It was expected to be a rough night for the Riders in Edmonton on Friday and it was.
The Riders are now 0-6 to start the season following a 30-5 loss to the Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium.
“We had too many mistakes around a young quarterback. You got to be perfect around. You have to give him a chance to be successful,” said head coach Corey Chamblin.
The odds were heavily stacked against the Riders heading into this game. With a rookie quarterback in Brett Smith making his first professional start against one of the league’s best defences, few gave the Riders a chance.
It looked like things were going to go downhill early for the road team when the Eskimos stormed out of the gate with 10 points on their first two drives.
From there, the Riders dug in for the rest of the first half as the Eskimos held a 10-4 lead after 30 minutes of play.
That’s when things started to go wrong.
“One or two turnovers and that led to some points being on the board for them – especially defensive touchdowns, always hard to come back from,” said Chamblin.
The defence was seemingly gashed at will on second-and-long and both sides of the ball were guilty of poorly-timed penalties that either killed drives or kept them alive.
Six games into the season, the script has seemed relatively familiar every week.
Up and down debut for Smith
Smith’s first CFL start wasn’t the best but it wasn’t the worst either.
The 23-year-old’s stat line doesn’t jump off the page with 15 completed passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns. However, Smith seemed to find comfort in the middle of the game.
“Yeah, I felt great. It’s just back-to-back turnovers. It’s tough for it to go like that and bounce back,” said a dejected Smith after the game.
“(I’m) obviously frustrated and disappointed in how things went. I wish I could have done a better job.”
What Smith did do well on this night was escape pressure and use his mobility to his advantage.
His first interception was a standard “rookie” mistake. Overall, those moments were few and far between.
Smith’s biggest problem on this night wasn’t him, it was the team around him.
“Offensively we didn’t do enough to help him out,” said receiver Weston Dressler.
“He’s in the fire for the first time. As an offence, you got to minimize the mistakes and we just made too many of them.”
Smith was pulled from the game in favour of Tino Sunseri. Chamblin felt at that point, Smith wasn’t going to benefit from finishing the game he started.
“(We) just wanted to see Tino. I thought we’d seen enough right now. Didn’t want leave the kid out there to dry and give him a chance to reflect on his game and look at it going forward,” said Chamblin.
“The game was not winable at that point. So, there’s nothing there. There’s some reps that he can get. At that point, Tino was doing some things where deserved some reps too.”
The Riders are now 0-6 for the first time since 1979.
In all, the team took 17 penalties for 127 yards.
Jerome Messam was the team’s top receiver on the night with 58 yards. Messam also led the team in rushing yards with 27.
Defensively, the Riders actually made a few more plays. Eskimos quarterback Matt Nichols was sacked five times. Alex Hall and John Chick each had a pair of quarterback takedowns and a pass knockdown. No turnovers were created once again.
The Riders haven’t won a game at Commonwealth Stadium without Darian Durant since he became the team’s number-one quarterback.
Paul McCallum reached 700 field goals for his career in the second quarter.
The Riders will return to practice at Mosaic Stadium on Tuesday morning. They travel to Toronto next Saturday for a date with the Argonauts.