Riders 21 – Stamps 32
Saturday night all the talk about playoffs and mathematical chances was put the bed for good and what had been painfully obvious to many for weeks now became official… the Riders will not make the playoffs. A part of me is relieved because I was getting sick of people talking about our playoff chances.
Full disclosure, I was not at the game (and judging by the stands, not many others were). I would like to say it was a sign of me protesting an awful season. But the truth is, that I would not have been there even if the game was worth watching. I was playing a gig in Rouleau. Our band has made sure to keep our November calendar open because, at this rate we may end up playing the Grey Cup halftime show by default, unless the Riders opt for an “imagination halftime show”. I did watch the game though.
I could talk about all the usual reasons we lost like I do every week. Such as no protection from the line and a defense that looks tired and can’t tackle or generate a sack/turnover but that was all expected and I think we are all getting tired of talking about it. I do want to talk about the big story going into the game: Mason Fine. Our dumpster fire of a season is giving him the chance for a 2 game audition for 2023. And you know what? I thought he looked alright. He’s not the second coming of Doug Flutie and our offense still only put up its usual 14 points but for a young guy in a tough spot with crap protection against a very good defensive front, I though he did well. He showed poise in the pocket. Didn’t appear overwhelmed or out of place and made some nice throws. I saw him make quick decisive throws from the pocket more in that game than I saw Cody make in September. He also was smart enough to take my advice and lean on Baker. I’m not ready to anoint him a fulltime starter yet but unlike his predecessor Isaac Harker (whom he supplanted) he looks to be progressing and developing and at least looks like he has potential. I do have to say that his TD pass to Shaq was some god awful mechanics. Didn’t plant his feet and kinda side armed it. But the pass was still perfectly placed. Fine gave me something that has been desperately lacking in 2022… hope.
Our coaches seem intent to make his job as hard as possible and sabotage him. Early in the game he threw a beauty pass to get a much needed first down. He was promptly rewarded for his achievement by being replaced with Fajardo so he could a useless QB draw that went nowhere. Fine comes back in on the next play and throws another 1st down. Like, what the hell were we doing? How exactly did we think that would improve that drive? Fine was feeling it, let him play. I also don’t understand the need to have Fajardo in for short yardage. If Fine is gonna be your guy he will probably need to run plunges. Why not let him? What’s he gonna do? Lose us the game? We have that well under control.
The only other thing that is worth talking about is Mario Alford. What a flat out stud. He now has 4 kick returns in 12 games this season for the Riders. That’s a good career, let alone partial season. He hit the hat trick on Saturday. He already had a kickoff and missed FG TD and completed the cycle with a punt return TD. He was giving effort in the waning minutes of a meaningless game in a meaningless season. We have not had a returner of his caliber since Corey Holmes… and I think Alford is more dangerous than Holmes was as a returner. O’Day has done a lot of bad things this season but he nailed it when he nabbed him for a 6th round pick.
We have one more meaningless game before putting this miserable season behind us. At least we can all get drunk at Grey Cup and wash our misery away… unless the Bombers win again then the whole thing becomes just further misery.