Saturday, 11 July 2015

Sting piles up for Rider Nation

The Roughriders defence has given up over 1,300 yards in three games.
    The Saskatchewan Roughriders love to torture their fans.
    In Canada, the only sports teams that arguably have more rabid fans than Rider Nation are the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. While supporters of the green and white look forward to relishing in all the fun that comes along with cheering for the team, they also know it won’t be a joyride.
    If you cheer for the Riders, there will be days when you think, “Why did I decide to cheer for this team?”
    The Riders are also well known for winning games in a fashion that isn’t easy, and they are notorious for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
    The start of the 2015 CFL season has been one of those stretches that has Roughriders fans shaking their collective heads in disbelief. The team has dropped three straight games to open the campaign, and all three outings could have been won as easily as they have been lost.
    Friday night at B.C. Place in Vancouver proved to be one of the breaking points of frustration. The Riders assumed a 29-18 lead over the host B.C. Lions with 2:21 to play in the fourth quarter only to see the Lions rally back for a 35-32 overtime victory.
    Almost immediately after the game, social media, especially Twitter, exploded with Rider fans expressing their disgust over the outcome. Rider Nation was in a very cranky mood.
    The game’s turning point came when the Riders were trying to run out the clock after B.C. closed to within 29-26 on a 46-yard TD reception from former NFLer Austin Collie, who followed that with a catch for a two-point convert.
    Saskatchewan faced a third and one from its own 48 with exactly a minute to play. The Lions were out of timeouts, and a first down would all but assure a Rider victory. The visitors would be able to run out the clock by kneeling down on the ball.
    Unfortunately for the green and white, backup quarterback Brett Smith was stuffed on a sneak play by Lions linebacker Adam Bighill.
QB Brett Smith runs the Riders short yardage offence.
    The decision to gamble by the Riders was the correct one, because that was a key point where you had to make a play to win the game. The fact the Riders didn’t make the gamble opened the door for a boatload of criticism of the coaching staff for many other aspects of the setback.
    The Saskatchewan bench bosses almost received a reprieve, when Lions rookie kicker Richie Leone had to attempt a 56-yard field goal to force overtime. The Roswell, Georgia, product just slipped the lengthy pressure kick over top the crossbar to force a 29-29 tie with 15 seconds to play.
    The Riders scrimmaged from their own 35, but didn’t even try to move the ball into range for a winning field goal. They took a couple of knees to go to overtime.
    The visitors had the first possession in the shootout OT format and faced a third and one from the B.C. 26. Saskatchewan rejected the option to gamble and went for a 33-yard Paul McCallum field goal to go up 32-29.
    It took the Lions just three plays to move 35 yards on their OT possession, which culminated in a winning four-yard TD catch by receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux.
    On social media, a number of people in Rider Nation heaped criticism on the team electing not to gamble on third and one, when the Riders had their offensive possession in OT. At that point in time, electing to go for the field goal was the correct decision in order to have a score on the board.
    The fact the Riders didn’t try to move the ball in the final 15 seconds of the fourth quarter after the Lions tied things up was another story.
    Saskatchewan has assumed just criticism for its porous defence in the early going. The Rider offence has been going at full speed, but the defence has been soft, especially defending the two-minute drill situation.
    The Lions seemed to pick up yards at will on their final TD drive in regulation and the winning TD drive in overtime. In the Riders previous outing on July 5, they fell 42-40 in double overtime at home on the turf at Mosaic Stadium after the Toronto Argonauts completed a two-minute drill march at the end of the fourth quarter. That march resulted in a 16-yard TD catch by Chad Owens to force a 28-28 tie.
Disappointed Rider fans leave Mosaic Stadium on July 5.
    Saskatchewan opened the season on June 27 at Mosaic falling 30-26 to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers giving up 470 yards in offence. The Riders proceeded to give up 367 yard in offence in the setback to the Argos and 480 yards of offence in the cough up to the Lions.
    In the off-season, the Riders let the personable Ritchie Hall, who has won one Grey Cup ring with the team as a player and two as defensive coordinator, leave for the Bombers, who are now 2-1. Head coach Corey Chamblin felt bringing Greg Quick as the new defensive coordinator was a shake up his club needed. Three weeks into the season, Quick is on the hot seat, Chamblin is getting thrashed for the decision to change DCs, and Rider fans are wishing Hall never left.
    The heat will keep coming until the Riders hit the win column. It will definitely be a long practice week at Mosaic leading up to the Roughriders next encounter, when they host the Lions (1-1) at 8 p.m. on Friday.

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