Riders give their fans hope, only to crush it

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ head coach Chris Jones, centre, speaks to Eddie Steele, from left to right, Makana Henry, Tobi Antigha and Willie Jefferson on the bench during the second half of a CFL football game against the B.C. Lions in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday August 5, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

What’s there left to say at this point? It’s all really starting to feel like Groundhog Day in Saskatchewan, as once again the Riders fell flat on their face against a division opponent.

Every time the Riders appear to give their fans some kind of hope, it’s quickly extinguished. After beating Hamilton, the green and white followed that up with a disastrous first half in Calgary and never recovered. Then the Argos came to town on five days rest, the Riders won, and followed it up with a dud in Vancouver on Saturday night. Rinse and repeat. The Riders wins likely had more to do with the state of their opponents than anything else.

We’ve reached the point where until the Riders beat a western opponent, nothing else they do matters. Since Chris Jones took over the squad last year, the Riders have won exactly one game against a team in their own division. In fairness, other than the 2013 season, this isn’t a new phenomenon in Saskatchewan, but you can’t link those loses to Jones.

The bottom line is the Riders can beat eastern teams all they want (though, they haven’t exactly run the table there either) but until they can get over that hurdle and starting winning some games against teams in the West, the odds of them even climbing into fourth and having a shot at crossing over into the East are slim at best. Right now, the West is running wild all over the East, and the Riders can’t gain any ground against their opponents.

The good news, or bad news, depending on how you look at it, is the Riders will have plenty of chances to try and get over this hump. They still have four more games in a row against the West. A stretch that very likely will decide their season.

Game Thoughts

– Once again the Riders were unable to keep their opponents off the board early. Unlike Toronto or Hamilton, B.C. wasn’t going to let that lead slip away. If not for the Lions letting up in garbage time, the game’s opening field goal may have been enough to win. Until the Riders learn to get going quicker, their struggles are likely to continue, especially against the West.

– Last week the Riders found success by running the football and letting their receivers make plays. You’d think they would try to build off that. Instead, Cameron Marshall could have taken the night off and Kevin Glenn’s longest completed pass was 26 yards, and all of those yards came after the catch. Stretch the field, maybe? Run the ball maybe? Not like it’s worked before.

– You knew the Riders were done when late in the third quarter they had the Lions pinned deep facing second and 14. As TSN’s Glen Suitor noted, good teams know when it’s time. It was time for the defence to make a play and force a punt or even a safety. Instead, Travis Lulay completed a 50 yard pass (against a three man rush, naturally) and Ed Gainey took a facemask call for good measure. So, even with a completed pass, the Lions got a first down. That conversion led to a field goal and it was lights out.

– This tweet also summed up the Riders night:

– Throw the three man rush into the sun.

– Just how lifeless were the Riders? B.C. didn’t finish multiple long drives, something that often haunts a team. Not on this night. It didn’t matter.

– I love stats, but numbers can lie sometimes too. Coming into the week, the Riders had one of the league’s better averages when it comes to pass yards allowed per game. You’d be hard pressed to convince me they are actually that good against the pass though, considering the number of explosive plays they’ve regularly given up. It’s also easier to give up fewer yards when teams start running on you with the lead.

– It was good to see Brandon Bridge get a little more time under centre. Though he looked good, you have to take that with a massive grain of salt considering who B.C. was playing and how they were playing at that point. Though I think Bridge will be the starter at some point (don’t worry about all of the predictions in there), it won’t be next week. Glenn is still this team’s starting quarterback until after the Banjo Bowl, in my opinion.

– There were no challenges in this game and that was refreshing. Though, the game itself was a challenge to watch unless you are a Lions fan.

Joel Gasson is a Regina-based sports writer, broadcaster and football fanatic. He is also a beer aficionado.