What’s happened to the Roughriders?
That’s the question on the minds of the Rider Nation after witnessing what took place on Saturday at Mosaic Stadium. The Riders slowly ground out a 19-point advantage over visiting Tiger-Cats just seconds into the fourth quarter. It should have been game over, right?
The stage was set for a Riders win. They were at home. The Tiger-Cats had spent the late afternoon game baking in the sun on the east side. The Tiger-Cats rarely win in Regina, so it was just a matter of the Riders closing out the fourth quarter and they would have their fourth win of the season.
Not so fast. The Riders blew that lead and Hamilton eked out a 35-34 win. That was the second time that the Riders have been stunned in the fourth quarter. The same thing happened on July 19 when Calgary roared back from a 17-point deficit to pull out a 41-38 overtime win.
Saturday put the finishing touches on what has been a perplexing month for the Riders. They started 3-0 and everyone wondered why that happened. They have lost two straight and we know all how that has taken place. The big question is why?
It’s easy to point fingers at the defence for not being able to stop the Stampeders and the Tiger-Cats when they needed to. How about Darian Durant? He was so effective as a ball-control quarterback early in the season. He seems to have slipped into his old habits. He’s getting locked in on receivers and turning over the ball while trying to do too much. Then there is Chris Milo. He no longer seems automatic when it comes to field goals. He’s a better punter and has improved on kickoffs. He needs to hit field goals when they are in range. It’s that’s simple.
The good news is we have a lot of time to mull over what has taken place. The Riders are off until Saturday, when they are scheduled to resume practice. The Riders will have moved on from Saturday’s loss by then and looking forward to squaring off against the Eskimos on Aug. 10. The media doesn’t move on that quickly and I’m sure we’ll be hunting for answers.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom. Taj Smith showed the speed that the Riders talked about during training camp while pulling away for a 74-yard touchdown romp. Jock Sanders is also quick and can contribute when the season resumes.
The special teams were perhaps the best unit on the field. They shut down Chris Williams, who is among the league’s best returners.
The Riders also shut down Andy Fantuz, who was held to two first-half receptions for 39 yards. Henry Burris is smart enough to go to other receivers and he did that very well.
I did have an only in the CFL moment after the game. I spied Fantuz and a woman in a black Fantuz jersey walking along the road by the Victoria Street underpass. The two walked by the area where some of the Rider Nation tailgates for Rider games. Fantuz then decided to turn around. He joined one of the groups for a chat and I’m sure a moment they will never forget. Nice move by Fantuz, who I couldn’t believe he was just walking around the streets of Regina after a football game.
He is among the league’s best receivers, but for the most part he remains just a normal guy. He proved that again on Saturday.
That’s it for now. The Riders aren’t the only ones enjoying a bye. I’m also off until next week as well. Then it’s back for a long grind until the playoffs.