For the first time since 1976, the Saskatchewan Roughriders finish first place in the CFL Western Division. Although this is a huge feat and means a lot to the Roughriders' organization, they aren't near happy yet. This first place finish means that the Riders will have a first round bye in the playoffs and will play the winner of Calgary and Edmonton who play in the first round. First place also means that the Western Finals will be played at Mosaic Stadium in Regina.
We all know that the Roughriders have the best fans in Canada. They sell more merchandise than all other CFL teams combined, all home games are nearly sold out and other teams hate travelling to Saskatchewan because of the immense noise produced by the 13th man (the fans). With the Riders now one game away from the Grey Cup, Rider fans could not be more excited.
To clinch first place, the Riders had to get through the Calgary Stampeders Saturday, November 7th, and oh baby did they ever. With constant chants of HENRY, to psych out Stampeder quarterback Henry Burris, the Riders came away with the victory 30-14.
The quarterbacking battle was won by the Riders and many fans thought that is exactly what it would take for the Riders to come away with the victory. Darian Durant, the Riders' nominee for the CFL's Most Outstanding Player award threw 36 passes in which he completed 24 for 296 yards and 2 touchdowns. On the other side of the field, Calgary quarterback Henry Burris threw for 221 yards and 1 interception on 15-25 pass attempts.
The rushing game was nearly the only area of Saturday's game that the Stampeders did better. The Stamps, (lead by Jofferey Reynolds with 107 yards) combined for 171 yards rushing and one touchdown while the Riders, (lead by Wes Cates with 54 yards) combined for 117 yards and 1 touchdown.
The Roughriders' 2009 award nominees all had good games. John Chick, the Riders' nominee for best defensive player had 6 tackles and 1 sack to show that he did really deserve to be the one nominated. Darian Durant had a fantastic game with nearly no mistakes as he had 2 more touchdowns than he had interceptions. Interceptions have really haunted him this season but this game he had none. He also seemed to have found a new go to receiver with Weston Dressler out in Andy Fantuz. Fantuz had 123 yards on 12 receptions. Outstanding Canadian nominee Rob Bagg had a critical touchdown reception and Outstanding LinemanGene Makowski and Outstanding Special Teams Player Jason Armstead had solid games like always as well.
First place in the West was key for the Riders this season. If they can just get that one win at home, the will be in the Grey Cup facing the BC Lions, Hamilton Tiger-Cats or (and most likely) the Montreal Alouettes. The reason first place is more important this year than most, is because if the Riders do make it to the Grey Cup, it will be pretty much a home game as the game is in Calgary. Rider fans have no problem travelling to the Grey Cup in Calgary as it is close to home and there are many, many Rider fans who live in Alberta.
The Roughriders still have some key players injured who have chances of returning before seasons end which just may propel them to a Grey Cup win. Receiver Weston Dressler, halfback Eddie Davis and offensive tackle Wayne Smith are all not ruled out to be back by the West Final or Grey Cup which could seriously help the Riders.