The good, the bad, and the dumb of the Riders’ 28-27 preseason win over Edmonton

Photo courtesy: Edmonton Elks

Just like that, another preseason has come and gone for the Saskatchewan Roughriders but training camp isn’t even over.

Now, the two-week wait for the regular season opener against the Edmonton Elks begins. It should go without saying that that game will be different than the one we saw on Saturday afternoon at Commonwealth Stadium.

Here’s the good, the bad, and the dumb of the Riders’ 2024 preseason finale.

The Good

It’s good to know that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

This game was very typical of contests between the Riders and Elks in recent years. A pretty tight affair that came down to which team made bigger errors. As has often been the case, it was the Riders who benefited from the Elks’ brain farts.

In the first half, the Riders took advantage of an interception and a fumble from Edmonton pivot Macleod Bethel-Thompson, as well as a fumbled punt return by Elks’ returner Javon Leake. Those three plays alone gave the Riders 21 points in the first half.

Despite all of that, the Riders still found themselves down one with 1:40 to go before getting bailed out by the Elks again. Returner Malik Flowers fumbled a punt return, leading to the Riders’ game-winning field goal.

It certainly isn’t sustainable to count on your opponents to continuously give away games, but it is a good sign for this team that they were able to take advantage of mistakes when given the opportunity. Failing to do so will often lead to defeat.

As a team, you won’t be at your best every game but it’s always a positive sign when you can find a way to win. The Riders did that on Saturday afternoon.

The Bad

After a pretty good game last week against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, it’s safe to say the Riders would have liked to have seen more out of their offence in this one.

With a lot of starters sitting this one out, any result is to be taken with a grain of salt. That said, it’s also an opportunity for players to give themselves the best chance possible at making the roster.

After a big game last week, Canadian receiver Ajou Ajou was fairly quiet, as was American Keesean Johnson. Another strong showing would have likely assured both of them a space on the Riders’ 45-man roster. Now? We’ll have to wait and see.

It also wasn’t the best day for the Riders’ depth along the offensive line as quarterbacks in green and white were sacked a total of four times.

Without the help provided to them by the Elks, it’s hard to imagine the Riders finding the end zone. Saskatchewan only managed to score five points when they started on their side of the field.

In fairness, it would have been nine had Brett Lauther not missed two field goals. However, the Riders still only had two drives that netted more than 40 yards. Both were put together by Shea Patterson, who should be the backup behind Trevor Harris as far as I’m concerned.

As it’s preseason, there’s no reason to panic but it’s not the best look on their depth players that they never felt like a touchdown threat.

The Dumb

There’s no doubt this was a preseason game, as the play was as straightforward as possible.

The Elks did plenty of “Elksing,” as has become the norm over the last few years, but nothing was as overly dumb by the standard they’ve set for themselves. I suppose that could be seen as progress.

So, I’ll use this space to plead with Elks’ head coach and general manager Chris Jones to give quarterback Cole McDonald a chance to do what he does instead of wasting him as a potential short-yardage option.

McDonald is best known for his time as the quarterback at the University of Hawaii, where he quickly became a hero to sickos like me for a style of play that can only be described as pure chaos.

McDonald threw for over 8,000 yards, 70 touchdowns, and 24 interceptions in two seasons as the Rainbow Warriors’ starting quarterback. He rushed for another 880 yards.

The fun was you never knew what you were going to get. It wasn’t unusual for McDonald to throw for 400 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions in a single game. That’s what made him great, he was pure entertainment. 

So please Jones, if even for one final quarter next week, let us see Cole cook one last time.

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