Can Riders bury past?

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:14 AM ET

REGINA -- This was to be the year of the do-over for Paul McCallum and the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

There won't likely be any do-over if they don't do it today.

McCallum, you'll remember, missed a 18-yard field goal in overtime in the Western final last year in Vancouver to cost the long-suffering Saskatchewan fans a trip to the Grey Cup.

It also resulted in Regina fans unloading a pile of poop on his front lawn.

McCallum and the Roughriders played like poop in the front end of this season, which was supposed to provide not only a do-over in the Western final, but the first home playoff game in 17 years for the "wait till next year'' fans of the Rider Nation.

But all of a sudden, Saskatchewan has a two-game winning streak and the gang green guys are telling themselves that this is the game which will turn their season.

Last year a five-game losing streak left Danny Barrett's bunch 3-6 at the half and 4-8 at this getting-late-date in the CFL season.

Then they won five straight games, beat the Eskimos in Edmonton in the Western semi and had themselves within one 18-yard kick of the next closest thing to heaven for Rider Priders from coast to coast.

"A couple of weeks ago when we were going through what we were going through, who thought we'd be playing the second- place team with a chance to take advantage of a situation like we have now,'' Barrett said yesterday.

"It's a big game. It's a bigger game than Labour Day. It's a game with playoff implications in September.''

WINNING AND LOSING

If the Riders win it, they'll be 6-6 and the Eskimos 7-5, and the Riders will have a leg up on the two-game series in the event of a tie in the final standings.

Lose it, and they'll be a team with five wins - three against Winnipeg and two against Hamilton - who will have troubleselling themselves that the year of the do-over isn't done.

And in there is the kicker, in his 13th season, who won't get a chance to pay off all the fans who rallied with pooper-scooper support as he dragged his tormented toe to every corner of the province in his off-season job with Sask Energy.

McCallum has followed the fate of Sean Fleming, who will at least get the punting part of his job back today, this season in a "welcome to my world'' sort of way.

"I feel for him. I was going through the same thing, only a little sooner than he was,'' he said of losing confidence in his kicking.

"At this level, it's all mental.''

SOME SETBACKS

Nobody mentions the fact that McCallum is on his third long snapper of the season and his fifth holder in the last three seasons.

He missed the big one. And he came back this year and missed some more.

But Barrett has stuck with him.

"He's much better than Fleming right now,'' said Barrett. "I'll stick with this guy.

''The last thing I'm going to do is threaten him or sit him down and bring in another guy,'' he said in an obvious shot at Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia and replacement kicker Hayden Epstein.

Like the team, McCallum thinks he's getting it together and is talking the talk about how this is a great opportunity to salvage their season, turn everything around and get another run going.

"I know I'm a good kicker. I came out struggling. I don't think it had anything to do with what happened in the Western final last year. I know I can do it. I still think I'm one of the better kickers in the league.''

And he still feels the Roughriders can return to being one of the better teams.

"It was like this last year. We're starting to move the ball. We're starting to put points on the board again. Our defence is strong and getting stronger. This is the CFL. It's not how you start. It's how you finish.''

Maybe today McCallum will have the biggest game since the Western final to decide on the last play of the game.

Maybe he'll make it and give himself a chance in November to make them forget.

On the other hand, maybe the cops should be staking out his street, in case he doesn't.


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