As the fans giddily skipped down the ramps and out of Mosaic Stadium Saturday night following the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ 37-9 trouncing of the Toronto Argonauts, country star Toby Keith’s song “How Do You Like Me Now?” blared through the stadium speakers.
Frankly, it couldn’t have been more appropriate.
This 2014 CFL season is still in its infancy, at the stage of a toddler, and yet the Green & White have been endlessly dissected and picked apart through their opening three games. They were 1-2 in that stretch which left them in the West Division cellar before being rescued by a bye week.
And did it ever come at a good time. Whatever Rider coach Corey Chamblin told them going into that nine day break, it worked.
And once they emerged for Day 1 of their practice week to get ready for the Argos, Chamblin preached that it was going to be a brand new season. A fresh start.
So that left us all on pins and needles going into Saturday’s game wondering how exactly the “new-look” Saskatchewan Roughriders would come out. To me, it was going to signal what the rest of the season is going to be like. Or, at the very least, how the immediate road ahead would look.
The Roughrider defence forced turnovers on the first two Toronto possessions and cashed in with a pair of touchdowns to give Saskatchewan a 14-0 lead before most fans had finished their first Pilsner.
We forgot to mention running back Will Ford, the former Blue Bomber, was making his Saskatchewan debut after signing only a few days before. The South Carolina State product shone, rushing for 113 yards and three touchdowns in the decidedly one-sided contest.
“It's a brand new season,” Chamblin told us after the game. “We re-tooled some things, with personnel, and the way we practiced, and it provided a spark. We stayed aggressive to the end. They were a little under-manned, we know that, but we kept playing till the end. “
The coach continues to say the right things. Of course the Riders are going to be scorned by many that Toronto was missing its top three receivers. So what? However Chamblin was quick to note that and he maybe even passed that on to his players after the game in order to keep their heads from being too swollen.
Corey’s motto seems to be the same as many championship coaches; smack ‘em when they’re up and build ‘em up when they’re down.
It works. And what an exhilarating win it was to prove what exactly these 2014 Saskatchewan Roughriders are. They’re winners. They can play whatever style you want (when healthy), and they’re not going to let up.
What a relief. After a brief hiatus, it appears Roughrider Football has returned. I even got convinced the Toronto game was “must-win” however in reality, it wasn’t. But it did help establish an identity for a young group trying to find its way.
“I never counted it a must-win,” Chamblin admitted. “We just had to win because I knew this team was built to win like all teams are. I knew this would be a team coming off the bye that was capable of winning games. There are still some things to fix but I think we're headed in the right direction.”
It was a wonderful night under the lights at what Bob Hughes called the Grand Ol’ Lady, Mosaic Stadium. I had a friend in attendance from Mississauga, a new business owner in Regina who sat by himself in Section 105. He said afterwards, “What a first game! I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
There were good vibes all around and it didn’t go unnoticed by the coach.
“We had a good crowd tonight,” Chamblin smiled. “Rider Nation stood up tonight. It was all positive.”
So I ask you, how do you like them now?
Rod Pedersen is the Voice of the Saskatchewan Roughriders on 620 CKRM. You can check out his award-winning blog at www.rodpedersen.com. Follow Rod on Twitter @sportscage.