Messam earns his nickname: “Canadian Pharaoh”

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Maybe the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ coaches should listen to the fans. All season long the team’s loyal followers have been suggesting loudly that the Roughriders deploy tailback Jerome Messam as their primary offensive weapon.

Lo and behold, it worked. Messam carried 15 times for 111 yards and one touchdown Sunday as the Roughriders won only their second game of the CFL season, 33-21 over the visiting Montreal Alouettes.

It’s the first time this season Messam has rushed for more than 100 yards, which is truly an incomprehensible fact. And it’s the first time all season the Roughriders didn’t throw a pass in his direction.

Usually a reliable receiver, Messam dropped three passes in Saskatchewan’s previous contest, which may have convinced Roughriders offensive co-ordinator Jacques Chapdelaine to just hand him the football, dammit! Or maybe Bob Dyce, who has been Saskatchewan’s interim head coach since the team fired head coach Corey Chamblin and general manager Brendan Taman four games ago, suggested that Messam be used more consistently.

Messam is a leading contender for the CFL’s award as outstanding Canadian, a laurel he earned in 2011 with the Edmonton Eskimos. The other perennial contenders, B.C. Lions tailback Andrew Harris and Calgary Stampeders tailback Jon Cornish, have been bothered this season by injuries. Messam has remained virtually intact all season, plowing his 6-foot-3, 245-pound frame into over-matched defenders, wearing them down throughout the contest. Messam also gets tired, which explains why the Roughriders sometimes spell him with American tailback Anthony Allen.

Messam is such a powerful runner, former Riders offensive tackle Belton Johnson, a panelist on our Green Zone radio show, has taken to calling him a thoroughbred, dubbing him “Canadian Pharaoh’’ in homage to this year’s Triple Crown-winning horse American Pharaoh.

Messam’s impressive performance helped Saskatchewan’s passing game, too, as quarterback Kevin Glenn completed passes to six different receivers. With five regular-season games remaining, Messam has 776 rushing yards and is on pace to crack the magical 1,000-yard barrier for the second time in his six-year career.

Evidently the fans knew what they were talking about.

Sometimes it’s apparently a good idea for the Roughriders coaches to ignore the fans. Linebacker Macho Harris has been targeted by the fans (and on the Green Zone) as an under-performer, somebody who should have been replaced as the Riders defence struggled. On Sunday he intercepted three passes against the Alouettes, returning one for a touchdown, and perhaps saving his career.

So the fans are 1-1 in decisions, Dyce and interim general manager Jeremy O’Day are 2-2 since taking over the team, and the Riders are 2-11 in this lost season.

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.