With the exception of the playoffs, Labour Day (the oxymoron of the statutory holiday world) is hands down the most anticipated set of games on the CFL schedule. This year it has added importance since the Riders might not even have the playoffs to look forward to this year.
Historically my pre-Labour Day post was filled with jokes and insults about the residents of Manitoba… which is really what this great rivalry is all about. But for the past couple years the Riders have been so good and the Bombers have been so embarrassingly bad that I felt sorry for our inbred neighbours to the East and focused on insulting their football team and not them. This year however the Bombers are no laughing matter and the Riders decidedly are so its time to get back to my roots and make fun of Manitobans.
Here are some little know facts about Manitoba:
- They are the only province to feature the most attractive woman in the province on their flag.
- Their provincial motto is officially “Glorious and Free” but what you might not know is that this is the shortened form. The original ending of “to marry our cousins” was dropped a number of years back.
- It is a widely held belief that nothing good has ever come out of Manitoba but that’s not true… the good things come out of Manitoba, its things that stay there that are the problem.
- The Blue Bombers used to be called the Winnipeg Winnipegs… seriously. I guess that’s what you get in a province where completing 8th grade is considered higher education.
- A tradition in the province is to hold a social prior to a wedding. Basically it is a cabaret where all the money raised goes to pay for the actual wedding. You see traditionally the bride’s father pays for the wedding but due to shockingly high rates of interfamily marriages in Manitoba, more often than not the bride’s father is also the groom’s father (and occasionally the groom) and the tradition of a social emerged to help cope with this.
I’m often asked if I’m afraid of reprisal from Manitobans for my comments. I most certainly am not. First of all the majority of Manitobans don’t possess the requisite functional capacity let alone the opposable digits required to log onto the interweb. Secondly even if they did manage to stumble upon this blog by accident they likely wouldn’t be able to read anything since reading and writing is actually considered an advanced university class there. Lastly even if by some fluke a literate Manitoban did exist and found his way to this blog, thanks to the wonders of Hooked on Phonics any hate mail would end up being sent to RydrProfet at hotmayel dot cawm.
Okay now that that is out of the way its time to make an attempt to comment on the game. While the Labour Day Classic being a battle of first and last place teams is hardly a new concept the fact that it’s the Riders playing the role of the last place team is something we haven’t seen in quite some time. We haven’t lost on Labour Day since that dreadful performance in 2004 when we put up 4 points. In fact over the past 2 decades the Bombers have just 5 wins in the annual clash and the Riders have done everything to try and help the Bombers win; we’ve started Rocky Butler and Michael Bishop for pete sake. Sadly, history is about the only thing on our side heading into the game.
The Bombers have yet to lose on the road, we have yet to win at home. They have one loss, we have one win. They have the best defense, we have the worst offense. They have the least giveaways, we have the least takeaways. They have the most takeaways (a ridiculous 33 turnovers…that’s an average of over 4 per game!!!), we have the 2nd most giveaways. I could go on and on…
Bottom line is that the Bombers pose a monumental obstacle to Coach Miller and his born again Riders. It’s monumental… but not impossible.
You see all the hype surround the Bombers D (which is well deserved for the record) has masked the fact that the Bombers’ O is piss poor. They have the league’s worst passing attack. They have actually scored one less TD than the Riders if you can believe that. They struggle when it comes to sustaining drives, leading the league in punts and FGs. For all the criticism Durant has taken this season, Pierce is statistically the same or worse as Durant in every category except INTs and Most Stationary Bikes on the Sideline Ran Into. Unfortunately the cure for a struggling offense seems to be a match-up with the Rider defense.
Keys to the game defensively are to limit the run (which is the only offensive aspects the Bombers excel at), that includes both Reid and Pierce and avoid giving up the big plays. Given how inconsistent the Bomber O has been if we can force them to put together long drives primarily with passes, I can see a lot of punts being forced and maybe even one of those elusive turnovers… okay lets not get greedy, we are 1-7 after all. I’ll settle for the punts.
Offensively I’m not going to sugar coat it. Even with Miller taking over the offense and the boost that is sure to give we are in extremely tough. We have struggled to pass against crappy defense so you can’t like our odds against the best pass defense in the league. Even if Miller comes up with a dynamite passing attack, and even if Durant and the receivers are tuned in a executing well we will still need some help if our offense it to have any kind of success. First and foremost, Cates/Charles need to be used early and often. It will go a long way to slowing down the fierce Bomber pass rush. We also need to be creative with how we use. A heavy dose of runs is needed obviously but also a few screens or draws to take advantage of their aggressive rush. One play I saw Hamilton use last week that I loved was a little shovel pass inside to Cobourne. It was a quick play that gave Cobourne plenty of room to move as the pass rush had already blew by him. Charles could do some serious damage on a play like this. Some well timed QB draws could also take advantage of the aggressive pass rush… not like such a play has ever had huge success on Labour Day before.
We also need to give our tackles some help in pass blocking. Whether it be Cates, a TE or having a WR come in a chip them we need to create obstacles for them and give Durant time get his passes off. Gauthier and Goodspeed may be savvy vets and solid technicians but they are old and slow down as the game goes on, not a match-up i like against the young and quick Bomber DEs. They will need help (if you want evidence go back and watch film from last year’s Banjo Bowl).
As I said, the challenge before the Riders is formidable. But for the first time since the season opener we actually have hope. We have a proven coach who seems to have inspired this team and breathed new life into them. Whether that translates into improved play on the field remains to be seen.
If this were any other game than Labour Day I would say we have zero chance of a victory. But there’s just something about the Labour Day Classic. The crowd is more amped up. Combine with the boost that old man Miller gives the team and you start believing in a massive upset.
I know there is no logical reason to pick us to win... but then again for both good reasons and bad this team has defied logic countless times over it history. This is clearly a case of better with my heart instead of my head but...
Riders by a Weston Dressler TD