As far as pre-season games go, that wasn’t a bad one. Too bad not everyone could have seen it.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders turned in a more promising effort against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Mosaic Stadium. Of course, like any poor performance, a better one in the pre-season should also be taken with a grain of salt.
None the less, it’s impossible not to feel at least a little bit better about this team than we did a week ago. Especially on offence, where we saw a young pivot make a big impression and the veterans brought a sense of calm.
Here’s some thoughts on the game.
1. As usual, all eyes were on Zach Collaros who was making his first start of the 2019 season. The first series was less than impressive but once the rust was knocked off, Collaros looked pretty good. Nothing earth shattering, but he did move the ball for 163 yards and two touchdowns in a half of football before being shut down. His best work came late in the half as Collaros pushed the ball down field pretty quick leading to his second touchdown pass of the night with just over a minute to go. He took a few hits and appeared to be alright, which is the most important part.
2. If we’re talking quarterbacks, then the sizzle definitely came from rookie Isaac Harker, who threw a gem of a pass to Paul McRoberts for a 55-yard catch and run to open the fourth quarter. A penalty put the Riders in scoring position at the three yard line. Like he did last week, Harker looked poised and confident behind centre. He will be the number three guy to start the season.
3. Ty Gangi didn’t do too badly in some limited action either, he would be worth keeping around on the practice roster should he want to stay. Given the quarterback usage in the game, it was easy to see the writing was on the wall for David Watford who was released among the final training camp cuts.
4. While Craig Dickenson was true to his word, as the Riders weren’t a “huck and chuck” team with their starters on offence. They definitely were more creative than we saw last week, which isn’t overly surprising. Collaros and Harker both pushed the ball down the field at times, it appeared that Collaros had an RPO opportunity early in the game but opted to hand off, and Harker’s touchdown pass came off a perfectly called play action at the goal line. So, will the offence be high powered? Probably not. But, they’ll take their shots.
5. William Powell is ready to go and his night probably could have ended sooner but no damage was done there.
6. The biggest ovation of the night came for Jon Ryan who played his first game as a Rider in Regina and then promptly booted the football 54 yards into the middle of the end zone for a rouge. The fans still cheered. I’m guessing his coach wasn’t as happy.
7. I would say Ryan’s cover team is still adjusting to their new punter. The returns on his punts are probably a little longer than Dickenson would like to see. It should come around.
8. Over to the defence. With their top guys in, the game was tied at 14 at the half before things opened up a little more in the second half with both teams moving down the depth chart. A couple of 86 yard touchdowns shouldn’t sit well with the group. Elie Bouka and Lavar Edwards were some of the names that stood out.
9. Most importantly it seems the Riders escaped relatively healthy. There was a quiet moment when Naaman Roosevelt was down for a bit after a touchdown pass. He did jog off on his own, which is a positive sign. Roosevelt looked ready for the season, now he just needs to stay healthy.
10. Paid attendance was 28,706 but there clearly wasn’t that many people in the crowd. I know our Darrell Davis wrote before the game that the Riders were right to not stream the game “for free” but the effective blackout didn’t really add any extra butts to the seats. Considering it’s a Thursday night pre-season game, I couldn’t imagine seeing too many people from outside of Regina making the trip. The Riders streamed their home pre-season game in 2014 and I’ve been told it did some excellent numbers. Unlike the early days of newspapers online, live streamed content can generate ad dollars. So, there could have been some money made or at the very least they could have recovered some costs.
This is something that should be addressed in the next TV deal. As far as I’m concerned, if TSN doesn’t pick up a pre-season game, which I don’t blame them, then teams should be free to do as they wish with that game like in the NFL. Whether they want to produce their own game their way or sell it to someone who will broadcast it locally. Surely someone in Regina would pay the Riders the right to broadcast a pre-season game.
Bonus: this isn’t a thought, but I’m gone on my honeymoon for the rest of the month. John Fraser will continue to produce the Green Cast with a variety of guests in my absence. You now get a break from me until July, save for one piece that I’m going to write before leaving.