Roughriders forced to cancel big party plans

The Saskatchewan Roughriders had a great party planned for their 100th birthday. Unfortunately, the Montreal Alouettes decided to crash their party.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders had a great party planned for their 100th birthday. Unfortunately, the Montreal Alouettes decided to crash their party. The original plan was a Grey Cup championship to mark the occasion. Instead it turned into a wake as the Riders mourned the death of their championship dreams.

It is a very familiar Grey Cup script for the Roughriders. They have appeared in 18 Grey Cups during the past 100 years. They have won three of them.

The gods of football championships must really hate the Riders. Either that or the legacy of the Riders and their fans is the plucky sense of endless optimism that next year will be our year.

Personally, I believed that 2010 was indeed the Riders’ year. They retained most of the key components of the 2009 Grey Cup heartbreak team.

Another year as the undisputed starter at quarterback meant that Darian Durant had a golden opportunity to rise to an elite level as a passer in this league.

In short, it was a time when the team had to prove it belonged on the top of the ladder.

However, the massive hype about Darian Durant belies the obvious: he may not be a championship-caliber quarterback. His season has been a roller-coaster ride to say the least.

Darian Durant was the quarterback with the most passing yards in the CFL this year. He was also a league leader in interceptions this year.

The biggest component of Durant’s game is his ability to make the big play, typically in a late-game rally. It is an exciting brand of football that showcases the strength of the CFL; a football league where no lead is truly safe.

But an offence based upon the big play and some luck will not win championships, and the Saskatchewan Roughriders were schooled in that lesson on Sunday.

Durant has yet to learn how to control a game on a consistent basis. He won against Calgary in the West Final because he burned up a lot of time in the third quarter and wore out the Calgary defence. Plus, he gave Stampeder quarterback Henry Burris less time to work the Calgary offence. That is consistency.

Durant is a notoriously slow starter in a game. He will spot the other team 10 to 15 points before he begins to assume control on the field. The Grey Cup game was a little different because he came alive in the second quarter.

Then the second half of the game proved that Durant’s inability to run a consistent game plan will keep him out of elite status in this league. He fixated on the right side of the field and a series of unsuccessful sideline patterns.

Durant had trouble with his receivers on timing and accuracy issues, and a momentary outburst by Rider receiver Andy Fantuz after a botched pass from Durant spoke volumes about his passing game.

There were no more rabbits left in the hat for the Riders in 2010.

The Alouettes won because they were the better team. They actually have an elite quarterback who survived a strong Rider pass rush and used it against them.

Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo is a model of consistency. He now has as many Grey Cups as the Saskatchewan Roughriders. It is pretty easy to connect the dots on this puzzle.

Wrap-up Friday.

Jim Sutherland is a local freelance writer whose columns appear on Tuesdays and Fridays. He can be reached at