Published: Friday, Jun 23rd 2017, 4:06pm
Hello Owen, Our Old Friend – by Alex Dormuth
Darian Durant celebrated more last night after a missed field goal than he did when he won his Grey Cup in 2013. This game wasn’t more important than that Grey Cup, but it was much more emotional and personally meant more to him than any game in his career. The Durant led Montreal Alouettes beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders 17-16 in the CFL season opener last night and our dear friend Owen makes his appearance for the third straight year.
Owen-one. Any way you slice it, a loss is a loss is a loss. This game was a lot closer than most had expected and apparently, wanted. And while I’m not so upset about the Riders losing this game (I picked Montreal to win on this week’s Piffles Podcast), I’m more frustrated on how they lost. It wasn’t because of Durant, it wasn’t because of one missed field goal at the end of the game, it was numerous things.
We will pretty much ignore the first quarter as that was basically the two teams getting a feel for each other, and numerous dump passes and drops were the story after a scoreless 15 minutes. The second quarter got the game interesting. Darian Durant hit BJ Cunningham for a 65 yard TD to give Montreal a 7-0 lead. The upsetting part about this play was the terrible angle that Safety Mike Edem took on the ball AND the dreaded 3 man rush on the play. Chris Jones loves to drop his players back in coverage and did so on this play and it backfired. Throughout his short tenure here in Saskatchewan, the 3 man rush has NEVER worked. No pressure gets put on the QB and any QB would love to have 4 full seconds to scan the field and hit an open receiver. It was a great throw by Durant, no doubt, but it was a defensive breakdown that led to the Riders giving up the first points of the season.
Kevin Glenn then lead a nice drive to tie up the game, but it didn’t come without some controversy. Glenn hit receiver Bakari Grant who appeared to break the goal line before getting stripped of the ball. The play was reviewed and we saw that the ball was clearly moving before it hit the line with Montreal recovering the ball immediately in the endzone. It SHOULD have been a touchback and Montreal’s ball on their own 25 yard line, but command center deemed the ruling on the field would stand. The league issued a statement a bit later during the game saying that while the ball moved, it was still in possession of Grant, thus the ruling. But let’s be honest, that wasn’t a TD and the Riders got lucky. On the plus side, that’s one free breakfast for Bakari Grant courtesy of Ferlin of the Piffles Podcast. In case you don’t know, Ferlin has decided that for every TD Bakari Grant scores this season, he will buy Grant breakfast! It may sound kind of dumb, but the great thing is that Bakari has said that for every TD he scores, he will donate a box of toys and books to a local charity in Regina. Good on you Bakari! #Breakfast4Bakari #Toys4Tots
Anyway, back to the game. Basically the review was inconclusive and the score was tied. The Riders defense held and got the ball back for the offense, and just before the half, Tyler Crapigna hit a field goal to put the Riders up 10-7. At this point, I think we were all feeling pretty good. Sure, there were some plays missed (more on that later), but I was more than impressed with the defense and how they held Montreal to just that one score.
Pause for moment to give a shout out to the gymnast show at halftime. Holy cow that young lady was impressive! TSN usually doesn’t show any halftime shows, but other than puppies, this was the best halftime show I may have ever seen.
On to the second half. The Riders get another field goal to go up 13-7 and then Durant drives Montreal downfield and throws a TD pass to Ernest Jackson to give the Als a 14-13 lead. This drive was aided by a pretty ticky tacky Unnecessary Roughness penalty against the Riders Erick Dargan. The next play was the TD toss to Jackson on a play that really bothered me. Jackson is the only receiver on the Als roster that strikes me as a major threat. Nik Lewis is still good, but doesn’t strike fear the same way he used to. Jackson was covered by new starting halfback #35 Chris Lyles. Ed Gainey is the leader of the secondary and the best player back there and he should have been on Jackson. Jackson ran a nice route to get open for Durant, but Lyles got caught flat footed floating backwards, something that Gainey wouldn’t do. This one is on coaching IMO, but Lyles has to take some blame as well for it as well.
After another nice Rider drive ended in a Cameron Marshall fumble on the Als 20 yard line (UGH), we found ourselves in the fourth quarter. Promptly the Riders D made a play and recovered a Nik Lewis fumble at the Riders 52 yard line. With great field position, Kevin Glenn was intercepted deep in Als territory and we all thought “here we go again.” It was another classic 4th quarter Kevin Glenn interception. Luckily the defense stepped up and got the ball back with relatively no harm done.
Then came the fun stuff. The Riders drive down the field, get to the Montreal 13 yard line, and for some inexcusable reason, Chris Jones pulls Kevin Glenn out of the game in favour of backup Brandon Bridge. Bridge runs for a few yards on his first play and on 2nd down, overthrows a WIDE open Duron Carter in the back of the endzone. There was also a penalty on Namaan Roosevelt on the play for illegal interference, so it wouldn’t have mattered if that pass was completed, but it begs the question as to why Jones would bring Glenn out for Bridge? Now I’m not defending the move, but Jones has done this in the past in Edmonton where he would put in James Franklin for Mike Reilly. It’s not out of character for this to happen, but come on Jones, you are a DEFENSIVE coach. Leave the offense to your coordinators and let them score.
Nonetheless, the Riders settle for another field goal to push the score to 16-14 good guys. Durant’s turn. He marches the Als down to the Riders 11 yard line and Boris Bede kicks a go ahead 18 yard field goal. 17-16 Montreal at the 3 minute warning. Cue Kevin Glenn. Glenn takes the Riders to Montreal’s 37 yard line with 20 seconds left on the clock. Insert Chris Jones again as he allows the clock to run down to 8 seconds before calling a time out. Jones decides to run the ball from the left hash to the middle of the field to make the potential game winning field goal easier for Tyler Crapigna. Well, as we all know “the football gods” pushed that 44 yard attempt wide right, Montreal returns it out of the end zone, game over. 17-16 Als is the final.
Immediately after the game ends, TSN shows Darian Durant jump around and celebrate towards the Riders bench. So much for “just another game.” Rider nation goes nuts on Twitter and Facebook, saying Durant showed his true colours and he is classless and so on. CHILD PLEASE! I LOVED Durant’s celebration. No one truly believe the “just another game” line he kept saying. We all knew he wanted to beat the Riders and beat them bad. I have no issue with the raw emotion he showed. All offseason Durant was a robot and said all the right things and downplayed everything. This was the first time in a long time that we saw Durant be himself. Who wouldn’t want to stick it to their former employer after they send you packing for calling you “moderately successful”? I’d be pumped up as well! My only minor issue was that this is game 1 Darian, you celebrated like you won the Super Bowl. You won because a kicker missed a field goal. But anyway, it’s over and done with, can we all put this Durant saga behind us and move on? (No, and I’ll tell you why in a minute)
So Owen rears his ugly head, but not all is lost. There were a lot of positives in this game. Here’s what I liked:
Nik Demski. I heard Glen Suitor say that if given the chance Demski could be a 1,000 yard guy. I rolled my eyes at that simply because he hasn’t done anything to show he can be that guy. 7 catches and 87 yards later, I’m eating some crow. Demski looked great.
Kevin Glenn. Although he had that INT (and another couple should have been made), he did play well. I’m more upset at the fact he had Duron Carter open for some long gains but just missed him. We hit on one of those 3 plays, the game is different and we may be talking about Juan and not Owen.
The offensive line. Glenn had time all night in pass protection and they opened up a lot of holes for RB Cameron Marshall to make some nice runs. If they can stay healthy, our offense should be just fine.
Greg Morris. He looked quite good returning kicks after Ricky Collins got hurt. I’d like to see him get the ball more and more this season.
The defensive secondary. This is the part of the team that worries me the most this season and they showed up big time, other than a couple of plays. Jovon Johnson had an outstanding game. Hopefully this group of DBs is the group we use going forward and they can grow together and get better.
There were also things I didn’t like.
Duron Carter. Had a couple of drops in the first quarter and that essentially took him out of the game. I’m not too worried about him, but it was frustrating to see him struggle.
Kevin Glenn. Yes, I put him in my like list, but I also hated his underthrows to Duron Carter. He should have had 3 TDs but also should have had 3 INTs.
Defensive Line. Absolutely no pressure all game long. Durant was kept clean all game long by an O-Line that really isn’t that good.
Chris Jones. He out coached himself, plain and simple. From the 3 man rushes that never EVER work to intervening on the offense, to the horrible clock management on the final drive, I’d give him a D grade for this game.
I give credit to Montreal for making enough plays to win the game, but I’ll use the Henry Burris line here and say the Riders beat themselves. ALL the opportunity in the world was there for the Riders to win and they blew it. Montreal is probably the most average team the Riders will play this season and there is no reason the Riders should have lost that game, but here we are talking about Owen.
What are your thoughts on the game from Thursday night? Comment below about what you liked and didn’t like!
Chin up Ridernation, the team really didn’t look bad last night. It’s a game to build on and they will build on it. I stand by my 10-8 prediction for this team and I had them losing this game anyway, so I’m not too worried. Next week is a real test as the Riders have Winnipeg come to Mosaic Stadium on Canada Day. That’s going to be one heck of a party and should be a great game.
Come say hi to us at that game! You can find out where we will be celebrating the home opener by clicking on the Tailgate tab at the top of the page. Hear more of our thoughts on this game and our preview of that home opener next week on the Piffles Podcast. We will also be joined by Rider great and Canadian Football Hall of Famer Eddie Davis and we will talk with Sam Hurl of the Bombers for Engaging With the Enemy.
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