"I just took my eyes off the ball."
- Weston Dressler, July 20, 2012
He was speaking about himself, but he might as well have been speaking for the entire team. The Saskatchewan Roughriders took their eye off the ball in Week 4.
We're speaking about the Riders' 41-38 overtime loss in Calgary last Thursday which sent Canada's Team to its first defeat of the season.
In a fabulous football game on an unmatched summer evening in one of the CFL's greatest cities, there were five lead changes in the first half before the Riders pulled away in the second half. However with half a quarter to go in the fourth, the Riders took their eye off the ball. Up 17 points, they seemed to put it into cruise control and allowed the proud Stampeders to crawl their way back into the game.
Even as it was slipping away, from the broadcast booth, I never felt for one second like Saskatchewan would let this one get away. In case you missed it, the Riders even had a last-minute drive with the game tied 35-35 however a deep pass from Darian Durant well into Calgary territory went right through the hands of the Riders' most sure-handed receiver. Weston Dressler.
But he was far from the only culprit in this one.
Calgary, of course, won it in overtime on a Nik Lewis touchdown while the Riders could only muster a 50-yard Chris Milo field goal.
Both Rider coach Corey Chamblin and team President Jim Hopson were seething after the game but kept their thoughts to themselves. Chamblin stared straight ahead and gnawed on his lip while answering reporters' questions. However no one would assign blame or point fingers. They may have had some private thoughts on who to blame and it was likely discussed behind closed doors, but we'll never know.
That will buy them both some serious equity within the locker room. Chamblin simply said there are no excuses for the loss, and that it will not happen again.
Good Lord I hope not. It was bad enough in the 2009 Grey Cup, in that very stadium, where the Riders choked up a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost to Montreal in the championship. This game had a similar stunning feeling, but about one hundredth less the pressure.
They're a very young team and they'll bounce back. The good news is we know the Riders ARE good enough to have gone 4-0 because they had the game under control.
Until they took their eye off the ball.