Only two games took place this past weekend when a strange quirk of an eight-team league gave summer vacations to four teams.
The guys that had to work played on Friday night before they began their summer breaks.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders headed to Montreal via a short side trip to Calgary as part of an annoying milk run for the green guys. Charter flights are difficult to arrange out of Regina, so the road to Montreal is a tough one.
However, no excuses are acceptable when it comes to how you got there, because you lose games on the football field and not in the airport.
The Riders lost the game because they made too many mistakes.
The first mistake has dogged them all year and that is the erratic special teams play of the Riders.
Last year they had no designated special teams coach and it hurt them in games. This year they hired Kavis Reed as their special teams coach and it made a big difference: they are now worse than last year.
They have no return threat other than the incredibly talented Wes Dressler, who is too busy carrying the entire Roughrider offense on his shoulders to risk injury as a return guy.
No return guy means brutal field position and the new rule about mandatory returns after field goals means more returns. This is a particularly vicious circle for the Riders.
Things get even more complicated with downfield coverage on punts, because Rider punter Jamie Boreham gets poor hang time and his low trajectory punts give a big advantage to the opponent’s return guys.
The Alouettes ran one back on the Riders and helped out their offense who had some real problems with the Rider defense, for the most part. Calvillo had a sub-par game at quarterback but Avon Colborne picked up the slack with a strong running game. Balanced teams find ways to win and Montreal is as well balanced as a nutritionist’s diet.
Saskatchewan quarterback Darian Durant can also take some credit for the loss. Three critical interceptions proved that Durant is still in CFL quarterback school and he is not on the dean’s list. He likes to build most of his lesson plan around superstar receiver Dressler, but that is about five receivers short of graduation if you include running backs as a receiver option.
Some Rider fans are out for Coach Miller’s head on a platter. I am not one of them.
He has some adjustments to make in the back nine of the season, including a spot for Texas Tech star quarterback Graham Harrell on the active roster. But now is not the time to run off Ken Miller as the Riders head coach.
The other weekend game pitted the BC Lions against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in a titanic struggle between CFL giants. Winnipeg coach Mike Kelly finally employed an offense that Michael Bishop could almost understand: a high school offense. Get the ball to the tailback and “student body” your way down the field while the quarterback watches the action.
It’s the safest bet when Bishop is your quarterback, but it won’t win championships in a passing league and even Atom teams play better defense than the Lions did last Friday night. See you on Friday.
Local freelance writer Jim Sutherland’s CFL column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. He can be reached at mystarcollectorcar.com.