The Riders final game at Mosaic Stadium this season was more of the same from the home team.
As quickly as the Riders jumped out to a 21-3 lead against the Eskimos, it evaporated with Edmonton going on to win their seventh straight game 35-24 on Saturday night.
“I probably sound like a bit of a broken record. I know when we play well we can play with most teams in the league. The challenge is, and like I told (the players), 16 games in we can’t be having the same challenges,” said interim head coach Bob Dyce.
“As much as we like to say we can play with these teams. To say we’re a good team, we have to be able to sustain it.”
In the first quarter, the Riders stormed out of the game like no other game this season. Defensive back Junior Mertile picked off Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly on just the second play from scrimmage. On the next play, Brett Smith found Naaman Roosevelt at the two yard line followed by a rushing touchdown from Rob Bagg and it was 7-0 Riders just like that.
After the Eskimos made it 7-3, Brett Smith connected with Ryan Smith for a 65 yard touchdown. At the start of the second quarter, Keith Price’s first ever CFL pass attempt was a 29 yard touchdown to Roosevelt.
After that, the wheels fell off. Old problems returned, most notably an insurmountable number of missed tackles, or in the case of Mertile, a non-tackle attempt on Eskimos receiver Adarius Bowman.
“Some of the plays that were missed wasn’t a result of not knowing what to do. The challenging thing is guys were there, that’s the challenging part about it,” said Dyce.
Whether it was youthful enthusiasm that wore off or not, the Riders collapsed in the second quarter and never recovered. Their 21-3 lead turned into a 24-21 deficit in the blink of an eye.
This Riders team now is a very young one. They learned a serious lesson about playing a full 60 minutes.
“You kind of got to live and learn,” said defensive end Markus White.
“I’m not saying we were too high when we were up but we let it slip away. We got to get used to playing with a lead and if we’re down we have to get up.”
A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION
You can only make a first impression once, and Price made the most of his first chance to take the field.
After joining the team last season, being released in the offseason and brought back mid-season this year. Without a single training camp snap under his belt, Price was finally able to play in a game.
All he did with his first attempt was throw a touchdown pass to Roosevelt.
“I haven’t thrown a touchdown pass in quite a while. So, it was fun. Just getting back out there, getting hit a couple of times and making throws from the pocket,” said Price.
It almost seemed written in the stars that Price’s first pass would be a touchdown, as he actually did the same thing when he played for the University of Washington.
Early first impressions were good from the coach as well.
“He’s good under (pressure). He can make plays with his feet. Keith did a good job keeping his eyes up field as well,” said Dyce.
Price finished the night 7-for-9 with 84 yard passing and one touchdown. Smith was 11-for-15 for 191 yards and one touchdown.
Roosevelt was the team’s leading receiver with 101 yards. Despite that performance, Roosevelt was nowhere near the game high. That went to the Eskimos Bowman who lit up the Riders for 208 yards and a touchdown.
Ryan Smith now has 796 yards receiving on the season, leaving him three yards behind Weston Dressler for the team lead.
Anthony Allen led the ground game for the Riders with 68 yards rushing.
Tyree Hollins had eight tackles to lead the defence, safety Keenan MacDougall had the team’s only sack. Linebacker Jeff Knox Jr. had six tackles leaving him with 101 on the season. Knox is just five tackles away from the team record and 15 shy of the league rookie record.
The Riders will return to practice on Tuesday morning, they take on the Calgary Stampeders Saturday afternoon at McMahon Stadium.