Thursday October 30, 2014

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Rider Insider

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When you sift through the coach-speak and clichés after a game like the Saskatchewan Roughriders' 48-15 blowout loss to the Argonauts in Toronto on Saturday, somewhere in the middle you will find the truth.

That was the case on Saturday in a sombre Rider locker room after the Riders' Week 2 loss to the Argos which left both teams' records at 1-1 and left the green guys smarting from one of the worst losses in years.

Leave it to a wily veteran - a player versed in many football wars both north and south of the border - to boil things down to the cold, hard truth.

"The number one thing was they came out more ready than we did," observed Saskatchewan defensive end John Chick on the CKRM postgame show. "We have to win on the road. We're not making any excuses and we'll be better. We have to be more mentally ready."

Whoomp, There It Is. (As sung by the Miami-based rap group Tag Team in 1993).

Chick nailed it. It took a guy from Gillette, Wyoming to get right to the heart of the matter of what happened on Saturday.

The Argos were more ready. And, at one point in time, that might have been mildly acceptable. But not with these Saskatchewan Roughriders, the 2014 edition which still carries the sexy aroma of the 2013 championship squad although that team would never have been caught with its pants down like this.

Heck, in just about all Toronto media reports previewing Saturday's game the Roughriders were referred to as the "Grey Cup champions". They are, but maybe they believed it just a little too much.

Because when the game kicked off with the lid open at Rogers Centre - bathing the sparse crowd of 17,758 in beautiful sunshine - it was the Riders themselves who looked like tourists rather than the ferocious, eye-on-the-ball football team we've come to expect.

The Green & White surrendered 40-plus points only once last year and it was in Week 7 in Calgary when the Stampeders snapped the Riders' 5-0 start with a 42-27 triumph at McMahon Stadium. That was a game which the Riders were never really in, even though the score betrayed that fact.

In Toronto this past weekend, the Riders were a totally different team from the one which dominated Hamilton 31-10 in Week 1 this year. Shoddy tackling was the main culprit and stuck out like a sore thumb on film, but so too were a ton of mental errors including an illegal kickoff late in the third quarter when Saskatchewan was building some serious momentum in a potential comeback bid.

Leading receiver Chris Getzlaf was out of the lineup as well but I'd like to think it's more of a coincidence that the team was so flat without him. However the offense lacked a spark without him and looked like an average unit from a decade ago. Pass protection was suspect as well. And they turned the ball over too much.

One of those days.

"I didn't expect the score to be like that," said CFL Coach of the Year Corey Chamblin of the Riders on CKRM. "We had a tough week of practice (only two days) and it's always tough coming off that. That's football. That's CFL football. Some people have won games on short weeks. That's just a part of football."

The beautiful thing about Chamblin is that win or lose, his mood is the same. He may be boiling over on the inside or jumping for joy, but we'd never know. So he didn't get too down with reporters.

"Last week we were repeating (as champions) but, no, this is a great learning experience. It's humbling," Chamblin continued. "And it shows us we maybe aren't where we think we are."

And what about that noted philosopher John Chick? The one who pulled no punches in basically saying the worst swear words in sports: "We weren't ready to play"?

"For me it's always to take the positive out of the negative," Chick concluded. "Just because we won big one week, we have to keep our head on straight. This loss will go a long ways to help us for the rest of the season."

The next chance to prove that is Saturday night when the Riders host the B.C. Lions at 7:30 pm at Mosaic Stadium on TSN and the CKRM Rider Radio Network.

(For daily Rider news follow Rod on Twitter at @sportscage)


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