There was a time, not too long ago, when Calgary against Saskatchewan in October would have decided home-field advantage in the West.
Instead, this year’s teams have a combined 10 wins and faced off in a matchup that looked scary enough to warrant a spot on a Friday the 13th in October.
Nonetheless, third in the west and the right to be double-digit underdogs in the West Semi-Final was essentially on the line.
It is those stakes that make this showing from Saskatchewan all the more disappointing. The Riders dropped their fifth game in a row and looked nothing like a team competing for a playoff spot in a 26-19 loss to the Stampeders.
Apparently, general manager Jeremy O’Day met with the team this week, telling them to improve their body language. Well, they may have held their heads a bit higher this week but the other problems — minor details like scoring points and protecting the football — persisted and now their playoff fate is out of their hands.
Despite the frustrating result, there was actually a lot of good in this game — a pleasant change for fans in Saskatchewan.
Jamal Morrow picked up right where he left off last week, following up his 120-yard performance against Hamilton with another fantastic showing in this rivalry game. He capped off a 90-yard scoring drive in the second quarter with a sweet cut to get into the endzone putting the Riders up 10 and was more involved in the pass game in the second half, becoming a safety blanket for Jake Dolegala. He finished with 86 yards on the ground and another 32 through the air.
Saskatchewan also got a couple of big plays in the passing game. Shawn Bane got his Willie Mays on with a fantastic over-the-shoulder catch that brought out everyone’s best puns.
— 3DownNation (@3DownNation) October 14, 2023
The pass rush also brought it from the word go. The phrase “Maier has time” was not uttered much on Friday night, with a Saskatchewan defender in the Calgary pivot’s face all evening. The pressure forced Maier to put one slightly off target on second down in the second quarter that saw the Stamps serenaded with boos as they exited the field.
They forced Calgary into five two-and-outs in the first half alone leading to Dave Dickenson calling out his team during the halftime interview on TSN.
The kicking game revealed an unexpected bright spot for the Riders. Brett Lauther was a late scratch due to illness, so Saskatchewan took a shot of Mezcal – sorry, I mean took a shot on Meskell.
Ryan Meskell has now played just two more CFL games than I have but his inexperience didn’t hold him back from hitting four FGs.
This game really shouldn’t have been close.
Calgary had five first downs through three quarters and didn’t have a pass longer than 17 yards or a drive of more than six plays until late in the fourth quarter. But when it felt like Saskatchewan was going to run and hide, the Riders let the Stamps back in it.
Up 16-5, Mario Alford fumbled on a punt return inside the Riders’ 20, giving Calgary immediate field position. The Stamps would take advantage, breathing life back into the home side by pulling them within four.
That same quarter, Jake Dolegala gave up a pick-six that you simply can’t have. The Saskatchewan quarterback didn’t see former Riders’ linebacker Cam Judge, who cleverly hid himself directly in Dolegala’s line of vision.
It wasn’t all on the QB in this spot, as two green and white jerseys ended up way too close to each other, making it easy for Judge to go from one to the other to make the play. Just like that, a 13-0 lead was gone and the Riders were down heading into the fourth.
Down seven with four minutes to go, the Riders followed up a Calgary major by taking a delay of game penalty on the first play of their next drive. That drive concluded with the same level of confidence, as a Dolegala’s pass on third-and-six landed in a spot where it was difficult to tell which receiver was the intended target.
It was the type of throw you’d expect to have with pressure in your QB’s face, not a clean pocket like Dolegala had. It was also the fourth of five turnovers in the game from the Riders, which should act as a big, shiny “this is why they lost” sign in the boxscore.
Craig Dickenson’s job likely is on the line these next couple of weeks. Some big, unforced errors are not going to help your coach out.
It is always good when TSN comes back from a commercial to the referee announcing, “We have four fouls on the play.”
Calgary took a no-yards call, while Charlie Power took a pair of objectionable conduct penalties which knocked him out of the game. Riders’ DB Jaxon Ford took one of his own but Saskatchewan still came away with an extra 30 yards on a punt return early in the fourth.
Because that wasn’t enough, Silas Stewart took an objectionable conduct penalty on the very next play giving the Riders 40 free yards.
Of course, Saskatchewan couldn’t take advantage, but anytime the refs need to read the penalties off a notepad, I’d say something fell into the dumb category.