For those of us who've attended the last two Saskatchewan Roughrider games at Mosaic Stadium, we should consider ourselves incredibly lucky to have witnessed some franchise firsts.
Back in November of 2013 the Riders played in the Grey Cup game at home for the first time ever and came out as winners. It was the greatest day in Saskatchewan history and I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to have been in attendance. (Can you name a better day?)
And then this past Saturday the Riders were the "road" team in a preseason game against the expansion Ottawa REDBLACKS in Regina. Because Ottawa's stadium renovations aren't entirely complete, they moved their home preseason game to Mosaic Stadium and it was a novelty item as the Riders lined up on the east sidelines for the first time in our stadium's 104 year history. We think. I'd have to get confirmation from local football maven John Lynch.
However the novelty didn't entirely catch on as only 13,014 fans were on hand but those in attendance witnessed an enjoyable football game as Saskatchewan came out on top 21-17. A bad weather forecast, three straight home games, the threat of a CFL players strike and the fact the game was televised all conspired to keep people away but the show went on regardless.
And put a show on they did, as rookie Rider Marshay Green returned a punt 75-yards for a touchdown and rookie slotback Brett Swain caught two touchdown passes in the victory.
"First of all it's a new system to get acclimated to and it's the first game so a lot of things were different for me," Swain, a former Packer, Seahawk and 49er, said modestly after the game. "There's a lot of timing that has to do with it and getting used to the offense. For me I just started it a week ago. I'm trying to put all the pieces to the puzzle together right now."
Imagine where he'll be when he feels ready!
Darian Durant played only a quarter for the Riders and was 7/8 for 76 yards and a touchdown pass to Swain. Ho-hum.
"Real good. Solid," Rider GM Brendan Taman said of Durant's play in 2014 training camp. "There's nothing to be alarmed about. Very consistent, Darian being Darian, and sometimes you take him for granted. It's one less headache you have to worry about with a quarterback and he spoils us, quite frankly."
So the Grey Cup hangover continues and the Rider Nation hasn't yet woken up in time for a brand new season. Heck, some don't even expect much out of this team in 2014 and as we talked about here last week, there's "no hype".
"I think it's great!" Taman smiled. "I think it's great that they think we're not going to be good! I love that. You won't get that from us but I think it's great. Maybe people look that we went 'All In' last year and now we lost guys like Dressler, Sheets and Geroy so there's a natural resignation to 'they won it last year and now ... whatever they do this year is a bonus'. That's not our attitude. We feel we have as good of a chance to win the Grey Cup this year as anybody."
And that's the message from above, from the upper Rider management and the Board of Directors: losing will not be tolerated.
"The expectation here is to win and that's pretty much the mantra here now," Taman shrugged. "I think we've gotten over the hump as an organization that this is now a normal expectation. It's not like the old days where maybe we can make the playoffs and if we're lucky, really lucky, we'll get a home playoff game. Those days are over with."
(For daily Rider news follow Rod on Twitter at @sportscage)