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Riders break the curse and make a statement to the league

The curse of the 13th man is over in Riderville.
The curse of the 13th man is over in Riderville.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are going to be very tough to beat this season. This was a fact that was proven in Saskatchewan’s epic 54-51 double overtime victory over the Montreal Alouettes in the CFL’s season opener.

After merely one week of play, Saskatchewan has already proven that they can overcome just about anything that is thrown at them.

The curse of the 13th man is over in Riderville.

The Riders can certainly fight back after a slow start. After all, Montreal cruised to a 33-12 lead over the Green and White early in the third quarter. Making up 21 points against a team of Montreal’s caliber is certainly a daunting task, but the Riders did just that. Not only did Saskatchewan have to put up points in a hurry, but they had to hold off Montreal’s potent offence.

Of course, comebacks were a common trend for the Riders last season. In Week 5 against the Calgary Stampeders, Darian Durant threw a 65-yard touchdown pass to Chris Getzlaf late in the fourth quarter to give the Riders the win. There were several times in 2009 when the Riders were down by eight with little time on the clock and they still managed to tie the game up. Even in the Western Final against Calgary, Saskatchewan was down 10 points early.

Not even a cruel twist of fate could stop the Green and White. After losing the Grey Cup to Montreal last season, largely due to a too many men penalty, everyone was wondering if the Riders would get over it this season. Ironically, when it appeared that Saskatchewan had defeated Montreal in the first overtime session, they were flagged for too many men and Montreal went on to send the game into a second overtime session.

The Riders could have faltered here, but they fought through it and managed to win the game. Since they took a too many men penalty and fought through it, the Riders have successfully fought off the 13th man curse.

The Riders have also shown early on that their offence is as good as advertised. Furthermore, the areas of concern some people had for the offence were non apparent in the first game.

When it came to Saskatchewan’s receiving core, people wondered if there would be enough balls to go around. Yes, yes there is. Weston Dressler had 154 yards and one touchdown, Robb Bagg earned 121 yards and one touchdown, Andy Fantuz picked up 77 yards and two touchdowns, Chris Getzlaf accumulated 65 yards and Prechae Rodriguez chipped in with 54 yards and a touchdown. The receiving core appears to be working beautifully together for the Riders. Bagg and Dressler are the deep threats, Fantuz is the sure handed first-down receiver, while Getzlaf, Rodriguez and Clermont are great extra options.

The big question concerning the running game was: can Wes Cates regain his 2008 form? Well, after putting up 112 yards and one touchdown, averaging nearly nine yards a carry, it is pretty clear that he is well on his way.

But of course, the offence relies on Durant. The one criticism about Durant from last year was his high interception total (he threw 21 compared to 24 touchdowns). Not only did Durant not throw any interceptions in Week One, but he posted 478 yards and had five touchdowns.

There is a lot of optimism in Riderville following Saskatchewan's epic 54-51 victory over Montreal in Week 1.

Now, the Riders still have a lot of work to do. Their pass defence was suspect at times, especially Canadian cornerback Donovan Alexander. Furthermore, the special teams were far from special. Montreal blocked one punt and nearly had another. Tim Maypray returned a missed field goal for a touchdown that almost sealed the deal for Montreal.

Still, in Saskatchewan there is an unrelenting feeling of optimism following the victory over Montreal. If the Riders can fight through such adversity and at times make the defending Grey Cup champions look average, there isn’t a team in the league they won’t be able to at least compete against.

The Riders have sent a message to the league and it isn’t that they can’t count to 13. The message is: Saskatchewan is ready to avenge their Grey Cup loss.

Jonathan Hamelin is an aspiring journalist, who has a freelance contract with the Regina Leader-Post and is a veteran online CFL columnist. He can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.


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