Smoke and fires can’t obscure Riders’ record

FBO CFL Argonauts Roughriders 20150705

Unless you have lived in Saskatchewan, you can never understand the angst that affects the followers of the community-owned Roughriders.

This is a province that was covered by smoke while hundreds of firefighters, water-bombers and the Canadian military were dispatched to its northern forests to fight as many as 120 fires at one time. It led to the biggest evacuation in the province’s history, with 10,000 people forced from their smaller communities to live in safe, temporary housing facilities in Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, Prince Albert and North Battleford.

When the evacuations were at their peak and the smoke was its heaviest, do you know what led the local newscasts one day? The status of Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant, who met the media after having season-ending surgery to repair his torn Achilles tendon. Not the sportscasts — the Durant update led the sportscasts AND the newscasts!

Imagine what the province is fretting about now, with almost every northern community re-opened and its citizens returning home, while the brave firefighters have to worry about as few as 80 forest fires.

The CFL team is winless in four starts. OMG!

Some fans are calling for head coach Corey Chamblin and general manager Brendan Taman to be fired. (A very bad pun.) Saner heads will prevail, of course, but the media for the most part has been critical of how the team has played, specifically on defence, and been coached.

There have been justifiable concerns about strategy, clock management, play calling and the team’s inability to adjust to new rules that dictate how defensive backs can no longer obstruct receivers farther than five yards downfield from the line of scrimmage. Injuries to Durant, middle linebacker Shea Emry, rookie sensation Nic Demski and starting cornerbacks Tristan Jackson and Marshay Green have added to the concern.

The Roughriders, who lead the league in points and total offence, are getting standout performances from tailback Jerome Messam, backup quarterback Kevin Glenn, slotback Weston Dressler and the offensive line. But the defence is near the bottom of most categories, has allowed the most points, and is woefully inept at forcing turnovers.

The team squandered fourth-quarter leads in its first three losses. In its fourth loss it allowed touchdowns on the B.C. Lions’ opening drives of each half and couldn’t sustain a late-game rally in a 27-24 loss.

A home-heavy schedule in the early going was supposed to help the Roughriders this year, but when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats visit Mosaic Stadium on Sunday it will be Saskatchewan’s fourth home game of the season. The Riders haven’t won there yet.

Another loss would equal the 0-5 start last duplicated in 1995 and those forest fires, throughout Rider Nation at least, will likely be completely forgotten.

Darrell Davis has reported on the Riders for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2006.