As the colours of the leaves change around here, so too have peoples’ attitudes towards victories by their beloved Saskatchewan Roughriders.
On a windy fall day at Mosaic Stadium this past Saturday, with yellow and orange leaves tumbling in and around the CFL’s oldest ballpark, the Saskatchewan Roughriders held on to beat the Edmonton Eskimos 14-9 in a game which will never be shown on ESPN Classics Canada.
Saskatchewan stopped Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly on a goal line stand with just over a minute to go to preserve a five-point victory and officially snuff out any chance of Edmonton making the playoffs in 2013. The outcome also greatly enhanced the Riders’ chance at hosting a playoff game for the first time since 2010.
In the summer months, when this CFL season was still in its infancy, there was a tendency for the Rider Nation to flame a game like that. Quarterback Darian Durant threw for a puny 170 yards and the team ended up with three turnovers on the day (in the exact same fashion their opponents gave up the football).
There was no need to worry about getting up to visit the washroom during this one. You wouldn’t have missed much until the final minute, which in some ways, is a good thing. However there were simply no big plays from a Rider perspective.
Saskatchewan didn’t register a single offensive play over 30 yards which has led some to scratch their heads, but the defense came up to the rescue again.
How does that saying go about defense and championships again?
The talk on coffee row, and for sure on our TV and radio shows this week, would have surely been about the “ugly win” and how the team had better pick it up, “or else!”.
But not now.
Green football fans are not concerned about style points any longer. With the way this season has turned out, a three-way slugfest between Saskatchewan, Calgary and BC right down to the finish line, everyone was simply happy and satisfied with the victory.
“I’m thankful for a lot of things,” Rider head coach Corey Chamblin said when asked what he’s most thankful for on this Thanksgiving weekend.
“Professionally I’m thankful this team has survived the storms we’ve had, got 10 wins, and how this team is learning to play together and stay together. I’m proud of this team right now.
“And I’m also thankful they didn’t get that 3rd-and-1!”
So the Riders improved to 10-5 and can clinch a home playoff game with a victory over BC Saturday at Mosaic Stadium. My pre-season prediction of an 11-7 record and second-place in the West is looking real good now but the Riders could just as easily get to 12 wins. Or even 13!
There are plenty of interesting things to watch down the stretch, not the least of which is the battle between Rider tailback Kory Sheets and Calgary running back Jon Cornish. Cornish is 137 yards ahead of Sheets for the league’s rushing crown with three games to go.
"I sat out three games (with injury), he hasn't and that's pretty much all that matters,” Sheets smirked to reporters in Saskatoon last week.
“Everybody knows that I'm a better back than he is and I'm pretty much not thinking about what he does anymore. Somebody told me about what he was talking about but he knows what's going on over here. He knows that I'm a better running back than he is. You wanna talk about it? We'll see what the numbers do at the end of the season."
Fun talk, but both players likely care more who’s carting around the Grey Cup at the end of the year rather than who finishes #1 in rushing. At least I hope they are.
Also the Riders made the biggest splash at last week’s CFL trade deadline by acquiring defensive end Alex Hall and his league-leading 15 sacks from Winnipeg in exchange for lineman Patrick Neufeld. Hall contributed three tackles against Edmonton in his Rider debut and appeared to be a force.
In explaining the move Rider GM Brendan Taman said it was a chance for his team to go “all-in” in this monumental season.
Now only the Riders, Lions and Stampeders are left at the table.
And it’s time for the dealer to deal another hand.
Rod Pedersen is the Voice of the Saskatchean Roughriders on 620 CKRM. You can check out his award-winning blog at www.rodpedersen.com. Follow Rod on Twitter @sportscage.