Like the pop of a balloon, the 2012 Saskatchewan Roughriders’ season came to an abrupt and devastating end Sunday afternoon in Calgary in the CFL Western Semifinal. It was a last-minute 36-30 loss to the rival Stampeders which sent them to the Western Final at B.C. and sent the Riders home.
It’s still too painful to re-live, but I suppose we have to. In a quarterback battle between Darian Durant and Drew Tate, both teams wanted to get the jump early but it was scoreless until there was 0:02 left in the opening quarter. That’s when the Riders opened the scoring with a Sandro Deangelis field goal.
However from there, the Stampeders took over and never really looked back. The Riders held the lead briefly twice more, but it literally lasted for only a few seconds. Blunders on special teams and defence ultimately cost them the game. Throw in a few dropped passes and it was curtains. With 0:47 to go and the Riders up 30-29, Tate launched a 68-yard touchdown bomb to Romby Bryant to give Calgary the winning points.
BOOM! Done. And that’s the season.
Thrilling ending, but another devastating way to lose at McMahon Stadium for Canada’s Team. “It’s been a tough place for us lately,” admitted Durant, who threw for 453 yards and four touchdowns. “Give Calgary credit, they’re a good team. We made too many mistakes and ultimately gave them the game.”
Yes, he’s right. We all hoped the playoffs would be a brand new season and the teams would be equal but we were just fooling ourselves. The young Riders shot themselves in the foot time after time and a coverage breakdown led to the last-minute touchdown to break their back. Meanwhile the veteran Stamps never really seemed out of control of the game.
“That’s the thing about football; sometimes its out of your hands and you hope people step up and make plays,” Durant continued. “Calgary did. Calgary pretty much played a mistake-free game and that’s why they won.”
Right now we’re in a holding pattern. It’s sickening to look ahead to next season because there’s a long, cold winter staring at us before that. And it feels too soon to look back and reflect on the 2012 season because we weren’t ready, nor prepared, for it to end.
“We had a good win there but we let it slip it away,” said Rider coach Corey Chamblin, with a comment we’ve heard before this year. “Those aren’t the things that you want to remember at the end of your season. There’s a lot of pride there and a lot to build off for next year. I’m proud of the effort from this young team.”
He had on a cheerful expression but he had to be devastated inside. Chamblin assured us his team would be ready come playoff time and although at times they were, they didn’t play a complete game when it counted. “We gotta be disciplined,” Chamblin continued. “We talked about playing smart and tough but we didn’t play smart in some positions.
“I thought we brought this team a long way from what we had. We retooled the whole roster. We got some stars there and I think we’ll be a contender next year.”
Next year. Next Year Country! That’s a phrase we used to hear all the time around here when seasons ended too soon. It always seemed so hopeless. This time tough, there’s a sense of faith in Chamblin in this province. At least there should be. Stop for a minute and consider where this team was one year ago and where it is now.
Massive improvement. It’s just hard being patient for the baby steps when you remember where this team was between 2007 and 2010.