"They had over 200 yards rushing? That's ridiculous." - Roughriders defensive lineman Marcus Adams.
Yes, they did. The Calgary Stampeders came into Regina Sunday afternoon with a clear-cut game plan; rush the ball. Rush it again, then rush it some more. Inside, outside, and with a lot of different players. In the end it paid off, as the Horsemen romped to a 34-26 victory over the Riders to pull four points up on Saskatchewan for first-place with three games left to go.
A wonderful weekend in Regina was marred by the result of the game. At Friday's annual Plaza of Honour dinner, the 1966, 1989 and 2007 championship Riders were inducted into the team's hall of fame and Rider fans were expecting to cap the weekend off with a huge victory over their top rivals.
Early on in Sunday's game, it appeared to be a piece of cake. Rider quarterback Darian Durant tossed two quick touchdowns to Weston Dressler and Chris Getzlaf for a quick 14-0 lead. However Calgary's not the best offensive and defensive team in the CFL for nothing. Slowly but surely they came back and took the game over.
"Nobody said what we're after (first-place) is going to be easy," surmised Rider coach Ken Miller after the game. "No one said it would be easy and we have a lot of battles left to fight. The men are going to tighten up and consolidate and we're going to play better the rest of the way."
The game was doubly costly as Rider wide receiver Rob Bagg and kicker Luca Congi left the game with what appears to be season-ending injuries. The Riders were punched in the mouth, and it hurt.
"We'll see them again in the playoffs," steamed Rider cornerback Omarr Morgan. "We'll see them again, whether it's here or there. We'll get them again."
It's an ominous statement, but perhaps not necessarily prophetic. It would appear the Riders will now host the western semifinal since first-place appears to be a long-shot. So they'll have to beat B.C. or Edmonton at home in the playoffs just to get another crack at the Stampeders in their own park.
And to go back to what Marcus Adams said at the start of this column, it's clear the team has plenty of work to do to prove they're up to the challenge of upsetting the Stampeders to get back to the Grey Cup.
(Rod Pedersen is the Voice of the Riders on 620 CKRM radio)