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.