As fans filed out of Mosaic Stadium following their team’s first win of the season and first at their new home, a storm was raging east of Regina. In the city, clear skies welcomed fans, perhaps it was a sign that on this night, the win was meant to be.
You would be hard pressed to call the Green and White’s first victory of 2017 a work of art, but at this point, the team will take any win it can get. While there’s still plenty to be worked on if the Riders are to take a step forward as a team and it’s certainly fair to question whether the Riders were good or if Hamilton was that bad (they were pretty bad). None of that matters. The Riders did what they had to do and got the “W.”
What was most impressive about the Riders on this night was their resilience. We’ve seen flashes of it through the first two games. Against Montreal, things didn’t really go that well for the offence but they still had a shot to win at the end of the day. Against Winnipeg, they blew a strong first half and a lead during the third quarter only to fight back and force overtime. Unlike those last two games, the Riders mistakes did not sink them and they showed the ability to punch back when Hamilton showed signs of life.
It would have been easy for the tent to collapse following Kevin Glenn’s goal line interception that was returned 110-yards for a touchdown, giving Hamilton a first quarter lead even though they couldn’t get a first down offensively. Instead, the offence marched right back down the field and scored a touchdown to re-gain the lead.
Late in the third quarter, Hamilton finally put together a drive that ended with a touchdown cutting the home team’s lead to just seven. In the past, we’ve seen things unravel leading to another notch in the loss column. Again, the offence responded. Even though it was just a field goal, it was once again a two possession game but more importantly it showed the Riders weren’t going to roll over.
The touchdown late in the fourth quarter was simply icing on the cake and the celebration was on in Riderville.
It was good to see Chris Jones and his staff make some adjustments both offensively and defensively. We’ll start on defence where the Riders rarely rushed three. Sure, the sacks didn’t really pile up but that doesn’t matter. Zach Collaros rarely had all the time in the world to throw, which helped the much maligned secondary. Hamilton has some protection issues, but it was positive to see the defensive line getting through without needing to rely on the blitz too much. Four proved to be enough most of the night.
Rushing four most of the night allowed Willie Jefferson to have a beast game we know he is capable of. With the extra rusher, double teaming Jefferson doesn’t become an automatic and that showed on Saturday. Jefferson picked up four tackles and a sack. He’s the straw that stirs the drink up front.
Offensively, the run game was used effectively. Stephen McAdoo didn’t rely on the ground game but he used it enough to keep Hamilton guessing and to relieve some pressure.
I enjoyed the Riders use of trick plays. The onside punt and Carter’s attempted pass were both good calls the execution was just a little off. More teams should use the onside punt, it’s a great, unique Canadian rule.
It will be interesting to see how the league handles Will Hill’s shake of an official. I don’t think a suspension is out of the question.
Thanks to Ryan Pollock of the Riders for getting me a last minute media pass to the game. Considering the timing, he easily could have said no but he found a way to get me in. Mosaic Stadium is what everyone says it is, though you didn’t need me to confirm that. I plan on going back later this year to see things from a fans perspective.