Monday, October 2, 2023

Monday Morning Sentimonies: /=S=/ till /=S=/ uck

Riders 26 – Lions 33

The Riders are settling into a nice late season routine. Start slow but decent, go to complete hell with minutes remaining in the half, only start playing again when there is so little time on the clock that the comeback is nothing more than a pipe dream, score, onside kick, score, fail the second onside kick. They have now followed that script in back to back weeks. So while a cursory glance at the score might give illusion that we are a competitive team we are not. I think the most recent Grey Cup halftime announcement (which is freakin’ awesome by the way) is the perfect metaphor for the current Riders. We are living in a word of Hedley’s and half of Florida Georgia Line while the rest of the league is trotting out Green Day.

I actually thought the defense started the game pretty well. It was the first sign of life I’d seen from them in many weeks. They were holding the Lions to FGs and generally not getting stomped. Hell, they managed to stop the run. That lasted less than a half and then we were treated to a D that couldn’t cover a receiver if said receiver offered to give them a piggy back while running their route. We looked about 3 steps slower than the Lions on every play. I will say that Christian Albright looks like a keep and that at 35 years old, Micah Johnson in unquestionably our defensive MVP. Despite his age, he’s is about the only guy still giving top level effort on every play. The reality is, if you can’t keep a team under 30 points, winning is going to be tough. And we damn sure can't. 

Offensively, we were treated to road Jake. Stats will show that he threw for 400 yards but that masks a lackluster performance. Through 58 minutes of play he produced 11 points. Sure there were some good throws mixed in there and one nice drive. But on the road he displays no level of consistency. I lesser man would make a joke about his performance on the road and his DUI charge… but clearly I’m above such sophomoric, low brown attempts at humour. For all the talk of Jake’s big arm, the reality is he’s not that good at the long ball. His completion percentage on passes over 20 yards is the worst among pretty much all QBs in the league. He can launch it, but he ain’t completing it when he does. In fairness to him, one pick was completely on Tevin Jones being lazy. This is a recurring theme with Jones. He’ll make some damn impressive plays but has a tendency to check out mentally and hurt us. I’m not saying Wieneke is a saviour but if I were coaching, Jones and his inconsistency would sit and see if we can get someone who can give full effort every play in there. Speaking of full effort, Frankie Hickson runs angry and I love it. Unfortunately, Kelly Jeffery does not love it for some reason. Also love me some Bertrand-Hudon. Not saying he should be starting but I’d be trying to find a way to get him a handful of touches each game. I think I’m officially an old man now that I’m calling for a Canadian RB to get more carries. I’m this generation’s Szarka enthusiast. I’ve become everything I hate. 

The outcome surprised no one. We aren’t good enough to beat bad teams and suck on the road. There was no chance of us beating a good team on the road. Sadly, because Calgary is equally as awful and gave us a slight head start, we currently have an edge in the “try and out suck each other” contest we are in for the final playoff spot. An out-sucking competition sounds like a bad premise for a porno… its an even worse reality for a pro football team.  

At least next game, we are guaranteed to see a competent Rider football team on the field. Unfortunately it will be the 2013 team. 

Other random thoughts:

-        It made no difference in the grand scheme of things but why on earth did we not go for 2 after our first TD to tie? That seemed like just another entry in our growing encyclopedia of questionable coaching decisions.

-        That OPI on Baker was weird. Normally OPI means a push-off. KSB actually pulled the DB in closer. Regardless of the validity of the penalty, challenge with 13 seconds left in blowout is a douche bag move that should result in a kick to the nuts.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Riders vs. Lions: Road Kill

You may remember that prior to the last matchup against BC I titled my post "Beatdown Coming" and predicted we would get whooped. We of course played one of our better games of the season and snuck out a big win. So dare I risk making the same mistake twice?

You damn right I do! We suck on the road. So much so that our odds of victory are on par with the odds of Micah Awe getting suspended. I mean sure, its technically possible, but not very likely based on recent history. The only team with a worse road record than us is Ottawa (who we just go embarrassed by). We lose road game by an average score of 31 to 16. If you only count the most recent 5 road games (i.e. exclude anything that happened in Alberta) that jumps to 36 to 14.

BC is 5-1 at home and trying to clinch a home playoff game/chase down Winnipeg. They are also… what’s the word I’m looking for?... good. They are mostly healthy and getting Dominque “Busta” Rhymes back into the line-up. While we do get Dalke back, we are far from healthy. I wouldn’t recommend taking betting advice from an online blogger who dresses in a robe but betting on BC is probably a pretty safe one. I would also bet the over on BC's runningback's rush yards (don't even care what the line is, take the over).

Jake Dolegala needs to figure it out on the road. He seems to do okay at Mosaic but on the road he goes to hell. He has a decent 9 TD to 4 INT ratio overall but in his road games that ratio is just 2 TDs and 3 INTs. Frankie Hickson appears to be a guy who could really help him out but expect another great first quarter followed by the run game becoming an afterthought. Bane also appears to have become an afterthought. If we have any illusions of winning I think both Hickson and Bane need to be fed the ball. I know it makes me sound like the Szarka lovers I used to openly mock but dammit I think we should give Betrand-Hudon a few carries. If nothing else he will set a physical tone.

Defensively, I think we will all be happy with pretty much anything above laughable incompetence. I would like to see if Albright was a one hit wonder or if he’s yet another of O’Day long line of great D-line finds. Dalke back at safety should help with physicality. He can stop the run on his own or make other guys tackle any better but every little bit helps at this point. When flustered, Vernon Adams will hand out turnovers like he started a bakery and that’s our only chance of hanging in this one is a few takeaways. 

I’m not even going to pretend to be optimistic in this one. We are going to lose. Likely by multiple TDs. This team always looks about as excited for a road game as you would be for a colonoscopy. By the time the final whistle blows in BC some of you may be wishing you’d opted for a colonoscopy over watching the game. 

BC by 18.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Monday Morning Sentimonies: /=S=/ UCK

Riders 28 – RedBlacks 26

Don’t the final score fool you. We suck. A couple garbage time TDs can’t mask the fact that we didn’t bother showing up for yet another road game. Well I guess its more accurate to say that we showed up for the first 29 minutes and 18 seconds and then at the first sign of adversity folded like a lawn chair and were content to get beat on for all but the final 1:50 of the game when we made a valiant effort at a hopeless comeback. The only positive thing I can say is that at least they lost as a team. Everyone from players to coaches share in the blame.

With 42 seconds remaining in the first half we were leading 13-8 and had the ball. Offense had put some drives together. D had done alright. I would not have thought it possible but we managed to give up 11 points before half. The next 29 minutes of football were about as pleasant to watch as old people porn (unless that happens to be your thing). We managed to dig a hole so deep even Ottawa couldn’t choke it away… and bless their souls they tried really hard to. They just weren’t up to the task of out-sucking the Riders.

I predicted Jake’s love of outside passes costing us, and it did. He stared down that first INT something fierce. For all of Jake’s strengths hanging onto football when he’s hit is not one of them. If he’s hitting the turf its damn near automatic the ball does too. Receivers couldn’t hang onto the ball. O-line struggled. Brandon Council is lucky he occupies the coveted “only remaining healthy American tackle” spot because he like the second coming of Na’ty Rogers. One of the few bright spots on O was the angry running of Frankie Hickson. But after he produced 67 first half yards on 6 touches, Kelly Jeffries went full Maas and forgot the run game existed until it was too late in the game to matter. Genius. I know our defense isn’t great but in fairness to them our offense seemed intent on giving the ball back to Ottawa at every opportunity. 25 of the points we allowed came off turnovers. That’s more points that the offense produced for Ottawa than for themselves. 

Defense looks old, tired and disinterested. One of the few exceptions is Micah Johnson who is about the only guy who seems to show no quit… despite being one of oldest guys out there. Larry Dean looks slow. Micah Teitz has visibly regressed. The secondary looks exactly like you’d expect it to with 3 starters out. Marshall has disappeared. Jeremy Clark gives the spottiest effort I’ve ever seen. One play he’ll look like an all-star and then check out completely on the next play. We seemed intent on dropping Pete Robertson back into coverage and that is definitely not his strength. At least Christian Albright made the most of his opportunity. Wish some of the vets would follow his lead.

I wish I could say I was surprised. I am decidedly not. You’ll recall that on Friday I said of the Riders “Much like a present from an elderly relative, you’re not sure what you are going to get, but you’re pretty sure you won’t like it.” We don’t show up on the road. That’s a pretty consistent trend. Hell, we don’t really show up anywhere of late. We just got beat by 2 teams that will likely not make the playoffs. And not just beat, were not good enough to compete with them. 

It’s becoming abundantly clear (hopefully not just to fans but to Jeremy O’Day as well) that Dickenson is not a good head coach. He looked good in 2019 when he inherited a rock solid team. But he can’t coach through any kind of adversity. We have regressed in every year under his leadership. From 13 wins in 2019 to praying for miracle so we can scavenge a 7th win this season. Our road record has gotten worse every year. Bad games will happen from time to time but week after week we are clearly not ready to play when we hit the road. That’s a coaching issue. Week after week we check out in the second half of games. That’s a coaching issue. We obviously can’t fire him now, but there is no rationale for the axe not to drop the second this miserable season mercifully ends. 

Dickenson insisted in an interview this week that this year is nothing like last year. For the first half of the season, I would have agreed with him. I actually started enjoying watching our games again (even when we lost). But everything since Labour Day sure feels like 2022. We are so bad that you almost dread watching our games. Our attendance is already dwindling. I’m one the most die hard fans out there and even I’m questioning why I would go to our final 2 games.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Riders vs. RedBlacks: No Clue

Friday the Riders are in Ottawa to face the 3-10 RedBlacks. It has not been a great summer for either franchise. Ottawa will be looking to win their first game since July 23, going 0-7 since. The Riders have not won a road game since June 23, going 0-4 and getting outscored 142-40. If the RedBlacks lose it will pretty much officially secure their place as the worst team in the CFL. If the Riders lose, Ottawa may have some competition on their hands for that spot.

Here's the problem. I have no clue which Rider team is going to show up any given week. There’s the version that can go toe to toe with the best teams in league and win. There’s the version that can squeak out improbable scrappy wins. There’s the team that can find ways to lose. And lastly there’s the team that can look like they spent the week practicing macramé instead of football. Much like a present from an elderly relative, you’re not sure what you are going to get, but you’re pretty sure you won’t like it.

Riders are tough to figure out at this point. Their 6-7 record is mediocre but the stats under that would point to a team that should be much lower in the standings. Least TDs scored and most points allowed stand out. Ottawa by contrast has somewhat respectable stats but can’t win a game to save their soul.

Normally I start with the defense, but this time around offense is our only hope. In our last 4 road games, they have produced an average of 10 points per game. They legitimately may need to triple that for us to have a chance. We are mostly healthy on O (minus Morrow but Hickson is an able fill in). Hell in news that I don’t think anyone is as excited about as me, Evan Johnson is being benched! I have only been hoping for this for 2 years. Blake is healthy enough to start and that really gives us a pretty good interior with Godber and Ferland. Here’s the scouting report on Ottawa’s D. The are excellent run stoppers (#2 run D), god awful pass defenders (the most passing yards allowed) and generate a ton of turnovers (most in the CFL). So while we certainly need to try to have a semblance of a run game (good news since “semblance of a run game” seems to be our specialty) we are going to win through the air assuming we don’t throw picks. I would avoid the side of field with Dandridge and Webb and pick on the other side. If Dolegala insists on focusing almost exclusively on outside passes Dandridge will get 1 if not 2 INTs. Crossers and seams are there. Mix them in every now and again. 

Defense… yikes. They have been struggling and injuries are not helping. D-line depth is decimated with Lanier, Brown and Dheilly gone. So in a game where the key to victory is the D-line containing Crum we are starting a rookie and have 2 practice roster guys for depth. The good news is that it does not exactly take a rocket scientist to figure out Crum. He loves to run. Take that away and he sucks. He can’t pass. Lowest average gain per pass and he has just 5 passing TDs in 9 starts (that’s as many as Taylor Cornelius for comparison). Ottawa has the worst passing attack in the CFL. They have just 10 passes over 30 yards all season (Dolegala has 7 in his 5 games). He also takes a lot of sacks. Only Fajardo has been sacked more and at this point I think its safe to assume that Cody’s being served up as some sort of ritual sacrifice by Maas. The way our secondary has been playing, we may be the cure for a struggling pass attack. Assuming Ottawa watched film (or just heard me cursing from across the country), they should know that a heavy dose of Davonte Williams would be a good idea. I’m honestly just hoping our D survives. Keep it under 25 and hope the O can win one for once. Keep Crum contained and make him pass. Limit the run. Maybe pretend you know basic tackling angles they teach in peewee.

This game may honestly be decided based on which coach makes the worst decisions. Both Dyce and Dickenson have made some doozies this year. Were it not for Mike O'Shea one might assume there is something inherently wrong with special teams guys.

As I said, I have no clue what to expect. Ottawa sucks and we should beat them but they have been competitive in every game and when it comes to road games we have been the opposite of competitive. 

So I am going to be a negative Nelly and say road game + injuries = a loss. Legitimate chance they come out fired up and win but if I’m playing the odds I’m not betting on it.

Ottawa by a late TD.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Monday Morning Sentimonies: EE is for Embarrassing Effort

Riders 36 -27

So much for that whole “we play better at home” narrative. Despite leading for the majority of the game the Riders found a way to lose to the visiting Elks. Actually “found a way to lose” is far nicer a way of putting it than they deserve. Edmonton imposed their will on us and we didn’t look interested in fighting back.

Its time we had a conversation about our defense. They were the reason we lost that game. Offense had its issues but 27 points should be enough to win. We got massacred on the ground. We apparently did not bother game planning for Kevin Brown. By himself he put up 175 yards on the ground. 9.2 yards per carry. We could not stop him and didn’t really seem inclined to try. What were our linebackers doing? You know other than taking some terrible angles on tackles. I know the secondary is testing its depth with Williams, Dalke and Milligan out. Its pretty clear Washington is practice roster/injury fill in guy. But still they weren’t great. The TD to Lewis was purely because Marshall got lazy and quit covering their best receiver… in the redzone. 

I have been a huge fan of Jason Shivers since day 1 but I think it’s time we start asking some questions. Friday marked the 6th time this year and 3rd time in the last 4 games that we allowed over 30 points. No team has allowed more points than the 389 we have. Edmonton is a distant second at 365, but they have played one more game than us. The defense is not working anymore. They carried us through the early part of the season but have quickly devolved into bringing us down. 

As mentioned, offense wasn’t perfect, but I though did enough. Dolegala delivered 3 TD drives and his only turnover was more just an unfortunate error by his receiver than a QB issue. Here’s the thing I noticed (and I’m also assuming defensive coordinators will easily pick up on). Jake has very obvious tendencies. He LOVES passes to the outside. They made up the overwhelming majority of his passes. We were screaming from the stands for him to look inside. The few times he did, he found Bane for TDs. He needs to work though that before it becomes an issue opposing defense exploit. I do like that we were able to get the run game going. The issue with the offense was that they only put in 3 quarters of work. With the game on the line in the 4th this is what the O manage: 2 and out (8 yard drive), 2 and out (4 yard drive), safety, desperation garbage time drive ending in a failed hail mary. Not only did the O fail to produce points, they allowed point. 

This is not a one time thing. In the last 4 games, we have been outscored 48-8 in the 4th quarter. We just pack it in after 45 minutes and display no killer instinct or ability to close out a game. When it becomes an ongoing pattern like that, its on the coaches. Our ability to close out games may be the perfect metaphor for Craig Dickenson’s tenure as head coach. Strong start but by the 4th, just limping towards inevitable failure. 

I don’t think the season is lost. Odds are we sneak into the playoffs still (though its definitely not  a sure thing). But the more I watch Dickenson coach the more I see Danny Barrett. Nice guy. At his best we can beat any team in the league. At his worst we can lose to any team. You never know which team is going to show up week to week. If Dickenson wants to extend his stay here in Saskatchewan he needs one hell of a finish to this season. 

Other random thoughts:

-        I am convinced there was blatant holding on the Kevin Brown TD

-        On the second deck the draft beer taps weren’t working so they had cans… unbelievable how much faster the lines moved. Order a beer, here’s your beer. No need to wait 5 minutes for someone to slowly pour it. Take note.

-        Personally I though Tesher was awful but my kid loved it and I’d rather endure some crappy halftime shows than have the league not try to engage younger fans.

-        Attendance was supposedly 25,000 (the lowest ever at new Mosaic for a regular season game). There were not 25,000 people there. Expect even less next home game.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Riders vs. Elks: Home Sweet Home

Okay so we’ve established that when it comes to playing on the road, we are as useful as the photo radar cameras on Ring Road with the faulty batteries. Or Aaron Rogers’ achilles (pick your preferred loosely topical simile). But that’s next week’s problem. For now we are back home. How much of a difference does that make? On the road we are 2-4 and score an average of 14 points per game. At home, we are 4-2 and score an average of 27 points per game. Now its worth noting that of our 4 home wins we have won by margins of 1, 2 5 and 2. So we don’t exactly dominate at home but we definitely play much better and seem to find ways to eke out victories while taking years off my life. Why the last time the Elks visited Mosaic, we won because Edmonton conceded a game winning kick single. Watched a ton of Rider games, that was a new one even for me.

But the thing is, this is a very different team this time around. For reasons no one can explain, Tre Ford sat doing nothing while the Elks when 0-8. I’m not a football coach, but I would have to assume there was some evidence that Ford was a superior QB to Cornelius and Doege. Then again their offensive resurgence did coincide with McAdoo being removed as OC… just saying.

A look at the stats and standings might tell you this is a game the Riders should win easily. But you really have to ignore the stats from the first 8 games and look at what the Elks have done with Ford at the helm:

-        3-2 record (same as the Riders over that stretch)

-        26.4 offensive points per game (would be 3rd in the CFL)

-        395.8 offensive yards per game (would be 2nd in the CFL)

-        16 TDs in 5 games with Ford, vs. just 11 in the previous 8 games

-        7 sacks allowed on Ford, vs. 22 in the previous 8 games

-        9 turnovers vs. 22 in the previous 8 games

-        As many 30+ yard completions from Ford as all previous 8 games

-        D is allowing 25.2 points per game (would be 5th in the CFL)

-        Before Ford, RB Kevin Brown was averaging 4.7 yards per carry, now… 5.9

If you think you can take this team lightly based on its record then you are likely qualified to help design the coaching game plan for the next Riders’ road game.

Ford is legit. He’s still got some flaws to his game but a couple stats jump out at me. 23% of his drives end in TDs. That is 3rd only to Collaros and Kelly. He completes 57% of his deep balls. That’s 10% more than Collaros (you may recall how Collaros recently shredded our secondary). He’s also insanely fast and about as easy to bring down as the greased up deaf guy on Family Guy. How bad did this guy have to be in practice for no one in on that Elks coaching staff to think maybe he might not be a craptastic as Cornelius? Did he forget to send Jones a Christmas card? Or sleep with his mother?

Defense needs a rebound game. Getting Robertson back is timely because it starts up front. Not likely to get a lot of sacks and you almost need to slow rush Ford. You want to hurry his throws but if you come in too aggressively he will use his speed to blow by you. Controlled rush that aims to keep him contained. I don’t want to see any of those stupid stunts or overload formations we saw in Winnipeg. Play nice simple contain and plug those gaps. We also need to slow down Kevin Brown. He’s going to be running angry so we need to hit back angrier. Also, we need to be mindful that the Elks don’t care and are trying everything no matter how crazy. AC Leonard has a TD. Kyran Moore has thrown for one. Weird stuff is going to happen and I’m not just talking about awkward urinal conversations when I use the bathroom. Secondary needs to be assignment sounds… not whatever the hell they were doing last week. Not exactly helping my confidence to have Williams out with injury (secondary struggled even with our starters) but at least Trumaine Washington has CFL experience. Keep it in front of you, don’t give up deep shots.

Offense should be well rested for this one since they quit playing after the first drive in Winnipeg. Never thought I’d say this, but I’m glad Evan Johnson is back. Big O-line news is that Blake will suit up for the first time this season. He’s a versatile and reliable vet that we desperately need. Still not sure whether he’s backing up just to ease him in, or whether he’s just listed as a backup and will play. Either way I am glad to see him. With guys like Ceresna and Leonard, Edmonton will be bringing the pressure. We need to not let Jake get killed. Speaking of Jake be nice if we could see more of the guy that had people planning for his eventual induction to the Plaza of Honour and less like a guy Chris Jones would have put ahead of Tre Ford on the depth chart. As much as I think our D will have a bounce back game, with Ford running the O, the Elks are gonna score. We ain’t winning 13-12 this time around. Offense has gotta find that endzone. We tried emphasizing getting Baker going last game and I’d like to see that continue. We don’t need to force it because Emilus, Bane and Jones are capable of spreading the load but we are going to need to establish “the guy” going down the stretch. We still don’t have one and Baker needs to be that guy. Edmonton has the worst run D in the league so that would be a good place to start our attack. Morrow needs a heavy workload and if we want to establish ourselves as the more physical team I would even give Betrand-Hudon some early carries, dude is a north-south freight train.

Some people are saying if we don’t win big then we are in trouble. I honestly don’t care how we win. A one point win that is uglier than a porta potty at Craven is fine by me. May I remind you that we have never won a game by more than 5 points this season. I doubt we are about to start now. We only lose by wide margins, wins come narrowly. Just win, beggars can’t be choosers.

I want to see us come out with the same energy we saw in the BC game after the last embarrassing road loss. Be more physical. Don’t make mistakes. Start hot so Edmonton has to play chase. 

Could Edmonton beat us? Yup. Will they? I don’t see it. Home game, we get some bodies back we didn’t have in Winnipeg and its not exactly like Edmonton is great on the road. Just 1 win on the road and they have scored a total of just 87 road points… for comparison we go out of our way to lose badly on the road and have 86 road points.

Riders by a Dean Faithful missed FG that Alford has to run out of the endzone to preserve the victory… because, that’s about how the season has gone.

Get loud Rider Fans… if we are too quiet the team might mistake it for a road game.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Monday Morning Sentionies: Putting the Ass in Embarrassment

Riders 6 – Bombers 51

If I was to put as much effort into this post as the Riders put in on Saturday, I would have stopped typing 12 words ago. Look, losing was expected. I’d admire anyone not so jaded by life that you actually there was a chance we were going to win, but the reality was that even Hellen Keller would have seen this loss coming a mile away. 

But the fact that we lost isn’t the concerning part. It’s the fact that we didn’t even look like we were trying. We put in one half descent opening drive and obviously failed to game plan for anything after that. Last year we were literally crapping our pants and starting guys we showed up to the game after the anthem, after driving for 6 hours and eating McDonalds… and somehow we managed to do worse this time. 

I’m not going to get into analyzing the game. Every single player sucked. There was no bright spots and this is a game where you just burn the tape and move onto the next game. Actually, I will comment on one player. God dammit is Charbel Dabire an underrated athlete. Damn near thought he might break his kick return and more than once he chased down a ball carrier well passed the line of scrimmage (which was where they were routinely found). Dude's got wheels. 

Here’s the concerning thing for me. This game was not a one off. In the last 4 road games, the Riders have never scored more than 13 points (averaging 10 per game) and given up and average of 36 points.  We don’t just struggle on the road; we play at a level that could best be compared to the South African hockey team (they got beat 28-0 by the hockey powerhouse of Australia in the Div 3 World Juniors for context). Bad games will happen here and there, but a consistent trend like this tells me the coaches are not getting the team ready. Its not just a this year thing either. Last year we went 3-6 on the road with an average score of 19-29. 2021 we had a winning record (4-3) but the average score was 17-22. Put that all together and in Dickenson’s entire tenure we have never averaged more than 20 points on the road. That now spans 3 different OCs so it’s not like you can pin it on them. 

Dickenson gives me strong Danny Barrett vibes. Much like the Barrett years on any given day we can beat any team in the league… but consistently under perform. Nice guy, absolutely. Great coach… not so much. Can he coach you to .500 and an early playoff exit? Most likely.

The key now will be rebounding. After getting embarrassed in Montreal, the team punched back in the next game. We need to see that this time as well. 

If we are being honestly a .500 record at this point considering how bad we sucked last season and injuries we’ve been through this year (particularly at QB) is pretty decent. Six games left and we need to go 3-3 to hold onto a playoff spot (a home playoff game is pipe dream at this point). In theory it should be doable… but if we put in the effort we saw on Saturday this team will be lucky to not manage to somehow go 0-7 over the final 6.

 Other random thoughts:

-        I will not pretend to know more about defense than Shivers (more often than not he does wonderful things with the defense despite constantly changing players). But it seemed many times our D line overloaded pressure on one side of the Winnipeg O-line. I thought it was questionable play calling because it allowed Collaros to easily escape the pocket on the other side. Other times we would stunt in the edge rusher inside which left a gapping whole in our contain. Maybe it was poor execution and not play calling but it was a noticeably ineffective strategy.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Riders vs. Bombers: Banjo Bowl 2023

Fresh off a massive upset win on Labour Day the Riders travel to Winnipeg and while trying to avoid getting stabbed or catching whatever barnyard animal-based disease is currently floating around their population, will try make it two in a row.

I don’t fall in the camp of people who refuse to call it by its real name. Rematch is boring. Banjo Bowl now that has appeal. 

I’ll cut to the chase here. I fully expect us to get our ass kicked in this one. There are many reasons for this. First, we just generally do not do well in this game. We have lost 6 of the last 7 Banjo Bowls. The only time we won, Matt Nichols was the QB in Winnipeg… remember how not good Matt Nichols was? We have lost the last 3 by an average margin of 28 points. We don’t just lose Banjo Bowl… the only things that blows more than us on Banjo Bowl is the two toothed Winnipeg hookers helping Bomber fans celebrate the victory.

But beyond just history I have more pertinent reasons I think we are going to lose. There is just too much working against us. Last week we proved we are good enough to beat any team in this league. But remember that we were at home, in the biggest home game of the year (Labour Day magic is a real thing and I will fight anyone who disagrees), we were coming off a bye and well rested and we were mostly healthy.

This week is the complete opposite we are on the road (where Jake has never started), in the biggest home game for Winnipeg of the year, we are not coming off a bye and the injuries are once again piling up at some key spots (lord help me I never thought I’d be reduced to considering Evan Johnson a key injury). That and one of our best pass rushers will miss the game.

We had a lot going for us last week and barely won. We have a lot going against us this week... so this one doesn’t exactly scream confidence to me.

But after the last 2 wins, even a pessimist like me would have to upgrade our chances from being on par with Andrew Harris finding who tainted his supplement to plausible. 

How do we turn plausible into reality?… I mean other than infect the Bombers with whatever stomach flu ripped through our locker room prior to Banjo Bowl last year. 

We need to keep our intensity up. We beat BC and Winnipeg primarily because we wanted it more and were the more physical team. Now we need to dial it back just a bit. BC was the right level of physicality. Labour Day we started overdoing it a bit and taking too many penalties. Can’t have that but we still need to hit like we mean it.

Defensively we need to limit the deep ball. I know it’s easier said than done against the most talented offense in the CFL but we gotta find a way. Collaros got half his yards on 4 long passes. Take those away and he had nothing. Yes he can pick a part a zone and string long drives together but our odds are better in that case than letting him put on an air show. That starts with big pressure up front and keeping Collaros in the pocket. He’s so deadly when he rolls out. 

Offensively priority one is protect the football. Turnovers will turn this one ugly in a hurry and we are already fighting an uphill battle. Keeping Morrow involved has to be the priority (and maybe even mixing in some Hickson). Hand offs and short dumps will simplify things for Dolegala and we saw how effective Morrow can be in the pass game. Would be nice to find ways to get Baker more involved. We don’t need to force it as Bane, Emilus and Jones can all make plays but your best players gotta make plays to get wins like this and he’s our best receiver. I’ll be very interested to see how Dolegala handles the hostile environment and noise of IG Field. He doesn’t appear to ever show much panic so hopefully that continues. I hope for his sake our makeshift OL is mildly competent. Kelly is a massive loss at tackle. Lofton, Council and Bandy are not exactly names that instill fear in opposing DLs.

The start will be key in this one. If we come out strong and keep it close early we have a chance. If we give up quick scores or turnovers it will spiral out of control quickly.

Honestly just hoping we look competitive and don’t just repeat the Montreal debacle.

Bombers by 18.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Monday Afternoon Sentimonies: Labour Day Elation

Riders 32 – Bombers 30 (OT)

I woke up this morning and for the first time since 2019, the world was right again. My vocal chords were shot, my head was pounding, empty rye bottles littered my kitchen and I still had a big smile on my face because the Riders delivered a win. As a team and fan base, we needed that. Labour Day is our day and the team went out there and took it back for us. Unsurprisingly they also took a few years off my life in the process.

First thing I need to comment on was the fans. We brought the noise. Mosaic was hopping, louder than its been in years. One thing I loved was the noise started while the Bombers were in the huddle. We’ve got a bad habit of not cranking up the volume until teams break the huddle. Well not yesterday it was loud the whole time the defense was on. We even managed to get through a game without the wave.

Overshadowed in all the Robertson talk (which I will get to), the key takeaway is this… in back to back games the Riders went toe-to-toe with the top teams in the west division and prevailed. We have now beaten every team in our division. We have a winning record in the division. We have a winning record at home. We ain’t big on style points but this team has proven they can hang with any team. A month ago we were looking at the very real chance of another losing season without the playoffs. Rather than just accept our fate (like we seemed to last year) we have battled our way back into the conversation.

As always first credit goes to the D. They have faced 2 of the best QBs in the CFL the last 2 games and played at an elite level. Winnipeg is the best offense in the CFL, hands down. We held them to 7 first half points. For a long portion of the game, Collaros (unquestionably the best QB in the CFL) had as many completions to Nick Marshall as Bombers. We played angry which was needed. Now I think we need to dial it back just a bit as we started taking too many penalties but I’d rather have to dial it back a bit then they and fire them up. Micah Johnson is still a bad man. Nick Marshall had one hell of a game. All around great effort from Jason Shivers crew who just seems to keep rolling regardless of injuries.

Offense was a bit of a struggle. As expected Dolegala regressed a bit in his second start. He struggled at times and took a while to get going but he did alright. Most importantly he did not turn the ball over. Even when he overthrew people they were “safe” passes. He avoided making mistakes and that kept us in the game. When he is dialed in though, dammit if he doesn’t throw a nice ball. Stat sheet won’t reflect it but the few catches Bane made were massive. Emilus had another strong performance. Morrow quietly had a big game for us notching over 100 total yards. I thought Kelly Jeffries called a solid game… with 2 exceptions. When we put Pipkin and short yardage in with 3 yards to go to the goal line I was vocal in my displeasure to say the least, we did eventually score but I did not like that call. Also that second down play where Pipkin got stuffed because he ran completely sideways was not great. But overall the offense played pretty well for playing a defense as good as the Bombers. That 100 yard drive was massive.

A big difference in the game was special teams. We were by far the better team in that phase. That onside kick by Lauther to start the game was a genius call. How much must it have burned a special teams coach like O’Shea to have that work on him? Lauther was a flat out stud in that game. Our return game came alive and gave us great field position and our coverage team was lights out, giving the Bombers nothing.

Overall it was gutsy effort against the best team in the league. The team stepped up a delivered a much needed win on Labour Day.

Now let’s get to the headbutt. It was a stupid play by Robertson. It deserved to be flagged. He should have been ejected and a suspension is not unexpected. But let’s be honest for a minute. I give Collaros a 9.3 on the dive. You would have thought Robertson shot him for how he dropped. Also, in isolation, a play like that should be suspendable but… its wildly out of line with past precedent for a first time offender. Let me point out that Micah Awe got fined for high hits on QBs in back to back weeks. This league doesn’t suspend anyone no matter how egregious the offense. So based on previous CFL discipline history this very much smells like a suspension based on appeasing people not based on the offense itself.

All I’m asking for is consistency. If Awe gets to high hit QBs in back to back games without suspension then why is this a suspension for Robertson? Pick a side. While we are on that topic the PI call on Moncrief was the exact same play as the non-call on Shaefer-Baker. Again, just want consistency either both a penalties or neither are (in this case neither should have been).

Other random thoughts:

-        Colin Kelly is a big loss to our O-line. He has locked down that tackle spot since arriving and been arguably our best OL.

-        Credit where credit is due though, Logan Ferland once again played solid when being asked to bump out to tackle. I think playing on our crappy OLs has overshadowed just how good a player he is.

-        Concessions were gong show on the second deck. They ran out of most beer before kickoff. Before. I mean who could have known that there would be a lot of people wanting beer on Labour Day? Also I continue to miss the old token system because it was super efficient to get a drink. Its now 5 minutes per person to get a drink. How can you not figure out that the faster the line moves, the more money you make?

-        I love Labour Day!!!


Friday, September 1, 2023

Riders vs. Bombers: Labour Day Classic 2023

Going to kick off my annual epic Labour Day post by doing a bit of throwback. You may notice that the tag line for this blog is “Poems, predictions and politically incorrect humour”. Been a while since I released my inner bard. So today let’s start off with a Labour Day song…

Sung to the tune of American Pie

A long, long time ago, I can still remember

How Labour Day used to make me smile

And I knew that no matter what

We would whoop the Bombers' butt

And man we'd so be happy for a while


But 2021 made me bitter

That’s when things went to the shitter

Collaros suddenly not hurt

Their will they did assert

I didn’t cry but damn sure swore

When I saw the final score

But many a drink I did pour

The day the Labour Day streak was no more


So, why, why, Coach Dickenson. Guy!

Need a favour on the day of Labour, need a victory cry.

Want all us boys to be drinking all of the rye

Singin', "I hope Bomber fans don’t give me pink eye

I hope Bomber fans don’t give me pink eye"

Now for two years we've been on the losing side

Not getting to show our Rider pride

But that's not how it used to be

When we won games no matter who

With wins by Butler, Crandel and Bishop (who was poo)

And a roar that came from you and me

Oh and while we’re talking about Loser’Peg

They're inbred hicks with bowlegs

They have very low IQ

Because their cousins they do screw

But now Colloras beats us again and again

And it makes me yearn for way back when

The day the Labour Day streak was no more


So, why, why, Coach Dickenson. Guy!

Need a favour on the day of Labour, need a victory cry.

Want all us boys to be drinking all of the rye

Singin', "I hope Bomber fans don’t give me pink eye

I hope Bomber fans don’t give me pink eye"

Seriously, I miss the days when we could just count on a Rider win on Labour Day. We won when we were good. We won when we sucked. We won 14 out of 15 prior to 2021. The Bombers would come, we’d beat them, make fun of their fans and go party the night away. It was a great annual tradition. 

Last 2 years have been rough. This year is not exactly instilling confidence to break the streak and restore order in the universe. Its Collaros vs. Dolegala. They have scored a league high 36 offensive TDs, twice as many as we have. They have the best RB and I would argue the best receiving trio in Lawler, Schoen and Demski (god does Demski always seem to god off against us). Their defense has allowed the least offensive points and the second least yards. While I think their age is starting to show, they remain a very good team.

But Labour Day magic is a thing so let’s look at how we go about winning.

Gotta slow Collaros down. That O is so good you can’t expect to stop them but you need to slow them. It starts with pressure upfront. For years Winnipeg has had the best tackles in the CFL. This year they have noticeably slipped. Still good but not great. We managed to beat BC because we got a ton of pressure on Adams. We need pressure and hits on Collaros. The other thing you need to stop to slow Winnipeg down is the deep ball. Collaros has 11 TDs on passes over 20 yards which is more than half his total. We cannot get beat deep (I’m looking at you Marshall). Keep it in front of you and you have a chance. Also need to slow Olivera down. That means hitting angry. We looked pissed off in the BC game and imposed our will because we were by far the more physical team. We need that again.

Offensively, can we slow our expectations of Dolegala. This will be his second “real” start. Go back and look at the list of QBs that did great in their first appearance and regressed in their second once teams had game film. Against a D as good as Winnipeg, he will regress. The only question is how much. Bombers can be run on… most teams just usually end up trailing and abandon the run. They allow the 2nd most yards per carry. Feeding Morrow is a good way to help Dolegala. I would also recommend Dolegala avoid throwing in Houston’s direction. He already has 7 picks and I bet Jake could pad those numbers. Be smart with the ball and rely on your playmakers like Bane, Emilus and Baker. Can’t treat him like a baby (Jake is going to need to make some big plays) but we also want to be a bit cautious and not turn the ball over. Winnipeg is the best at the league at generating turnovers. Gotta find the right balance

Last time we played Winnipeg they scored a massive TD on special teams. That can’t happen again. We all need to channel our inner TJ Brunson and impose our physicality in all aspects of the game, especially special teams. Be nice if Alford could be impactful again, though a lot of that is on the blocking (or lack thereof) he receives. 

If you are betting money, you should probably bet on the Bombers. They remain the top dog in the West and we are far from that. But they also lost to both Ottawa and BC who we both beat. So I’m saying there’s a chance.

I’m choosing blind faith in a Labour Day Miracle. Like a Rocky Butler, Michael Bishop level Labour Day miracle. We should probably lose and I’m probably setting myself up to drown my sorrows in rye but dammit if I don't believe a packed house can cheer us onto to another upset victory…

Riders by a Schaefer-Baker TD.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Do We Extend?

The Riders are hoping to exit the bye will with the same excitement as when they entered. I’ll admit I feel slightly less better about the BC win after seeing what Hamilton did to them, but at this point we should just enjoy the wins when they come and not ask too many questions. It's kinda like a fast food burger... delicious, just don't starting asking about the ingredients. 

But one question the Riders need to start seriously pondering is whether or not to extend the GM and Head Coach. 

Both are on the final year of their current deals, in a “prove it” situation. A 5-5 record doesn’t exactly offer a definitive answer either way but we can’t afford to wait too much longer to make a decision. In particular, we need to make a call right away on the GM. The head coach can (and probably will) wait until the end of the season. But you can’t have a lame duck GM. Your GM needs to be planning for next year and beyond already. You can’t have a GM whose contract expires at the end of the season and expect him to do that. If your boss refused to guarantee your employment beyond 3 months from now but then told you to spend all your effort planning a big company event in 8 months, how hard are you really working on that? You need to commit to a GM. 

That brings us to the question of whether Jeremy O’Day warrants a further commitment. I may not always be a fan of everything O’Day does and I don’t think he’s the best GM in the league but I do think he earned an extension.   

His job is to bring in talent and he’s done that. #1 need coming into the season was a QB. He delivered. Hell he delivered enough depth at QB that we have won games with 3 different QBs. He brought in receivers. He built a strong defense that prominently features guys he recruited: Lanier, Robertson, Christmas, Brown, Reavis, Clark, Milligan, Williams. He’s added solid free agents to build the talent and leadership of this team: Micah, Dean, Alford. He’s even done pretty good with the Canadians he’s drafted: Schaefer-Baker, Emilus, Dalke, Dabire, Korte-Moore.

His major knock has always been his inability to build a good O-line. By no means do I think our line is great this season but I do think it’s improved. Godber and Kelly are solid additions. He tried with guys like Blake, Hawkins and Tucker but injuries got in the way. Even Council and Lofton (our 3rd and 4th string options at OT) are serviceable and way better than the trainwrecks we fielded there last year.

My only remaining knocks on O’Day at this point are his questionable belief that Evan Johnson is still good and his reluctance to make drafting OL a priority. He kept telling us that Fry would be this immensely talented player… he has yet to even beat out Bandy for the 6th OL job.  

Overall when we look at what’s holding this team back at this point, its injuries and coaching… not a lack of talent. So while he’s far from perfect, I support extending O’Day as GM. We could do a lot worse. If it was me running the team I would have had the deal done and signed off weeks ago. My guess is that they have verbally agreed behind the scenes but for optics sake, are waiting until the end of the season to make it official.   

As for Dickenson, he’s got 8 games plus playoffs left to make his case. I would not extend him if I had to make a decision today. You could argue that a 5-5 record when you look at the injuries we’ve been through on offense, is pretty good. And it is. But my knock on Dickenson continues to his ongoing and repeated coaching errors. He’s one of the worst time clock managers I’ve seen and in his fourth season of coaching still seems to be baffled at how to effectively use timeouts. He kicks when he should gamble. He gambles when he should kick. No sure how much latitude he has given rookie OC Kelly Jeffries but there have been some bad play calls there at key times.  Special Teams (his calling in life) goes through a yearly midseason downturn for reason. Injuries (especially at QB) are a big factor on the season but in a lot of games coaching decisions made things harder for us, not easier. 

Now, if I start seeing the intensity we saw in the BM game for frequency down the stretch then I think Dickenson has a chance to save his job. But currently he’s about as much of a sure thing as our short yardage plays this season.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Punching Back

Riders 34 – Lion 29

That was quite the rollercoaster Sunday night. I walked in fully expecting a loss and in true Rider fashion I damn near almost managed to leave disappointed. They were the better team for 3 quarters and then tried really hard to lose the game in the 4th. But dammit if they didn’t manage to hold on and escape with a massive upset victory over the visiting Lions!

I saw what I needed to see most of all in that game. We punched back. After getting as embarrassed as you can get with your pants on in Montreal, it was a big test to see how the team would respond and how prepared Dickenson would have them. They stepped up and showed some pride. Defense was fired up. Special team was maybe even more fired up and played one of their best games of the season. It would have been easy to mail it in and deliver a widely expected loss and be in a rush to get to the bye week. But despite being massive underdogs, the Riders played one of their best games of the year, not backing down from one of the top tier teams in the league.

I will eat a bit of crow. Ever since Fine went down I have been very negative towards Dolegala. Legit expected him to be as brutal as he looked in Montreal. I was wrong. He’s not exactly ready to vie for MOP anytime soon but he played a pretty good game… and with this defense, pretty good is all we need to have a chance. He had his share of errors. I was convinced that Emilus TD was guaranteed INT until Emilus swooped in at the last second. He was almost useless in the second half. He made some questionable throws. HE took a time count penalty at the worst possible time. But he didn’t turn the ball over. He made some damn nice throws and he found ways to produce TDs. Sure a couple of them were gifts from the defense in terms of field position but we have spent all season finding ways not to get TDs. He produced 4 TDs against the best defense in the CFL. Props where props are due. I thought the O-line joined in with the theme of playing angry. They were far from perfect but generally gave Dolegala the time he needed and we even had some semblance of a run game against a very good run D. O was a true team effort with pretty much everyone making a play at some point. How nice was it to see the game open with a Baker TD? BC allows an average of 16 points per game. We more than doubled that. Again, it’s a good thing I’m not a big bettor because I would have lost a lot of money on this game.

We could focus on how they tried really hard to lose the game in the end but I will choose to focus on one hell of a game by the D. BC is a good team and they did more than just hang with them, they dominated. 5 sacks, 2 turnovers, no run game to speak of. We needed a bounce back game from this unit and they delivered. Yeah BC mounted a comeback and threw for over 450 yards but they are a damn good team full of playmakers. Better teams than us have struggled to contain them. I could have done without the late game drama but credit where credit it due they made plays. They set the tone early by forcing a turnover on the first drive. BC never fully recovered from that and had to chase all game.

Special teams stepped up too. Our return game is still AWOL but the coverage team was on lockdown. They forced a turnover and how about that hit from Brunson?!? They were fired up and for once decided not to be a liability.

That was an impressive and much needed win. I‘m not going to play revisionist history, I did not think we had a chance in this one. Riders proved me wrong. They now head into the bye week on a high note. Labour Day is on the horizon and heading into that with positive momentum is a welcome turn of events.

Other random thoughts:

-        Same Emilus is a damn good receiver. Credit to O’Day. I questioned prioritizing drafting a WR and Emilus is showing exactly the skills that led O’Day to make that move.

-        How great was it to have the script flipped and have us succeeding on short yardage and the other team struggling?

-        There should be a penalty equivalent to diving for a challenge to is clearly a fishing expedition.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Riders vs. BC: Beatdown Coming

 Before we get to the actual game, I want to take a moment and acknowledge that Sunday is Junior Rider cheerleader day. This allows us to commemorate one of the greatest moments at Old Mosaic. The year was 2006. The Riders were playing the Argos. Ricky Williams (while serving his NFL suspension and playing the CFL) broke his arm in that game and literally just walked himself straight to the hospital, gear and all and that wasn’t even the craziest part of the game. Just before halftime, Scott Schultz broke free and unloaded on Spergon Wynn. Wynn’s helmet went flying and he was out. Well it just so happened that was junior cheerleader day at halftime and rather than cancel on the poor girls, they had them awkwardly dance around an ambulance and the lifeless corpse of Wynn. So every junior cheer day allows us to honour the great heritage moment.

I intentionally started with that happy memory because most of what will follow will not exactly brighten your day. 

I don’t know how much effort you want me to put into breaking down this game. In one corner is a 7-2 team who has only lost to the best team in each division. In the other corner is a team that is down to their 3rd string QB and even on their 1st and 2nd QB could only beat teams with losing records… and even those wins were by margins so thin they have been offered a modelling contract. If this is an old fashioned western gun duel, the Riders are showing up with a picture of a gun on a napkin. 

This province thrives on false hope, so let me do my provincial duty and analyze what succession of miracles will be required to emerge victorious.

BC has only lost to Toronto and Winnipeg. No other team has come close. We actually came the closest of any other team by only losing by 10 points.  In that game we did hold BC to 19 points, which was their lowest point total other than that game where Winnipeg whooped em. But if you recall, Vernon Adams played only briefly before being injured and letting Dane Evans take over. Although there may be something in life Dane Evans is better at than others (parcheesi maybe?), football is not one of them. Barring crippling VA a second time, we won’t be seeing Mr. Evans in any meaningful portion of the game and that doesn't bode well for us.

Defense is literally our only hope in this. They need a bounce back game after showing all the aggression and physicality of a ragdoll kitten in Montreal. I do expect the front 4 to have a solid game. They looked really good the last time we played BC, notching 5 sacks. We need some turnovers. For all VA’s strengths he still throws INTs. To be fair 6 of his 9 came in one game but still he is prone to the odd mistake and we need to force a couple of those. He also has 9 TDs on deep passes so we can’t give up the big play. Make him earn each drive and hope the pass rush gets to him or he makes a mistake eventually. BC is #2 in passing yards but #8 in rushing. While we can get lazy and let the run become a factor, passing is BC’s bread and butter. 

Offensively, I suggest praying to your deity of choice. A full week of prepping as the starter should help Dolegala. But here’s the thing, he is clearly our 3rd best QB. He gets to face the #1 defense in the CFL. They allow 16 offensive points per game (I’d bet the Riders on the under on that number). Our second best QB mustered absolutely nothing against this defense. Do we really think our 3rd best QB is just going to suddenly turn into the second coming of Rocky Butler in this particular game?

BC has the #2 run D but we still gotta find some way to get at least the semblance of a run game going. If we let Dolegala drop back and attempt 50 passes behind our line, Betts maybe break the single season sack record by the 3rd quarter. Lets get the ball out quickly with some slants or timing outs. Get Dolegala in a rhythm and slow down the pass rush. I fear we will instead try poorly blocked WR screens and sideways runs. At lot will rely on Dolegala though. Coaches could come up with the best game plan ever (at least hypothetically) and its all for naught if your QB’s reads lead him to throw into double coverage or just plain overthrow guys. I hope I’m wrong about it but I am honestly not feeling great about his chances. Baker may make his season debut in this one, which would obviously be a boost. But with a bye week looming, they may take the cautious approach and give him one more week. 

You gotta win a minimum of 2 phases to win the game. Our D has a shot. Our O does not. That leaves special teams as the deciding factor if we want a shocking upset win. Given that we are the worst in the league at covering punts (despite a phenomenal punter) and our return game has fizzled to next to nothing in recent weeks that doesn’t bode well for us. But this is a unit that can be good when they want to. So let’s see it.

Much like Spergon Wynn I see us being plastered to the Mosaic tuft in this one. D will probably do what they always do and keep us in a game we have no business being in for 2-3 quarters but waiting for our O to provide scoring support is like waiting for a deadbeat dad to comeback from the store with cigarettes. 

BC by 17.

No go back and rewatch the Schultz hit. It’ll cheer you up.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Oh No, We Suck Again!

Riders 12 – Alouettes 41

To be fair I did advise you not to be on the Riders. I’m a little rusty on my French but I’m pretty sure that’s what the locals would refer to as Le Embarrassment or Le Ass Kicking. I guess I should know better than believe in blind hope and just accept that when it comes to playing in Montreal on a short week, the Riders have about as much chance of winning as Johnny Manziel has of doing film study.

This one doesn’t require a lot of analysis. We weren’t good enough. They were ready to play despite missing 3 of their best players. We were not. While the short week was definitely a factor, its not an excuse. Here’s the crazy thing. The Also took a too many men penalty on the first offensive play of the game! Then a no end penalty 3 plays later. And somehow we were less ready to play then them.

Defense looked gassed. They started slow but I thought started to settle in ok… not great but ok enough to hang in the game. But eventually the repeated failings of our offense took what little life there was out of our defense. Maas called a very good game plan for Caleb Evans… let him do as little as possible. Lots of runs and short passes that we struggled to slow down and the occasional shot, like the one to Mack. Defense did their best (well ok, not their best but they gave it the old college try) to keep it close in the first. The second half they just had nothing. This game yet again proved what a frustrating player Amari Henderson is. He had a nice tackle for a loss and an INT. But he then proceeded to screw up on the INT. I don’t mind him looking to see if there was a return lane but there damn sure wasn’t and he kinda waivered on whether to run it out or go down. He should have gone down. Running it out to the 5 was dumb. That play was like a microcosm of his career. Some really great stuff and some really not great stuff. 

I hope everyone who has been calling for Jake Dolegala shuts up for a bit. This coaching staff has its share of bad decisions but they damn sure knew what they were doing when they determined Fine was our best chance to win. The second Fine tweaked his hammy, any remote chance we had of winning disappeared. Dolegala seems to excel at 3 passes. Deep into double coverage because he makes no attempt to look the safety off. Deep about 10 yards further than our receiver. And crossers that he throws just behind the receiver rather than hitting them in stride. It was not good. He has now managed to give up TDs in back to back weeks because he can’t hang onto the football. He had a pass knocked down at the line of scrimmage. He’s literally taller than anyone on the field, there should be a remote chance of that. Yes he may improve with more reps as Fine has. But I will tell you he is starting well behind were Fine did. I really hope whatever Fine did was minor. The problem is with a bye week on the horizon, unless Fine is 100% you probably rest him one more to make sure he’s healthy for the back half of the season. This was a barely good enough offense with Harris. This was a mostly not good enough offense with Fine. If you think it will suddenly get better with Dolegala go back and subject yourself to rewatching the game. (Edit: Clearly trading for Pipkin shows that Fine will not be playing soon. Backup punter for a QB with CFL experience is a good deal. But I remain steadfast in my belief that Pipkin is not good... as evidenced by the fact that he is only worth a backup global punter.)

If short yardage is our achilles heel, 2nd and 2 is not far behind it. We consistently call the worst plays in that situation. When we need two yards we seem to love to call sideways runs, slow developing shotgun runs, or screen passes to wide receivers. All of this have the ball going backwards or sideways. Not forwards. Why? What about a hook, or a timing out or a short slant. Something to actually move the ball in the direction of a first down.

I noticed that when we ran, we consistently ran Morrow a bit sideways to the right either going between the guard and tackle or tackle and extra blocker. Clearly Jeffrey saw something on film he wanted to exploit. Problem is, we went to the well too many times and Noel Thorpe pretty easily figured it out. When we finally changed things up and ran Morrow up the middle he got a decent gain.

Speaking of things I noticed schematically. Is it just me, or have we changed our return game? It really seems like Alford is trying to follow the wedge straight up the middle as a point of emphasis. It seems a change from his normal approach to roll left or right waiting for a block or a lane to develop. I don’t think Alford’s strength is trying to bust one through a crowd. Would it not make more sense to design return schemes that play to his strength?

It was a rough game to watch. I do think the short week played a factor or our defense. But coaches get paid to have the team ready to play and we were so not ready that Jason Maas and Caleb Evans made fools of us. That’s like having a toddler beat you in 90s trivia. Our next 3 games are against the 2 best teams in the West. Might want to stock up on your preferred mind-numbing agent.

Other random thoughts:

-        I like Betrand-Hudon. He has no jukes, no spins. When he gets the ball he runs hard in a straight line forward. The few times he’s go the ball offensively or in the return game he’s done pretty well.

-        Evan Johnson still sucks. I'm sure you are well aware of that but just felt the need to state the obvious.

-        I still think that was PI on Bane. I would agree that most camera angles did not show enough clear evidence to overturn but the one angle seemed to clearly show his arm and body being twisted back. Usually when you see tugs like that its PI. Then again it is also a moving target from week to week.

-        First play of the game our struggling kick coverage made an appearance. Can we fix that? We have a top tier punter but are wasting his talent most kicks because we can’t bring the returner down.