Rider fans started their favourite chant before they even
left Mosaic Stadium on Sunday. Their beloved Roughriders
had just outlasted the BC Lions 41-38 in double overtime in the 2010 CFL Western Semifinal, and immediately the focus shifted to their date with Henry Burris and the Calgary Stampeders in the Western Final the next week.
But not so fast. There's still plenty to discuss and dissect from Sunday's game in Regina before we look towards Cowtown and the scene of the crime from last year's Grey Cup Rider loss.
Lions coach & GM Wally Buono told anyone who would listen that his team felt no pressure going into Regina this past weekend, given the fact his club wasn't expected be in the playoffs in the first place. Heck, even I was starting to believe it. And his team did too, as they came out on top of a sluggish first half with a 16-7 lead. Rider quarterback Darian Durant wasn't himself in the opening 30 minutes, overthrowing and underthrowing his receivers all over the field. Observers felt it wasn't anything the Lions were doing defensively, but Durant just wasn't with it.
However something happened at halftime. BC kicker Paul McCallum stretched their lead to 19-7 with one of his five field goals on the day but then the Riders caught fire.
Durant tossed a pair of touchdowns over the second half but the scrappy Lions wouldn't go away, forcing double overtime. However Durant found Jason Clermont for a 24-yard touchdown to provide the winning points and the Riders moved on.
"I'll tell ya, I'm just so proud of the Riders in this game," said Rider coach Ken Miller afterwards. "They just kept fighting back and fighting back for as long as it took."
Although the game didn't sellout (they were roughly 800 tickets shy of capacity), Rider fans should be commended for their role in the victory. Rider DB Lance Frazier said the fans were "THEE factor" in the win because the noise they generated was beyond comprehension. Even though their team took 30 minutes of football to get on track, the fans stayed behind them and likely spurred them on.
There are plenty of theories as to why the game didn't sellout, the first non-sellout of the season. Some feel the weather may have played a role (-2 degrees), or perhaps the team's four game losing streak in the stretch drive.
Others feel the biggest factor was that only single seats in the corners of the stadium were available as far as five days in advance.
No matter. Those in attendance know they witnessed one of the greatest battles in the grand history of Mosaic Stadium and they can take comfort in the fact they helped their club to victory.
So now it's on to Calgary where the Riders will face the favoured Stampeders who finished the regular season with a CFL-best record of 13-5. They won two of three meetings against the Riders in the season series, outscoring them 111-89.
Just like BC wasn't expected to win in Regina, the Riders now assume the underdog role going into McMahon Stadium.
Or are they? You'd have to think the Riders have the momentum going into the game while Calgary had the opportunity to rest for a week.
Saskatchewan is a battered bunch going into the game.
All-star middle linebacker Barrin Simpson sat out the semifinal with an ankle injury and his status for the west final is unknown. Cornerback Omarr Morgan left the BC game with injury and his status is also a question mark.
Kicking remains a factor for the Riders as well, as newcomer Warren Kean missed a makeable field goal on the team's opening drive against the Lions. Kean was signed due to the season-ending injury to veteran kicker Luca Congi.
Maybe, just maybe, the Roughriders are indeed a team of destiny as they continue the journey of atoning last year's devastating Grey Cup loss.
They've got two more steps left to climb.