Sunday November 23, 2014


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Rider Insider


It was ... simply put ... the worst-case scenario.

Heading into a Week 4 bye and facing the prospect of two full weeks between games, the Saskatchewan Roughriders suffered a second consecutive double digit loss on Saturday, falling 26-13 to the BC Lions under the lights at Mosaic Stadium.

Exactly one week before, the Riders got smoked 48-15 in Toronto and now here they sit in the CFL's West Division basement at 1-2 with alarm bells ringing across the Wheat Province.

But, but, but - they're the Grey Cup champs!

No they're not. Not by a long shot. And they've got a long ways to go to even be mentioned in the same sentence as the "G" word as it stands right now.

"It's a disgusting feeling in our mouths. It's embarrassing. It's awful," huffed Rider lineman Brendon Labatte on 620 CKRM's postgame show. "It's unacceptable and we've got changes to make and we need to make them right away."

Dear Lord. It's been a very long time since I've heard those types of strong words made in connection to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. A decade ago perhaps? When Brendon was graduating from Weyburn Comprehensive High School?

However unfortunately you can't argue with him. For the second straight week the Riders came out flat in pretty much all areas. After a 58-yard touchdown run by BC running back Andrew Harris in the second quarter Saturday night, Riders head coach Corey Chamblin tore a strip off his players on the sidelines and was heard to yell, "Make a #%*$'ing play!"

The tirade brought a rousing ovation from the Rider fans sitting behind the team's bench. And it sparked the team briefly as they went up 13-11 in that second quarter however a fumble by running back Hugh Charles was quickly turned into a Lions' field goal on the final play of the first half giving the visitors a 14-13 lead at the break.

The Riders would not score another point the rest of the game. And Hugh Charles wouldn't see the field again, as he was replaced by Anthony Allen. Charles was starting in place of Allen, who was benched the week before in Toronto for fumblitis.

Every time the Riders got some momentum going in the second half against BC, they'd shoot themselves in the foot. A dropped pass, a penalty. You name it.

Who are these guys?

"We're not playing team ball," explained Chamblin after the game. "It's not a talent issue. Talent doesn't win or lose you a game. It's playing together as a team and right now we're not. We will get better, I just don't know how long it will take."

That's what you're going to hear over the next little while; that the Riders can't overcome the loss of franchise stars like Kory Sheets, Weston Dressler, Geroy Simon, etc., who were all key parts of the championship team in 2013. At least, that's what I heard on the ramps exiting Mosaic Stadium right after the game the other night. It didn't take long.

However I'm not sure I believe it, nor do the Riders.

"The easiest scapegoat to make is that it's personnel or we're missing veteran guys," Labatte continued. "It's a bad feeling right now. We're not selling out each and every play 100%. If you're trying to go 95% against good quality opponents, you can't expect to have success."

You can see it right before your eyes. The Riders are in position to make plays, but they're just not making them. They seem to be lacking focus and for whatever reason, the magic is gone.

Perhaps it's only temporary and everyone around here has their fingers crossed that's the case, but it's a long road back from the bottom.

It's still early. It truly is. And while they're popping champagne in Edmonton and Winnipeg due to their 3-0 starts (and good for them by the way), here in Regina the coaches are proving their mettle as they try to pull this thing out of the ditch.

Sit tight and enjoy the bumpy ride. No one said it's going to come easy.

"We have a lot of things that need to be fixed," Chamblin concluded. "I'm encouraged that it's still early and there's time to work these things out."

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



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