CFL Pass

Four reasons for Roughriders’ rough 0-3 start

After a second straight overtime defeat, the Saskatchewan Roughriders have opened up the 2015 season with three straight losses, all taken in heartbreaking fashion. In these three losses, the Riders have only been outscored by *nine* combined points. It doesn’t get much closer than that.

And the schedule is only going to get tougher for Saskatchewan. Four of the first five games of the season are in the friendly confines of Mosaic Stadium, but four of the last five games of the season are on the road. If there ever was a “must-win game” for the Green & White, Friday’s rematch with the Lions would be the definition of it.

The most painful thing taken away from *every* single loss this season – extending back through the 0-2 showing this preseason – is that the Riders had the lead late in all five games: Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, and BC were all trailing in the fourth quarter of their respective games only to come back and win.

So what’s wrong? Can this be fixed? The following is the CFLpass attempt to divine reasons for the continuing collapses.

•  Reason #1: Darian Durant. Since Durant went down with an injured elbow in 2014’s Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg, the Roughriders have won just two games. One of those games was against the expansion RedBlacks (Fun game though…) and the other was against an Edmonton Eskimos team that had benched all their starters heading into the playoffs.

It recalls the saying from the classic Cinderella hit “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘Til It’s Gone”: Things were great when Darian was healthy. What a run to the Grey Cup in 2013; what a start to 2014 when they had a record of 8-2! But it’s been all downhill since then.

•  Reason #2: The defense. The Roughriders decided to move into a new direction this season by letting Richie Hall go and join the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. In comes Greg Quick and the philosophy of an extremely aggressive defense. Then the new rules arrive. Suddenly, it isn’t easy to be an aggressive defensive player when anytime you touch a receiver a flag hits the field.

(By the way, I’m in the camp that thinks Rider fans cannot blame the referees. *Every* other team in the CFL has to play with these new rules and they seem to be doing quite fine.)

Bottom line: In five consecutive games, the defense has seemed to break late in games. The line isn’t getting pressure on the quarterback while the backfield is being left out to dry. Despite the veteran presence on defense, there are quite a few young players as well. This team needs to get used to these newer rules fast – though to be fair, some penalties the Riders have been accruing would have been flags last year, too.

•  Reason #3: Confidence. Kevin Glenn and the offense have been doing their job admirably enough. Glenn totaled 748 yards passing over the past two games, yet has two losses to show for it. That just doesn’t happen.

The moment Saskatchewan made the decision to kneel the ball against BC with 12 seconds remaining in a tie game, I knew they were not going to win.

It’s incredibly easy to draw penalties from the defense with these new rules, so not just launch it and see what happens? Why did they refuse to go for it on 3rd and 1 in overtime? Yes, BC has Solomon Elimimian and Adam Bighill but there is *no way* Brendon Labatte, Xavier Fulton, and Chris Best were going to fail on *another* third down just like they did in the fourth quarter to give the Lions the opportunity to tie the game.

You have a 245-pound running back in Jerome Messam – Let him be the bruiser he can be.

•  Reason #4: A simple string of bad luck. You don’t put up the offensive numbers the Roughriders have and continue to lose like this. Things will turn around.

I like Randy’s idea. Maybe fans should switch seats at the next game and turn those hats into rally caps. Stick in there, Rider fans, and show what Rider Pride is all about. The best thing about the CFL is that we’ve got fifteen more games to right this ship…

– written by Travis Currah