In the Regina dressing room they had the look of a shell-shocked battalion wondering where all the artillery had come from. Walking wounded tended to their ailments as reporters tried to piece together yet another Rider loss at Commonwealth stadium. Edmonton took until the second quarter to get untracked, but by the end of the fourth quarter the defending Grey Cup champs had put away the Riders 31-7. The loss marks the fifth time that the Riders have lost a game in Edmonton since 2000. The tunnel from the dressing room to the field must feel like the Bermuda triangle to the Jolly Green Giants, many pass through the entrance only to lose their game crossing onto the field.
The Riders started out in good style, Kenton Keith getting them on the scoreboard in the first quarter with a two yard run, the Riders held onto the lead through the first and into the second quarter, but then came the turnovers. Two interceptions by Edmonton’s Malcolm Frank turned the tide on Friday night, the first one off of Henry Burris snuffed out a Rider drive, keeping the Eskies close and ready to strike. The second Frank interception was even costlier to the Riders as he took it back to the Saskatchewan end zone and touchdown that put the Esks up 14-7 never to look back.
Jason Maas went 19 for 33 during the game including a spectacular 102 pass and catch route with Jason Tucker which brought the huge Commonwealth crowd to its feet. While Maas was moving the offence and Frank was ruining Burris’ day it was Sean Fleming who put in a full day’s work, Fleming successfully kicked five of six attempted field goals, accounting for over half of the Eskies scoring.
Saskatchewan left Edmonton with more than just unpleasant memories; they will take full advantage of their thirteen day layoff to tend to punter Paul McCallum who was rocked by the Eskimos Derrell Mitchell. McCallum was attempting to get in on a tackle of punt returner Winston October, when Mitchell nailed him with a crushing but clean blow that ended up separating McCallum’s shoulder. McCallum endeavored to continue kicking but eventually gave way to running back Neal Hughes who took over the kicking duties for all but one play. McCallum trotted out late in the game to attempt a 26 yard field goal; however he struck the upright and went uncounted.
McCallum will now have time to rest his shoulder and hope for a speedy recovery. Saskatchewan will not play again until the September 5th Labour Day Weekend Classic, Sunday against Winnipeg at Taylor Field. A traditionally hard hitting affair the two teams will be looking at it as a pivotal point in the chase for a playoff spot.
As for Edmonton they face the suddenly troubled Ottawa Renegades next Sunday, with Maas back in action, the defence hitting hard and special teams firing on all their cylinders the Renegades like the Riders this week, may face their upcoming Commonwealth experience with more than a little trepidation.