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55 Yard Line

Riders’ comeback falls short, and serious questions about their offence must be raised

Andrew Bucholtz
55 Yard Line

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Saskatchewan offensive coordinator Bob Dyce's unit for the Riders to succeed.

For a few minutes Saturday, the Saskatchewan Roughriders provided a packed house at Mosiac Stadium with some hope. After a listless first half that saw them trail the Calgary Stampeders 14-0 at the break, the Riders strung some plays together in the fourth quarter and pulled within seven points thanks to a Kory Sheets touchdown with just over four minutes to go. However, poor execution on offence down the stretch and questionable play-calling decisions meant that Calgary was able to kill the clock and walk away with a 17-10 victory. With the loss, the Riders fall to 3-5 and now sit alone in the basement of the West Division. They're not out of the playoff picture by any reckoning, but they'll have to figure out how to fix this offence soon if they want to get anywhere this season.

Drawing sweeping conclusions from a single game is always problematic, but the Riders certainly didn't do a lot to indicate that their offence is fine Saturday. They couldn't move the ball consistently at all in the first half and only barely managed that at times in the second half. Quarterback Darian Durant finished with 17 completions on 29 attempts (58.6 per cent) for 179 yards with no touchdowns and an interception, and that won't win many CFL games. The running game was better, as Kory Sheets finished with 74 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries (and Durant scrambled six times for 72 yards), but it wasn't utilized anywhere near enough. The Riders were unable to effectively use any receiver other than Chris Getzlaf (six catches for 86 yards), as no one else had more than three catches or 35 receiving yards (Efrem Hill, on two catches). That's certainly not great.

What's even more important is that the Riders' offensive problems go well beyond a single game. On the year, this team has only scored 190 points, an average of just 23.8 points per game, and they were fourth-worst in the league in points scored per game heading into this week. Saskatchewan's offence started the year off well, but they've been in steady decline lately, scoring just 20, 5 and 10 points in their last three contests and losing five games in a row. They also had spent eight-plus quarters without a touchdown until breaking through late in Saturday's contest. That has to lead to questions about this offence, and particularly those involving quarterback Darian Durant and offensive coordinator Bob Dyce.

Should Durant be replaced? Well, that's not an easy argument to make. He's led this team to a lot of success, including Grey Cup appearances in 2009 and 2010, and he hasn't been too bad on the year. His 2,114 passing yards are third in the league and his 63.2 per cent completion mark is acceptable. Moreover, Saskatchewan backup Drew Willy is unproven, so it's tough to rationalize going away from Durant at this point in time. Dyce's job may be in more jeopardy, though; the 23.8 points the Riders have put up per game isn't far ahead of the dismal 19.2 they averaged in last year's disastrous 5-13 campaign. Firings or personnel changes may not be necessary right now, but if Saskatchewan doesn't turn things around soon, Durant, Dyce and others could be in serious jeopardy. Saturday's loss certainly won't help their causes.

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