Thursday November 27, 2014


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Rider Insider


They're not mad in the Rider Nation.


These ardent football fans in the Wheat Province - considered to be the most knowledgeable in the Canadian loop - realize we are only three games into an 18-game season and there are all kinds of twists and turns planted ahead.

However one look at the CFL West Division standings right now is enough to put a pit in your stomach.

Saskatchewan Roughriders. 1-2.

Dead last.


It seems like forever since the Saskatchewan Roughriders were in the division basement however it wasn't that long ago. It was the 2011 season to be exact, when the Riders started off 1-7 costing rookie coach Greg Marshall his job. Ken Miller took over but could only muster a 4-6 record the rest of the way leaving the Riders at a woeful 5-13.

For the most part, we've blocked that from our memories.

That 2011 season is considered but a blip on the screen for a franchise which has appeared in four of the past seven Grey Cups. The new "Montreal Alouettes" as it were, but something's gone wrong out of the gate this summer.

We've chronicled in this space over the past few weeks about how the Saskatchewan Roughriders have repeatedly shot themselves in the foot on the way to consecutive dougle-digit losses. I usually hate this phrase but in this case it's true; the other teams didn't win it, the Riders simply lost it.

And that's why the Rider Nation is waffling right now. During last week's bye in the schedule, every fan and Rider observer I encountered on the streets or in coffee shops and restaurants had the exact same expression and question. They smirked and asked, "What's wrong with the Riders right now?"

It left the impression that there's mild concern amongst the fanbase, but not outright panic. Sure there are many citizens of the Rider Nation running around in a panic, but that's the way they like it. Those folks aren't happy unless they're unhappy and the team's losing.

However the reasonable fans can see what's going on. This is a team with a massively overhauled roster and it's taking a while to come together. The only problem is it's taking longer than the team would like, but we're only 1/6 of the way through the schedule.

"In the bigger perspective we have to understand we're only three games into the year and we've played one good football game and two bad ones," Riders Assistant GM Jeremy O'Day reasoned on CKRM radio during the bye week. "We're a team that's had some turnover and have some guys in new positions and we need some time to get that cohesiveness together. We need to get the guys working on the same page but it doesn't happen overnight in pro football. You can't just plug a guy in and think it'll be like normal. It'll take some time but we'll improve. The good news is we have room to improve."

Here, here.

We're hoping - and expecting - to see a different Roughrider team show up from its nine days off with a fresh attitude and refreshed will to win. The team also showed it means business by closing its very first practice of the week to the fans and media a la the NFL. It appears they mean business.

What have they cooked up behind closed doors? What new personnel has been brought in to either turn things around or send a message?

We'll find out Saturday when Dwight Anderson and the Toronto Argonauts come to town in an 8:00 pm kickoff.

Oh the possibilities!

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



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