July 17th, 2024

Inside the CFL: Patterson serves crow, Rider style

By MEDICINE HAT NEWS on July 11, 2024.


ast week I expressed doubts that Saskatchewan backup Shea Patterson had the ability to get things done.

When Corey Mace said, “The kid does everything right”, I wrote that the rookie head coach was whistling by Regina’s oldest graveyard. I was wrong, they were right, the Roughriders sinking the Good Ship Argonaut 23-20.

No bowl of crow for me, more appropriately I will be sitting down to a meal of “Great green gobs of greasy, grimy gopher guts”.

Not Gainer, of course.

My doubts seemed confirmed in the opening quarter of the team’s game against the visiting Easterners. Rather than do everything right, he did everything wrong, looking confused. The second quarter was a different story, with Patterson settling down and finding his rhythm. You could see him gain confidence as the half wore on.

Things didn’t look good during the early going. Toronto’s Janarian Grant returned Saskatchewan’s first punt of the game 84 yards for a touchdown. In bygone years, the rout would have been on. Not this year. The coaching staff calmed them down. “Everybody just knew that we had to rally,”observed Mace after the win. “You’ve got to take advantage of your opportunities and I thought we did that.”

The defence responded magnificently, forcing five turnovers, including a pair of picks by Rolan Milligan, Jr.

The front four led by Anthony Lanier III harassed sophomore double-blue pivot Cameron Dukes mercilessly. The linebacking corps of C.J. Avery, Jameer Thurman and C.J. Reavis is the best in the country. The mark of a good team, the defence dominated the fourth quarter.

After the opening 15 minutes, Patterson began to implement the game plan. He showed patience in the pocket, a critical quality for a successful quarterback.

When his primary receiver was covered, he looked for another, spreading the ball around to five in all. The defence set up a field goal and held Toronto to the same in the shaky first quarter where the Riders had one first down and 28 yards total offence. At the half, the total was 128 yards. In the second frame, Patterson engineered a 94-yard drive in eight plays, capped off with a TD pass to Samuel Emilus. The score was 10-9 for the home team after 30 minutes.

The Riders picked up a three-pointer and major in the second half. The defence gave up a field goal but didn’t allow a single offensive TD, Toronto’s only six pointer being Grant’s special teams return. Patterson finished with 15 completions out of 23 attempts, 192 yards and remarkable for a near rookie, had no turnovers.

Said Mace: “I was just so proud, after the way he started, how he handled the offence.”

Said Shea:” Just very excited and happy and fortunate enough to be part of such a great team.”

My pre-game misgivings about Patterson stemmed from the fact most backups aren’t very good. Last year Rider starter Trevor Harris missed 13 games.

Saskatchewan lost nine of those with backups Mason Fine and Jake Dolegala at the helm. Most don’t know how to manage a game. They have happy feet, tending to bail out and run for their lives.

A good example of that is the much heralded Chris Streveler in Winnipeg.

Filling in for Zach Collaros, Streveler did post his team’s first 2024 win, 25-16 over Ottawa, but he did so by recklessly taking off at the first sign of an enemy jersey. He picked up 79 yards on the ground.

He likes to run over people.

The crowd loves it but the Bombers aren’t going to win many games with Streveler at quarterback. In the same game, Ottawa pivot Dru Brown, was knocked out of the game in the second quarter. Dustin Crum did a fine job in relief.

Tonight the 5-0 Alouettes host Toronto. I am surprised that the Argos are considering starting backup Nick Arbuckle. But Cameron Dukes threw four interceptions in Regina. I don’t think he should get the hook, even though the Argos are facing a defence as good as Saskatchewan’s.

In all the excitement and joy where the mighty Wascana trickles, there is a little dark crowd on the horizon.

For the home opener vs. Hamilton, the Riders drew just over 24,000 fans.

Against Toronto, attendance was 23, 923.

The capacity of Mosaic is 33,350.

Graham Kelly has covered the CFL for the Medicine Hat News for 52 years. Feedback for this column can be emailed to sports@medicinehatnews.com.

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