REGINA -- The Saskatchewan Roughriders are proving a loss in the middle of the season can be just as valuable as a win. The Green and White have turned their season around after an ugly 24-18 defeat at Commonwealth Stadium on Aug. 11.
"The last time we played (Edmonton), everybody wrote us off," said Riders linebacker Jackie Mitchell. "We were 3-5."
GOING IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS
So were the Eskimos after that night. But seven weeks later, the teams are going in completely opposite directions as they meet tonight.
Edmonton has won just once since beating Saskatchewan and is buried in the West basement. But the Riders have won four of their last five and are fighting for second place in the West Division, thanks in part to an impressive response to a passionate speech in the bowels of Commonwealth Stadium by ex-GM Roy Shivers.
"Roy got up on the table and challenged all of us to step it up," remembered head coach Danny Barrett.
"We are better than what we showed ... that night.
"Since then, everybody has played and coached at a level that we should."
The offensive playbook has been simplified, while the defence has used the Eskimos' five-minute drive late on the August night as a rallying cry.
"Since that time we have tried to be better to a man," remarked Barrett.
"And since that game we have played outstanding defence - outside of the drive (last Sunday) that tied the game up (against B.C.)."
Saskatchewan's defence is actually tops in the CFL, giving up the fewest yards of offence per game.
The Riders also have the second most sacks in the league under the guidance of assistant coach and former Eskimo legend Ron Estay, who won six Grey Cups in 10 years with the Green and Gold. In fact, the matchup tonight between a rebuilding Eskimo offensive line and ferocious Rider front four appears to be very lopsided.
"But Edmonton has a good team and I keep telling the guys: 'You better get ready to play,'" remarked Estay.
FINISH LINES: Do the Riders have a few tricks up their sleeve? Barrett politely told the media to leave practice yesterday after the south Mosaic Stadium end zone gate was opened, leaving reporters standing in the parking lot for 10 minutes. "It's a short week and we had to do some things," said Barrett. "Don't take it personal."