Well it's now official.
After being rumoured and speculated upon for months, the Saskatchewan Roughriders were eventually eliminated from post-season contention on Sunday thanks to their 29-18 home loss to the B.C. Lions.
The most unsettling part of all this is that there are still three games left to go.
If you can believe it, the Riders even had some hope on Sunday as Hamilton failed to clinch a playoff spot when they lost in Montreal earlier in the day. A Rider win over the Lions would have prolonged Saskatchewan's playoff aspirations for at least another week. Of course it didn't happen. Not this year.
It actually looked as though the team was going to pull it out as they led for most the game including 12-9 at halftime and 15-12 going into the fourth quarter. However those leads were too narrow and when the team sagged on defence in the fourth, the Lions pounced with a pair of touchdowns to salt away their eighth straight win.
For the Roughriders, the problem remained the same - no touchdowns. The drought has gone on for a month now. Four games ... seventeen quarters and counting.
"It's killin' me," said Rider coach Ken Miller after the game. "We moved it well today, like gangbusters, for three quarters. You have to put it in the end zone. It's hard to drive 100 yards. We had it deep a lot but couldn't put it in."
It has to be killing Miller, in so many ways. He had the chance to ride off into the sunset after last season like some mythical figure in Roughrider history, but his return to the sidelines has been nothing short of a disaster and he's right in the middle of it all. In fact, at his post-game press conference, he took full responsibility for the team's 4-11 record.
As I've written over the past few weeks, it's too early to perform the autopsy while the legs are still twitching. We've got three games left in this agonizing season, all of which are meaningless. Really the biggest question now is whether or not quarterback Darian Durant will play again this season as he suffers from a broken foot.
"It's tough man," Durant told CKRM after Sunday's game. "We dug such a deep hole early at 1-7. By the time we started playing good football, it was too late."
Arrrgh! So agonizing. So painful are the last three weeks of The Season That Wasn't. Like, what are you going to teach this team now? For whatever reason the magic this franchise had over the past decade is gone and they seem like just another team. That has to change, but now it can wait until next year.
"I told them right after the game that they played well for 45 minutes but unfortunately the game is 60 minutes long," Miller said. "We gave up big plays and took bad penalties but really didn't play well in that fourth quarter."
The Riders of the past didn't need to be told the game was 60 minutes long. They would play as long as it took to beat you, or until you couldn't find the will to fight anymore. Hey, it wasn't that long ago, as the Riders beat B.C. in double overtime in last year's West Division semifinal right here at Mosaic Stadium.
It seems like years and years ago.
(Rod Pedersen is the voice of the Riders on CKRM radio)
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