On paper the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are on opposite ends of their respective divisions coming into the Labour Day Classic. Well crumple that paper up and throw it the trash because the records won’t matter on Sunday.
We’ve seen this script before.
Two years ago to be exact and the then 1-7 Riders won back-to-back games against the then 7-1 Bombers.
That’s the motivation for the Riders whenever the notion of ‘taking their opponents lightly’ comes up this week.
The records don’t matter because this game is different than any other on the schedule because it’s tradition, it’s history and it’s a classic prairie rivalry.
When you say Labour Day Classic in Saskatchewan, the memories come flooding back.
Whether it be packing ‘hemorrhoid hill’ in the 90s to set attendance records, punter Ken Clark kicking a game winning field goal in 1983 while replacing an injured Dave Ridgway, Kerry Joseph sprinting to the end zone in 2007 or Rocky Butler becoming a household name in 2002 by running the Riders to victory in his first ever start at quarterback.
The Bombers have won the odd game of course, but Saskatchewanians don’t mark those down as memories to hold on to.
Riders head coach Corey Chamblin knows what it's like to try to forget a loss in this game. He jokingly tried to convince the media his one-year as defensive backs coach in 2007 didn’t happen as he was hesitant to discuss watching Joseph run for that game winning score.
He would divulge it was a missed assignment by some young linebackers that allowed the seas to part for that legendary run.
He has no trouble remembering last year’s 52-0 victory, his first LDC as the team's Head Coach.
The best part about this weekend isn’t just the game, but the atmosphere around the stadium, the city, and the province. It’s the last long weekend before everyone gets back to their regular routine and the parties and events fill up these three days.
Saturday’s fan day at Mosaic sees thousands flood in for autographs and a chance for the kids to run around on Taylor Field turf.
Game day will see nearly 45,000 fans flock to the stadium with tailgating, the Bomber faithful in full force chanting and taunting near the gates with the home fans giving it right back.
Oh, yeah, then the game fills three hours until the fun continues well into the night.
The stories that can be told are endless.
TSN’s Milt Stegall and Riders current quarterbacks coach (former Bomber QB) Khari Jones tell the story of fans knocking on their hotel room doors at 3 in the morning on game day. Stegall says they were Rider fans, Jones believes there were a few inebriated Bomber fans joining the fun as well.
That led the Bombers to start getting hotel accommodation out of town and bussing to the game a little earlier to avoid any chance of a pre-game party spilling into their hotel ever again.
But it’s not the fans walking the hotels the Bombers should be worried about this week. The crowd of nearly 45,000 will be the largest Labour Day crowd ever.
Bombers quarterback Justin Goltz will have it tough.
Jones, who has been in Goltz’ shoes, knows all to well the difficulty of being a visiting quarterback for these games. And to think, he was facing crowds 10,000 less than what Goltz will face tomorrow.
“I remember it being so loud I was having to yell the play at my teammates who were standing in the huddle right beside me.”
Jones says the Bombers better have their hand signals down because that will be the only way to communicate if the crowd is as loud as anticipated.
The Riders of course have the advantage, but it’s not just communication that will play in the hands of the Green and White, Rey Williams believes it’s also the snap count.
“They won’t be able to ‘hut, hut, hut’ us all day (to draw us offside),” explains Williams.
In turn the Riders will be able to time up their blitzes much better and get on top of Goltz quickly.
Sunday will go down as just another chapter in the storied history of this game between the Riders and Bombers.
Goltz is hoping to write a story reminiscent of young Rocky Butler’s epic and unexpected performance, while the Riders try to make it nine straight wins on Labour Day weekend.
Jamie Nye bleeds green and is the Roughrider insider for News Talk 980 CJME Regina and News Talk 650 CKOM Saskatoon. All of his Rider coverage can be found at www.GreenZoneFootball.com and you can follow him on Twitter @JamieNye.