Will the real Saskatchewan Roughriders please stand up?
The team from the province which bears the phone prefix "306" was the toast of the Canadian Football League after a torrid 3-0 start this summer under rookie head coach Corey Chamblin. They were the last of the unbeatens.
Now, following the Roughriders' 28-20 loss at Edmonton Friday night, they are the CFL club that has gone the longest without collecting a win. The boys in the green hats have lost three games in a row and stand at 3-3. Technically, they are in last-place in the CFL West.
Well Friday night before the largest crowd in the CFL this season (just over 43,000), the Roughriders put on a shameless display of penalty-laden football and lost the turnover battle 3-0. We had JUST learned that 89 per cent of teams that win the turnover battle go on to win the game.
A former Roughrider and Eskimo who is in the Rider Plaza of Honour told me after the contest, "if it wasn't for the penalties and turnovers, Saskatchewan would have won the game!"
True, but that's like me saying, "if I wasn't so ugly, I'd be hot." That's football, and the Roughriders left the stadium smarting even though they put up close to 500 yards offence.
"That's not the Saskatchewan Roughriders," fumed Chamblin after the game. "There were a lot of penalties, turnovers and big plays against our defence. That was a very undisciplined showing by our team."
However upon the Riders' return home to the Regina International Airport (YQR) the next day, Chamblin had changed his tune considerably.
"When you look at (Rider quarterback) Darian, there's always room to improve but Darian's playing fair to good at this point," the coach reasoned. "Darian is not a part of our problem right now. He's going to throw interceptions - every QB in this league will. I'm OK with Darian's play right now."
Ah, textbook Coaching 101. When the Riders were 3-0, Chamblin was the first to say his team was a long way from perfect and they had a ton more to give. Now that they've hit the skids, he's doing his best to lift the spirits and keep it positive.
"The guys had the focus there," Chamblin continued at the airport. "We just have to find a way to win. The biggest thing I'm proud of is we've been in all six games. It's not like they've been blowouts. They're a young team which is getting older. I'm pleased with this team right now."
Durant followed right in line, which is worth noting. If the Roughriders are going to turn this thing around pronto, the quarterback and coach need to be on the same page.
"We're good," Durant answered when asked about the team's psyche. "We realize what's wrong. It's not like, after the game we're looking for answers or we're getting blown out. The psyche's good, spirits are high, it's early and we all realize that."
The trouble is it's getting a little late to still be saying it's early. The biggest test of the season comes Sunday in B.C. (5 p.m. kickoff) against the Grey Cup champion Lions.
Will the Riders stand up for this one?