning any game but I’m going to stick with my belief that the Esks just aren’t that good of a team and say I expect to see the Stamps back here next week.

And of course no mockery of other teams would be complete without talking about the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Their season may be over but the hilarious news just keeps flowing. Mike Kelly got an early start on pissing away next season by announcing that he wants to bring Michael Bishop to training camp next season. Look, we all know that I highly favour the move because Bishop is pretty much a lock to do something hilariously stupid on a weekly basis and making fun of those occurrences is way easier than putting effort into writing something else that is funny… but come on Mike Kelly, this is dumb even for you. If the season filled with interceptions that were only outnumbered by incompletion or completing only 8 passes when the season was on the line weren’t a red flag that maybe you should look elsewhere if your future plans involve winning… maybe the time he knocked himself unconscious on his own blocker should have been!!

The only thing that would make this situation funnier is if Kelly signs Bishop to an extension then turns around and announces the signing of Kerry Joseph the same day.

Enjoy a stress free weekend because next week is going to be off the charts as we head into the West Final in Saskatchewan.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: We’re #1!

Riders 30 – Stampeders 14

In honour of finishing first in the west for the first time in 33 years, I decided to celebrate by also doing something that hasn’t happened in a really long time… posting Monday Morning Sentimonies on a Monday in the morning (lately it seems I settle for one or the other). I blame the chronic procrastination and laziness I’ve developed. Fortunately, in this day and age of non-discrimination and human rights, you’re not allowed to discriminate against me based on a medical condition.

It still doesn’t seem quite real. I mean I was there, I saw us win but the idea that we actually managed to win first hasn’t fully sunk in yet. Up until now the idea that we’d ever live to see the Riders finish first again was about as ridiculous as the idea that Michael Bishop was a good QB (more on that later).

Saturday’s game was the biggest regular season game in years and fortunately the Riders realized the importance of the game and came to play accordingly. Durant was the poised leader we needed him to be. He made good decisions and controlled the ball. Not surprisingly that led to a good offensive output. His main target was Andy Fantuuuuz who was a first down machine. Getzlaf continued his legacy of being a Stampeder killer. The run game was even half decent… I didn’t say great but at least it was good for something beyond the 1 yard run up the middle we’ve grown accustomed to.

I was most impressed with the defense. They stepped up against a very potent Calgary offense and limited them to only 1 TD. Yeah Reynolds seemed to run all over us but that will happen against the best RB in the league. We kept him out of the endzone though (which we couldn’t do last time we played the Stamps). Most importantly, they flustered Henry Burris which predictably led to a Stampeder offense that was about as potent as the average senior’s home resident. We didn’t force a lot of turnovers but still kept the Stamps in check. On that note: when did we amend the “illegal contact” rule to mean it is illegal for a defender to contact a ball thrown by Henry Burris and intercept it? Seriously that 2nd INT should have counted.

Another Rider performance that I think deserves mention is Jason Clermont. While he was, as usual, relatively absent from the stat sheet he did get involved in other ways. One was tossing around Burke Dales as he tried to get involved in a punt coverage (and beaking him just for good measure) and the other was inconspicuously joining the Stampeder huddle at the end of the game to figure out what kind of kick they were going to run. Not what you’d normally expect from a receiver but useful nonetheless.

The game had its stressful moments but the fact that we never trailed at any point during the game made things a lot easier on my heart than I expected. Probably a good thing though that it got a light week because I’m going to need everyone ounce of strength left in the old ticker to survive our first West Final on home turf since I’ve been alive.

Rest up Saskatchewan, in 2 weeks time the Riders take to the field, only one win away from a trip to the Grey Cup. Man that sounds good to say!

Around the CFL…
Winnipeg learned the hard way what happens when you hinge your season on the success of Michael Bishop. With the season on the line, Bishop managed to complete only 8 passes to his own players and 2 more to Hamilton players as the Bombers had their season ended by losing big to the Ti-Cats. Granted he didn’t get much help from Adarius Bowman (who played like he way high as a kite… and probably was) but still Bishop sucks. He can now add Winnipeg to the list of football teams whose season’s he has ruined. For the record, when the Bombers saw Bishop put his jersey on backwards while dressing for the game, they should have realized they were screwed.

As a fan of the game, I hope that GMs across the league can finally agree that Bishop is terrible and should never be called again. However as a fan of mocking Bishop, I hope there’s one stupid/desperate GM left out there who will give him one more shot.

Speaking of desperation and QBs… how about those Lions?!? Already having Jarious and Lulay out with shoulder injuries, they had to endure Printers injuring his thumb in the first quarter and Buck Pierce hurting his shoulder (again/still/this is just getting ridiculous) before halftime. That led to Zac Champion (though in name only) getting thrust into action and losing miserably. I love the irony in Wally Buono who has always had a long line of future all-star QBs, now being barely able to find one solitary QB healthy enough to finish the season. Someone should check his cholesterol levels.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Riders vs. Stamps: First Place Showdown

The year was 1976, Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister; the first Rocky movie dominated the box office; Iceland and the UK ended the infamous Cod War (that was a relief); Apple Computers, the Toronto Blue Jays and U2 were formed… 2 of the 3 went on to be highly successful while, with the exception of a mysterious 2 year span of success, the other settled into the perennial failure that Toronto sports teams are famous for. But more importantly (and I know you’re asking yourself what could possibly be more important than a war over cod)… ’76 was the last time that the Riders finished first in the West Division.

Saturday night the Riders have a chance to do it again.

The Riders and Stamps square off in a winner takes all showdown on Saturday. For the curling enthusiasts among you, the situation in the west is essentially a page playoff system now. 1
st and 2nd place square off with the winner advancing directly to the final while the loser will play the winner of the 3-4 game for a second chance at qualifying for the final. The stakes are higher than that airship that Teddy Ruxpin and his comrades used to fly around in. Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about.

The Stamps come into this game on somewhat of a hot streak, having lost only 1 of their previous 6 games. The Riders have lost only 1 of their past 4 games (unfortunately that 1 loss was a defeat about as embarrassing as the time that Man in the Bush violated that poor fan's watermelon helmet in celebration of our last win in Calgary)

Offensively the Stamps are loaded with weapons. Joffrey Reynolds is the top RB in the league, Rombie Bryant is enjoying a big resurgence, Jeremaine Copeland and fat ass Lewis are dangerous and of course Burris is a dual threat under center (by that I mean he can be dangerous to both his opponents and his own team). The thing with the Stampeders is that despite an arsenal of offensive weapons, the key to their success lies with one guy… Reynolds. They have only lost twice when he has exceeded 100 yards rushing but have struggled when he doesn’t. That’s a big concern because a) the Riders aren’t that good at stopping RBs in general and b) the Riders are even worse at stopping Reynolds specifically (he has amassed 242 yds and 3 TDs along the ground against us in 2 games).

Defensively the Stamps are not really that impressive. This is partially due to complete instability. After winning the Grey Cup based on strong defensive play they pretty much replaced every starter over the offseason. Then they realized that that group sucked and replaced most of them by midseason… and seem to have replaced a bunch a people again once more just for fun. They feature 2 of the most overrated defensive players in the league in Brandon Browner and Tim Johnson (who is as useless as Viagra to a unick in pass coverage). They aren’t a terrible unit but as we showed last time, they can be exploited for big yards. Not to mention they rank among the worst in the league in sacks and INTs. Surprising as it may be though they are one of the most penalized teams in the league.

Despite an embarrassing performance last week, the Riders have some things working in their favour this week. Lance Frazier will be back in the line-up to help solidify things in the secondary.
Gerran Walker is healthy again and his speed should help open up our passing game. Also the flu bug seems to have worked its way through the team so they should now be able to focus on the game as opposed to the location of the nearest garbage can, toilet or opposing player’s helmet.

The keys to the game are simple. Defensively we need to eliminate Reynolds and keep Henry in the pocket. When Reynolds can’t bail him out and Burris can’t escape the pocket and run himself, he starts to make mistakes and against a defense that is #2 against the pass and #
2 in takeways, I like our odds of success. So Etch I’m begging you, please, please, please do something to stop the run… I would suggest doing the exact opposite of what you did the last time we faced Reynolds.

Offensively, we need Darian Durant to show up. At his best Double D makes clutch throws, controls the ball and puts up points. At his worst he makes me wonder when we re-signed Nealon Greene and made him our starter again. He needs to have his head in the game from the first snap and take command of the offense. Other than a couple games that I’ll assume were flukes, the Riders haven’t had a relevant ground game for most of the season so yet again I’m going to go ahead and assume we won’t suddenly discover how to run this week, so it’ll be up to Durant and the receivers to chew up yards. The bonus will be if Durant starts playing well it will make Burris jealous meaning he will quit handing off the ball and try to be the hero (which as history shows, leads to tragically hilarious results).

This is by far the biggest regular season game played at Mosaic in a long, long time. Win and we are only one more win away from getting to the Grey Cup. The energy at the stadium will be off the charts (much like my heart rate). Traditionally, the Riders aren’t a team that does well with seizing opportunity in the regular season but I believe this year will be different. They will come out fired up in front of the home crowd and fight hard for 60 minutes (yes we will even show up for the 3
rd quarter). The Riders have that precious first week bye in their grasp and they will no let it slip away.

Riders by a Luca Congi field goal in the final minute of play. (Hopefully someone sitting near
me is trained in first aid and CPR because I will be in absolute shambles if it goes down as I predict).

One last bit of Rider news for you…

It seems former Rider Yo Murphy is enjoying his retirement (and enjoying may be an understatement). Yo has landed himself a job as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Breeze of the newly formed Lingerie Football League. The man played in the Super Bowl, won 2 Grey Cups and a World Bowl and now he is spending his retirement coaching scantily clad hot women… I am insanely jealous. I wonder if he needs an athletic trainer, equipment manager or massage therapist to help him out. What I lack in actual qualifications
, I will more than make up for in enthusiasm.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

On This Day In Roughrider History: Cheaters Always Prosper

The playoffs are just around the corner, so for today’s installment of “On This Day In Roughrider History” I though I would take a look back at some Roughrider playoff history.

Cheating is generally something we would expect from the likes of the BC Lions, Chinese gymnastics teams, French judges or a wife who is a dirty, dirty tramp. While the Riders were never as blatant cheaters as the others, they too have on occasion shall we say done things that may not be entirely on the level to win football games.

On this date back in 1956 the Saskatchewan Roughriders won the West-Semi final over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers because an astute Rider waterboy found Winnipeg’s playbook before the game and gave it to coach Frank Filchock.

Now there are 3 lessons to be learned from this piece of Rider lore. The first is that good things happen to those who cheat (write that down kids). The second is that people from Winnipeg are stupid. The third is that, much like movies have taught us, given the chance, a waterboy can single-handedly lead a football team to victory.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Mailed It In

Riders 6 – Ti-Cats 24

In retrospect there were many signs during Saturday’s game that this wasn’t going to be our day. One could point to the TSN turning point occurring very early in the first quarter when Durant fumbled the ball on a botched play action. One could point to the fact that that was just one of 3 turnovers Durant committed in his first 9 plays. One could point to Chris Jones being our offensive MVP and the focal point of our offense on those exciting 5 yards patterns (he even added a defensive tackle to boot). But for me the biggest sign was that across the board there was a huge lack of intensity and effort.

After spending the whole week assuring us their focus was on the Ti-Cats, I think we can now call BS because you can’t tell me that after turning in a performance like that that the Riders weren’t overlooking Hamilton and thinking about the Calgary game this week.

With the exception of Armstead, nobody seemed to have their heads the game. Durant seemed to celebrate Halloween by dressing up as Michael Bishop. The O-line joined in the spirit of the season by dressing up as bag boys… they were handing out sacks like their pay-check depended on it. The defense donned their BC Lions costumes and proceeded to make the very mediocre DeAndra Cobb look like an all-star RB. Even the usually reliable Rob Bagg appeared to dress up as Dylan Ching. There was just nothing positive about that performance. It was just plain ugly.

Speaking of ugly, this is of course the perfect segue into a discussion about the Hamilton cheerleaders. Now this group isn’t exactly the most attractive ensemble at the best of times but for some odd season they decided this week to step it up a notch and dress up as zombies. To be fair though while the attire and make-up somehow managed to make the group look worse, in a few cases it actually made a couple of them more attractive (you know, relatively speaking).

Other random thoughts on the game…

Congi sure has a knack for finding the uprights on long FG attempts.

- Was it “Red Plastic Bag Day” at Ivor Wynne?! I mistook a floating bag as a penalty flag early in the game but it seemed that a new one would waft down the field every couple minutes.

- What ever happened to Neal Hughes?? Last year he put up 7 TDs and was a versatile weapon and an important part of our offense. This year he received his first and only offensive touch on Saturday. We’ve given multiple touches to Szarka so why not show Hughes some love?

- Yes I realize the irony in complaining that a FB other than Szarka is not getting the ball enough. Maybe Hughes just needs to run for city council.

It was a very disappointing performance but fortunately it ended up not mattering much in the grand scheme of things. With Calgary beating BC, we have clinched our 3
rd straight home playoff game. It comes down to this Saturday’s game against the Stamps to determine if it’s yet another West-Semi or the first West Final since 1976.

I am officially placing all first aid personnel at Mosaic Stadium on notice that I’m not sure my heart will be able to take the stress of that game and I will likely require medical attention at some point.