"Calgary didn't win it. The Riders lost it."
That was a quote from a CIS football coach whom I respect greatly, regarding the Calgary Stampeders' 22-18 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders Saturday night at a sold out Mosaic Stadium.
The notion certainly ran through my mind leaving Canada's football shrine after the game but I didn't dare say it for fear of not giving the Stamps their due credit. I hate when teams say that about the Riders. However looking at the stat sheet and scoring summary the thought definitely crossed my mind: "Calgary only had one touchdown? Where the heck did they get all their points?"
They got them by virtue of four field goals and as such, the Rider defense should be commended for keeping Calgary out of the end zone for much of the night. Saskatchewan's special teams were solid as well, as their totals included a 52-yard punt return by rookie Brandon West and a 44.6-yard punting average by Eddie Johnson (including a 64-yarder).
So where does the criticism lie after this one? It has to be the offense. A time count violation late in the second quarter cost the Riders a down, a subsequent safety and then three more points against as Calgary nailed a field goal just before the break.
A five point swing. A four point loss.
A 1-4 record.
It's not clear who's to blame between quarterback Darian Durant and coordinator Doug Berry but it appears they're not on the same page as we near the one-third turn of the season. Coach Greg Marshall said he considering calling a timeout at that juncture in the game Saturday but trusted his offense would get the play off in time.
His trust was not rewarded. So what does that mean? Is he losing faith in Berry? That's doubtful but the fans whom are accustomed to better than this are calling for Berry's firing. The realists say 'you could fire Berry but who would you replace him with?'. The logic would say Ken Miller, who can't be pleased while watching this all unfold from his perch as Vice President of Football Operations, and a former offensive coordinator and head coach of the squad.
But hang on, hang on. No one is getting fired. There is evidence of improvement in this team albeit incrementally, and Marshall seems satisfied with that. He just isn't satisfied with the results.
"I think we played well the past two weeks but unfortunately we're 1-1 (in that time)," Marshall said after the game. "We need to play better in certain areas. I like the way they worked and competed and we'll be better. I know people are frustrated but no more so than us. It's a long season and I stress that a lot. We can't panic. I see us getting better."
The opening third of the season will officially close for the Riders Friday night in Vancouver against the 0-5 Lions. The team will be either 2-4 in the opening six games or 1-5 and either record is woefully shy of expectations.
And it's getting kind of late to be saying it's still early.
(Rod Pedersen is the voice of the Riders on CKRM radio)
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