It was a cold, windy, rainy day in Regina and a perfect opportunity to don my rain gear and walk from my place and across downtown to Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field. This was my second Rider home game of the year and I attended it with Jeff (the butcher), Richard, Jason, and Benji. We’re all part of what I call, ‘The Romanian Syndicate’. Benji lives a block away from the stadium and the tradition is to meet at his place for food and drink prior to the game. Jeff brought ribs from his store and bbq’d them. It was a perfect pre-game meal.
Hamilton came into the game with a 4-2 record, second best in the league. At 3-3 we were tied for first place in the west. Despite winning 10 straight games against Hamilton, many were nervous about our prospects. After coming off such a disappointing loss to the Lions last week, many questions arose. Are we a young team on the rise, or a misguided team headed in the wrong direction?
Our biggest problem methinks has been the quarterback position. We are committed to developing a young quarterback named Darian Durant. We really don’t have a choice because there are no experienced, reliable veterans kicking around. To this end, our team goes, as Durant goes. We’ve won every game where he’s moved the ball well. When the offense hasn’t moved the ball, the defense was forced to spend more time on the field, eventually wearing down and giving up big plays.
Wind and rain peppered the field and the Riders jumped to a 23-0 lead at half time. Durant played very well, and I was impressed with his ability to move the ball against the wind. We scored 10 of those 23 points into the wind. What’s more, the defense held Hamilton to 0 first downs, and -11 yards on offense. Coming in, the Tiger-Cats were supposed to be running rampant on us because our run defense was said to be sketchy, and their running back was said to be one of the best in the league.
Despite an impressive first half, everyone in the crowd was thinking about a blown 22 point lead against Edmonton earlier in the year. Hamilton took the ball and the wind to start the third quarter. They played with a short field the whole quarter scoring 1 TD and 3 FGs for 16 points. We scored 13 points when we had the wind, so I wasn’t too concerned about Hamilton’s prowess on offense.
Despite what was said about the 3rd quarter, offense was not our problem. We did move the ball in the third quarter, but we always had a long field. Our kick return teams were disappointing and I question the kick return formations. With 7 players up front, 2 returners in the back, and only 3 blockers in front of the returners, I think we were giving an advantage to the cover team. The 7 players up front had no leverage on the player across the line from them, and Hamilton’s cover team was permitted to run down the field, largely unblocked. However, the biggest disappointment for me was the punt cover team. We kept losing field position every time we punted the ball, wind was a factor, but execution was a bigger factor. Boreham needs to channel Bob Cameron when facing a stiff breeze. The most glaring error was the blocked punt in the 4th quarter. What the fuck boys? How many times do we need to give up that play before we learn our lesson?
With the wind in the 4th quarter, we were back in business. Now we had the short field to work with, and we used it to our advantage, running the ball down Hamilton’s throat, killing the clock, and scoring 10 points in the process. It was a good win, and I don’t think it should be tarnished by the supposed 3rd quarter let down. There was no let down. We played well. However, we won’t be a formidable team until we get our special teams on track.