Riders Dominate Labour Day Classic
Published: Monday, Sep 4th 2017, 7:09pm
By Alex Dormuth (@RealAlexD)
The corner has been turned, the Saskatchewan Roughriders are on the right track. A dominant 38-24 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Sunday in the Labour Day Classic has the Riders at 5-4 and sitting over .500 and in a playoff position for the first time since the end of the 2014 season. The team is rolling in all phases of the game and has a lot of people, myself included, eating a lot of crow. Here’s my thoughts on yesterday’s game.
The game was really decided in the first quarter all within a few minutes. At 3-3 Kevin Glenn hit a wide open Naaman Roosevelt for a 53 yard touchdown, resulting in a conga line celebration dance. On the Bombers following possession, Matt Nichols threw the ball right to Ed Gainey who jumped a Weston Dressler curl route (so well that Gainey looked like the intended target) and returned the INT to the Bombers 3 yard line. A few plays later Vernon Adams Jr. took a QB sneak in for a TD. Just like that 17-3. The Riders force a 2 and out and on the Bombers punt, Nic Demski nearly returns it for a TD (should have been a TD but Antwane Grant couldn’t get a block on Justin Medlock). 2 plays later Rob Bagg gets his first score of the year on a 9 yard pass from Glenn. Out of nowhere the route is on. 24-3. The momentum here changed the outcome of the game and put the Riders on cruise control for the remainder of the game.
Except for Bagg’s TD, the Riders are really doing it all with their big 3 receivers. Roosevelt, Duron Carter (his 7th TD of the season and 6th in the last 5 games) and Bakari Grant all had over 100 yards receiving each in the game. All three have been great this year and all are on pace to go over the 1000 yard mark.
Going up against one of the best players in the league in Andrew Harris, the Riders run D was absolutely phenomenal. Harris was shut down and did his (minimal) damage on check down passes from Nichols. Ever since Nick James came around, the entire defense has really taken off and has been one of the best the last month.
A.C. Leonard had his best game of the season yesterday. He made some great tackles on Harris coming from the opposite side of the field, limiting Harris to small gains. The stats won’t show how good Leonard and the rest of the D-Line were.
Ed Gainey was great again. 2 INT’s to push his league leading total to 6, with the second one coming late in the game when the Bombers could have made it a one score game. Gainey also had a couple pass breakups in the end zone that held the Bombers off of the scoreboard. He could have had 3 more INT’s last week in Edmonton, he’s been playing at an incredibly high level since Chris Jones challenged him to be more aggressive (coincidently also the same time that we talked to him for the Coney Island Poutine Café Piffles Player Profile… hmm…)
One other positive I want to highlight is Greg Morris making a great play near the end of the game, forcing a fumble on a Bomber punt return. Spencer Moore recovered the ball in the pile, but it was set up by a great play by the Running Back. We may see more of him in the offense again soon, more on that in a bit.
Even though there are a lot of positives to take out of the game, there were also some things I wasn’t happy with. It may seem minor but I was upset at the terrible clock management at the end of the first half. The Riders had just over a minute to move the ball and get into field goal range and add more points. The team showed no urgency and essentially wasted 30 seconds in that drive that could have been used on 2 or 3 more plays to get further down field. Chris Jones has never been the best at managing the clock, but this bugged me. Could have hung 37 (or 41) points up Inn the first half if they had one or 2 more plays. Again, minor when you look back but this was a great chance to really put the game away early.
While it didn’t ultimately hurt the team, there was some really slopping tackling at times. Henoc Muamba whiffed a few times. The defense has been very physical lately and it’s great to watch, but I’d like to see good form on tackling consistently over getting that big hit all the time.
I know this one comes down to the situation and changing strategy, but the defense gave up over 200 yards to the Bombers in the 4th quarter. The lead got big and Jones went to a more conservative 3 man rush and zone LB and secondary combination that allowed the Bombers to gain a lot of real estate. They can’t be aggressive all the time, but this gives the Bombers some good film going into next week’s Banjo Bowl.
Let’s talk injuries (the real ones). Starting RB Cameron Marshall went down clutching his knee in the first half on a non contact play. Marshall has been very solid this year so far and this could be a huge loss if he is out long term. He got up and jogged/hopped off the field right away, but it’s still something to be worried out. Hoping it was a hyper-extension, but it may be an ACL injury and those are never good. Kienan LaFrance took over and didn’t look bad, but it could mean a change in the ratio.
Bruce Campbell got hurt a few times grabbing his leg each time and that’s worrisome as since he’s been on since Dan Clark’s injury, the O-Line has been playing at a very high level. Hopefully it’s minor, but if is forced to miss time, we may get to see more of 2017 2nd round draft pick Dariusz Bladek.
Nic Demski also didn’t finish the game, putting Devon Bailey into the starting receiving unit. Should all these injuries cause these players to miss time, we could see Bladek shuffle into the starting lineup, pushing Derek Dennis back out to LT. LaFrance will start at RB with Morris rotating in with him. Doing those moves will add 2 Canadian starters meaning Caleb Holley can start for Demski, adding another big playmaker on the field. It could also mean we may see Chad Owens finally make his Rider debut in the Banjo Bowl. We will have to see what happens Wednesday at practice.
Now on to the “fake injuries”. Multiple times when Winnipeg was in their hurry up offense, a Rider player went down with a cramp or some sort of other injury. I agree with the Bombers and their fans that it got ridiculous, BUT you can’t really tell for sure if it’s fake. As long as the player comes out of the game, that’s all that can be done. Most likely it was Jones calling for a slow down of Winnipeg momentum, but it’s within the rules. Be mad at the league if anything.
Finally, I want to thank all the Bomber fans for making the trip to Regina and making the Labour Day weekend what it is. Boo to the Bombers fans that allegedly spit on Duron Carter and to the guy that tried to take off Gainer’s head. Garbage. There are bad fans everywhere, Regina included, but these people should be ashamed and embarrassed.
As for the loudest fans thing, great for getting the crowd into the game, but I don’t buy it. The Bombers fans will be louder at the Banjo Bowl, but they have the advantage of knowing what they have to beat. At Mosaic Stadium we weren’t prompted about when hey would take the decibel reading, so hopefully in all fairness they aren’t prompted in Winnipeg on Saturday. That said, who cares. As long as the Riders win next week, Winnipeg can call themselves whatever they want.
We’ll be back this week with another great Piffles Podcast brought to you by Brin Werrett of Royal Lepage Regina Realty, talking more about the Labour Day Classic and the Banjo Bowl. We will also be joined by Riders leading receiver Naaman Roosevelt for the Coney Island Poutine Café Piffles Player Profile. Stay tuned!
Enjoy the big Riders win, I know I am. This crow is tasting delicious! Go Riders!!
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