Vanstone: Win in Montreal would be music to the Riders' ears
Garth Brooks is in Regina and, appropriately, the emphasis here is on low places.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders’ 2000 season reached a nadir That Summer when they fell 62-7 to the host Montreal Alouettes.
It was More Than A Memory for Henry Burris, who quarterbacked the Green and White during a nightmarish outing in which Montreal’s thunder rolled over the Roughriders.
“Ooh,” he said, wincing, when reminded of the sheer horror of it all four years later. “It was a shebockalling.”
Ever the wordsmith, I asked — no, begged — for a definition, whereupon Smilin’ Hank provided much-needed enlightenment. He informed me that “shebockalling” is a merger of “debacle” and “shellacking.”
“Whatever it was, it’s hard to even describe it with a word,” Danny Barrett, who was the Roughriders’ head coach from 2000 to 2006, said as a 2004 visit to Montreal loomed. “I wouldn’t say it was embarrassing, because the guys played hard. We just didn’t have anything left to give.
“What I do remember is Kennedy Nkeyasen scoring his first CFL touchdown and they called it back for holding when Montreal was up by over 50 points. I said, ‘Come on, ref, give us a break!’ There was less than 20 seconds to go and he called holding. Come on!
“It was one of those nights …”
Certainly a Night Rider’s Lament.
This isn’t my first Rodeo, so there is that uneasy sensation as the Roughriders prepare to play in Montreal on Friday night, opposite the first of Brooks’ two back-to-back concerts at Mosaic Stadium.
Singing from the same songbook, CJME’s Jamie Nye tweeted Wednesday that “weird things happen in Montreal.”
“I don’t have a good feeling about this,” the Green Zone host added, leading me to wonder if we doomsayers are Two Of A Kind.
Yes, this is a new Roughriders team — a 4-3 squad that is Learning To Live Again. Led by charismatic quarterback Cody Fajardo, the Green and White has won three in a row and appears to be Rollin’.
And, yes, the Alouettes will be without their No. 1 quarterback (Vernon Adams Jr.) and standout tailback (William Stanback) due to injuries, both players being a Victim of the Game.
Nonetheless, there is the inescapable (and perhaps irrational) notion that an ugly game is, well, nigh.
The mind rewinds to, once again, The Old Stuff from the Barrett era. In those days, before the Roughriders found a New Way To Fly and travelled via chartered aircraft, the team would meet reporters Face To Face at Regina International Airport following road games.
The trips to and from Montreal were often torturous. It didn’t help matters that the so-called “return” flight often overshot Regina, landing in Calgary, before the Roughriders dealt with The Change of planes and completed the long journey.
That being done, the players would bravely submit to the annual interrogations about what had gone so horribly, customarily wrong. None of us in the media enjoyed asking the questions, but you Do What You Gotta Do.
Even in the Roughriders’ most-recent championship season — 2013 — they failed to win on the road against a mediocre edition of the Alouettes.
Saskatchewan lost 17-12 to a Montreal team that heard the roar of a Sunday crowd while being quarterbacked by Josh Neiswander. I could have missed the pain by opting to watch the NFL.
However, the Yearwood end in historic fashion for the 2013 Roughriders, who celebrated a 45-23 Grey Cup victory over the visiting Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
The score flattered Hamilton, which trailed 31-6 at halftime. It was, you might say, a shebockalling.
Clearly, the stinker in Montreal didn’t prevent Saskatchewan from getting to The Dance. (Yup, another Garth Brooks reference. Shameless!)
It is worth noting, too, that Saskatchewan did win in Montreal last year. The Roughriders prevailed 34-29 on the strength of a 394-yard passing performance by Zach Collaros.
All the while, TSN was fixated on then-Alouettes quarterback Johnny Manziel — a preoccupation that went Against The Grain of many Roughriders fans, some of whom are Much Too Young to remember the “shebockalling.”
Despite all the hype about Manziel, who was once a Big Money quarterback in the NFL, Saskatchewan won in Montreal for only the 15th time in 40 regular-season or playoff visits.
During one particularly putrid period — an 11-season span that began in 1996 — the Roughriders eked out one road victory against the Alouettes.
Saskatchewan responded to that slump by winning 16-7 in Montreal in Kent Austin’s first game as the Green and White’s head coach.
Since then, however, the Roughriders have won three of 11 games in Montreal. In the eight losses over that span, Saskatchewan has been outscored 244-120.
So how will it all unfold Friday night, to start the Weekend?
Will the Roughriders win the next go-round in Montreal, as they do Every Now and Then? Or will it be the Same Old Story?