August 25, 2012
Dropped ball costly for Riders
By IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency
REGINA - The perfect record just slipped through their fingers.
It actually flew through Weston Dressler's fingers, and that almost never happens.
Now the Saskatchewan Roughriders can't seem to find that winning edge again.
Back on July 19 at McMahon Stadium, the Calgary Stampeders erased a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit and forced overtime in what was a 41-38 thriller taken by the home side.
But overtime could have been avoided had a pass to an open Dressler been caught. The Riders were in field-goal range, and they could have improved to 4-0 if their star receiver could make the catch.
Instead, they started a losing streak that is entering its sixth week. That loss still lingers, especially the missed opportunity.
"I think about it," Riders quarterback Darian Durant said. "We wouldn't be standing here talking about the things we're talking about. I think about 'What if?'
"That's just how the game goes. He's going to make mistakes. I'm going to make mistakes. It's the nature of football."
The Riders were experiencing a charmed existence until that point. Since then, it seems they can't do anything right.
They gassed a 19-point lead a week later at home to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, then gave away a win to the Eskimos in Edmonton with a Dressler fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
First-year Riders head coach Corey Chamblin calls these learning experiences, and uses Dressler as the best example.
"Weston is a guy they called One Time," Chamblin said. "He does something one time and he's going to learn from it.
"He's a mature player, and he learns from his mistakes. He just has to keep his eye on the ball at all times. He's a big part of what we do."
There are plenty of what-ifs from that wild overtime clash from both teams.
What if the Stamps had packed it in when they were down 17 points with six minutes remaining?
What if two Riders defenders had tackled Nik Lewis short of a fourth-quarter first down instead of going low and getting hurdled?
What if Lewis hadn't bulled his way into the endzone for a third major in the extra session?
Now, the Riders face Lewis without their leading tackler Abraham Kromah, who suffered a fractured fibula last week in a loss to the B.C. Lions.
Former Stampeder Daren Stone will replace Kromah and Chamblin hopes the 6-foot-3, 215-lb. linebacker can help give the Riders an attack against Lewis.
"He's the heart and soul of that team," Chamblin said about Lewis. "The biggest thing is his attitude. He has a win attitude. That's why they are close to .500 -- it's because of Nik Lewis."
Quarterback Kevin Glenn isn't sure where the Stamps would be had they lost that game. A week later, they suffered another setback at home against the Lions, so had the Riders held on, the Stamps would have been 1-4 and in a catchup situation.
Instead, the Stamps offence gained confidence it could mount a comeback when needed. They proved it two weeks later in a road win against Hamilton.
Glenn doesn't expect there to be any lingering effects on the Riders from the previous loss, or the losing streak.
"If there is anything about that last game, it's that everyone is bringing up how it ended. It's probably giving them more motivation," Glenn said.
"We've shown we can (come back). At that same time, we don't want it to be like that. It's tougher to win like that, especially against a team like this in their house."
A four-game losing streak isn't easy for any team, but the heat in Regina gets turned up in situations like this.
Durant preaches the same calm mantra, no matter what the standings look like.
"When we were 3-0, I said it's a long season," Durant said. "I don't remember a CFL team ever going 18-0.
"I knew there would be a tough part of the season, and this is it. It's all about how we rebound and come out of this slump we're in."
On Twitter @SUNIanBusby