This is it. A day decades in the making has arrived as the Saskatchewan Roughriders are set to play their last game ever at Taylor Field.
The fans are ready to make the trek from across the province one last time to 1910 Piffles Way as the Riders host the B.C. Lions. The game itself matters as the Riders look to build that winning culture, while the Lions are fighting for playoff position, but for most in the flatlands, the day and night will be celebration of one of Canada’s oldest and most storied stadiums.
With that in mind, here’s six things to watch from a Riders perspective during the game:
Let’s face it, Taylor Field is long past it’s expiry date. As beloved as the stadium is, it should have been torn down and replaced many years ago. In the end, what made the stadium so special wasn’t the stadium itself but the people who filled the stands on average every second weekend between July and November. There’s family traditions, there’s new fans and old, even the infamous university section. That one guy who calls for holding on about every play by the press box. There’s people who dress up like every day is Halloween. That was the experience of Taylor Field. So, this day isn’t so much for the players as it is the fans. They made this place what it is and now they get to say goodbye. Since play began on the site in 1936, over 11 million fans have watched the Riders play.
The Riders lead the league in attendance so far this season with an average of 31,065 , a sell-out could help the Riders take that title from the Edmonton Eskimos who have often held top spot in recent years.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of things to look forward to from the team. The team has been teasing different things on Twitter over the last couple of weeks. I’m sure there will be plenty of surprises throughout the night as this night has been in the planning stages for a long time. What we do know is you won’t want to leave or change the channel early. There will be a 25-minute post-game celebration, which will also be aired on TSN. There’s also going to be an extended half-time with a concert from Saskatchewan’s Jess Moskaluke with pyro and a light show.
As the Riders get ready for a big change next year, head coach Chris Jones has made plenty of changes on the depth chart this week. Six new faces will make their way onto the field this week compared to last week. Players making their debut this week include receivers Kardon Boone, Phil Bates and Joshua Stanford along with running back Marshaun Coprich, defensive lineman Greg Milhouse Jr. and defensive back Royce Adams. Only six Riders have played in every game to date this season. QB Mitchell Gale, WR Shamawd Chambers, RB Joe McKnight, LB Greg Jones, WR/PR Joe Craig and WR Ryan Lankford (released) come off the roster to make room.
Another running back
One position that has seen a lot of change this season has been running back. Once again this week the Riders are being forced to use a new name to carry the rock. Joe McKnight, who has played well in his two games, is out after that hit he took at the end of the game last week against Montreal. Coprich starts in his spot. Coprich led FCS football in rushing in 2014 when he was with Illinois State. That hasn’t translated into a pro-career just yet.
Testing the Waters
For the second straight week, Jake Waters is listed as the backup quarterback behind Darian Durant. Last weeks game remained close for the entire 60 minutes, so Jones opted to leave his starting quarterback in. Conditions last week also weren’t great for getting a read on the first year pivot. If he gets in the game, it will be interesting to see what he can do after a season’s worth of practice.
Feeling the pressure
One area the Riders need to work on heading into next season in their pass protection. Durant has been sacked 13 times in the team’s last three games and a league-high 36 times this year. He’s been forced to scramble way too much and it’s hurt the offence most of the year. The Lions come into the game third in the league with 43 sacks.