REGINA — Reminders of a devastating day are unavoidable for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
As much as they want to forget about the numbing conclusion to the 2009 Grey Cup, practical considerations dictate that the Roughriders immerse themselves in details from that game.
In preparation for Thursday’s CFL regular-season opener against the visiting Montreal Alouettes, the Roughriders have been poring over game film of their next opponent. The Alouettes’ most-recent game of significance was last year’s Grey Cup, in which they edged Saskatchewan 28-27 at McMahon Stadium in Calgary.
“It took me a long time to watch it,” Roughriders head coach Ken Miller said Wednesday. “I didn’t watch the TSN copy – sorry, TSN – but I have watched the coaches’ copy, without the narration, and looked at it from an evaluative point of view.”
For a few moments, the Roughriders celebrated a Grey Cup victory after Alouettes kicker Damon Duval missed a 43-yard field goal as time expired. However, the Roughriders were penalized for too many men on the field, giving Duval a second chance from 10 yards closer. Duval proceeded to make the 33-yarder to give Montreal the lead for the first time in the game – the only time that mattered.
“As you prepare for this game, you have to go back to the Grey Cup film and watch some of the tendencies that they have,” Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant said. “I think the toughest thing about playing them first is just going back to that Grey Cup film and watching it. You just sit there and wish you had a couple of those plays back.
“That’s how the game goes. It wasn’t our time to win last year. That’s why you have a new season every year.”
Saskatchewan was especially impressive in the first half of the 2009 Grey Cup, assuming a 17-3 halftime lead. Viewings of the opening 30 minutes are much more palatable for the Roughriders.
“We looked at the first half of the Grey Cup,” cornerback Omarr Morgan said. “In the first half of the Grey Cup, we had total dominance over those guys.
“But they have Anthony Calvillo and, since I’ve been in the league, he has been the most consistent quarterback in the league. You can’t stop him. You just hope to contain him. That’s what we’re going to try to do – get some guys in his face and make him throw bad passes.”
Morgan can hardly wait to kick off the season, regardless of the foe.
“I’m excited to play at home whenever we get the chance, even if we’re playing a Little League team,” he said. “We’ve got the best fans in the CFL. To open up against Montreal, a Grey Cup rematch, it’s going to be nice.”
Morgan is part of a defensive unit on which there have been notable changes. NFL teams have signed three key defenders from last year – defensive ends John Chick (Indianapolis Colts) and Stevie Baggs (Arizona Cardinals) and middle linebacker Rey Williams (Pittsburgh Steelers). In addition, veteran defensive halfback Eddie Davis retired at age 37.
Chick was named the CFL’s top defensive player last year. Baggs was a West Division all-star. Williams enjoyed a strong year, as did the venerable Davis. They have been replaced by defensive ends Brent Hawkins and Luc Mullinder, middle linebacker Barrin Simpson and defensive halfback Chris McKenzie.
“We had two of the best defensive players in the league last year at defensive end,” Morgan said. “The guys who are replacing them have got to step up. Luc’s probably had the best camp out of everybody on the team, so I’m excited to see what he’s going to do – and also about our whole team.
“I love the way our offence is playing. I love the way our defence is playing. I’m going to be real excited tomorrow.”
The excitement never wanes for Roughriders guard Gene Makowsky, who looks forward to his 16th season opener with the team. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m., at a sold-out Mosaic Stadium.
“You play this game because you still enjoy it,” said Makowsky, 37. “Getting the games going for real when they count in the standings is something we’re all looking forward to. Whether it’s your first game in the CFL or your 250th, it’s always an honour to don the green and white. I’m looking forward to that game when the balls fly for real.”