This one had better have a happier ending
Last year, when the Saskatchewan Roughriders battled the Montreal Alouettes in Calgary for the 98th Grey Cup, it was the first time these franchises had ever met on the big stage. For me, it was a first as well.
It was the first time I had ever attended a Grey Cup game. The experience was amazing! Fans from all different teams, even from teams that no longer existed like the Atlantic Schooners, came out in droves to support this great league. It made me realize that the Grey Cup is more than just a game between two teams; it is a celebration of a sport that is uniquely Canadian. Yes, the Green and White dropped the game in rather disappointing fashion, but it was still a memorable weekend.
This year, I will make the trek to the Grey Cup once again, as the Riders face the Alouettes in Edmonton for the 99th Grey Cup. Win or lose, I will once again report on the atmosphere of Grey Cup weekend.
Hopefully though, Saskatchewan comes out on the winning end and makes the drive home a bit easier. To do so, there are a few keys they will need to follow.
Run Cates Run: When people think of the Riders’ offensive attack, they often forget about the running back. But, with over 1,000 yards rushing and 16 total touchdowns on the season, Wes Cates is a threat the Riders can’t afford to ignore. Remember, last year when these two teams met in the Grey Cup, Cates had a monster game. He racked up 91 rush yards and had 31 yards receiving. Getting Cates going on the ground will help the Roughriders wear the Alouettes defence out and open up the passing game. With 97 rushing yards given up by Montreal per game in the regular season, the Alouettes can be susceptible to the run.
Air It Out: While the Riders should attempt to develop a running game, they can’t forget about their talented receiving core. Andy Fantuz, Weston Dressler, Chris Getzlaf, Jason Clermont, and Cary Koch should have a field day against an injured Alouettes secondary. Two of Montreal’s defensive backs, Matthieu Proulx and Mark Estelle, went down during Montreal’s triumph over Toronto last weekend and the Alouettes will be hindered if they don’t get better. Either way, Montreal does not have a scary pass defence. They allowed nearly 300 passing yards a game during the regular season. In two games against Montreal his season, the Green and White put up over 400 passing yards each game.
Start Strong: While Saskatchewan thrives at coming from behind in games, it would be nice to see them play a complete game. You know, a game where Saskatchewan dominates a team completely and doesn’t give their fans a heart attack in the process. With the Alouettes not used to playing in the cold – the East final was played inside at Olympic Stadium in Montreal – it could take them a while to acclimatize and the Roughriders could jump up to a huge lead. When the Riders kept it close last Grey Cup, we all know what happened.
Confuse Calvillo: Anthony Calvillo is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the CFL. He has thrown for nearly 70,000 career yards and won two Grey Cups. Stopping him will be the key to the game for Saskatchewan. Blitzing Calvillo would be a smart idea. You can throw a fancy zone at him all you want, but if you give Calvillo enough time to throw he’ll pick apart any defence. Jerrell Freeman has been getting increased pressure for the Riders this season and could disrupt Calvillo. The more Calvillo gets thrown off his game early, the better things will be for the Riders.
Count To 13: Last season, the Riders (insert generic Grey Cup exclamation here). If they want to stop being the brunt of people’s jokes, they need to avoid stupid penalties like too many men. A team like the Alouettes, as much as they succeed due to their own skill, thrive even more on other teams’ mistakes. The Green and White must make Montreal beat them on the Riders’ terms, not with aid from penalties. Besides, if the Roughriders get another too many men penalty in this game, I’m pretty sure they will never, EVER, live it down.