If you think the Saskatchewan Roughriders are going to fold with their mounting adversity, you’re wrong.
The team knows there is a lot more road ahead despite there being two thirds of the CFL season in the rear view mirror.
“If you went back to any Rider fan in camp and asked if they’d be happy if we were 8-4, one game out of first in Week 12, they’d be pretty happy,” stated veteran linebacker Mike McCullough.
And that’s where the Roughriders are.
However, after BC's win on Friday night, the road to hosting a playoff game just got all that more difficult. Simply put, the more losses they suffer, the harder it becomes for them to control their own destiny.
Veteran Defensive End Ricky Foley is calling this week’s game a ‘must win’ for he and his teammates.
Foley says losing, like winning, can be contagious. But the veterans on this team have been here before.
In the team’s Grey Cup Championship of 2007, they won seven of their first nine, but saw their 7-2 record quickly turn to 7-5 after a three game losing streak at the end of the second third of the season.
It should, as the Riders are on a pretty identical path, save for their extra win in the first nine games.
What turned their fortunes six years ago?
“It was just a matter of everyone believing in each other,” explains fullback Neal Hughes.
“We did a lot of stuff outside of football to build some team camaraderie. We went on a few camping trips and fishing trips. We spent a lot of time off the field as well. Once you know each other off the field, you’re more apt to play for every one on the field as well.”
OnTwitter, Hughes was seen a week ago posing for pictures with some teammates holding a fairly decent size fish with Geroy Simon and company. Hughes admits that is all a part of the team building that needs to happen now, and in the future.
“We have a few things lined up here in the future before the playoffs as far as team building goes, so that’s something that we’ll definitely look forward to.”
Of course in 2007 there was a different player personnel and different coach but that doesn’t mean the team isn’t noticing some similarities.
“You got every component. You got young guys with young blood, and you have good veteran leadership on both sides of the ball,” notes linebacker Mike McCullough.
“We got guys who have seen it all and done it all. We got a good offense, a good defense and good special teams. We just got a good team, a good vibe, it’s just a feeling and one of those intangibles you can’t really talk about or put a finger on, it’s just a feeling of walking in that room and knowing everyone genuinely likes each other and wants to play for each other.”
While it is a stretch to start comparing the teams of 2007 to the current crop of players, they are remaining confident despite the three game losing streak.
That confidence is being instilled with the leadership in the coaching staff and in the locker room.
“We have a lot of veterans on this team, last year we had a lot of new players. A lot of these players know what to expect now and we’re hoping to put everything together,” believes Hughes.
Again, the veteran leadership gets tested late in the season.
Will quarterback Darian Durant, receiver Weston Dressler and newcomers Geroy Simon, Foley, John Chick and veterans like McCullough and Hughes help guide this team?
They hope they can, although in the West it will be a tough battle.
As they learned on Friday with the Lions dominant win over the Blue Bombers, the more the Riders rely on help the least likely they’re going to get it.
That means a win now attitude is necessary.
Last week I wrote it may be a little too soon to be saying ‘must win’ in Saskatchewan, but it’s becoming dangerously close.
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.