Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The GBU: Saskatchewan rides down B.C.

Photo: Saskatchewan knocked off B.C. 26-16 Friday night. (Photo from Luongo)

First, a quick disclaimer. There was plenty that happened in the sports I'm interested in over the weekend, but unfortunately, I didn't have a lot of time to write about it. Thus, I started several posts but didn't get them finished: they should go up later tonight or early tomorrow. Here's the first one.

I'm going to try to start doing some analysis of the various games I go to or watch on here. There's usually plenty of other outlets handling the game stories, so I'll focus more on the analytical side, with perhaps a bit of humour here and there. My preferred method for these is from the Clint Eastwood classic "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly," breaking down the best performances, the worst performances and the just plain awful stuff that happened (a previous example is here). I'll file these under "The GBU". As always, post thoughts on the series or ideas for new ones here or e-mail them to me. "Good" or "bad" is relative to which team I'm following. Without further ado, the breakdown of Friday night's B.C. Lions - Saskatchewan Roughriders CFL match (game story here from Matthew Sekeres of The Globe and Mail, stats from

Final score: 26-16 Saskatchewan

How I saw it: In person.

The Good:

The Lions' defence:

The B.C. defence was effective for most of the night, putting a ton of pressure on Saskatchewan's succession of quarterbacks (Marcus Crandell got hurt early on). Crandell and his successors Darian Durant and Stephen Jyles were held to 13 completions on 24 attempts for 129 yards with one TD and 2 interceptions, a pretty strong pass defensive effort. The rushing defence wasn't as strong overall, but they did hold Wes Cates to 83 yards (that was more to do with forcing Saskatchewan to take to the air, as he did average 5.2 a carry when he ran), and only 28 yards in the first half. Overall, the 26 points B.C. conceded are a reasonable total that they certainly still could have won with if the offence was in gear: that becomes more impressive when you consider that half of those points were given up in the fourth quarter when Saskatchewan started to run away with the game. Their most impressive performance of the night came when the Riders had a first-and-goal situation on the Lions' 2-yard line in the first quarter, but the defence stopped them twice and held them to a field goal.

Cameron Wake:
The Lions' defensive end was their best player all game, recording four of the team's six sacks. For his efforts, he was named the CFL's defensive player of the week [The Canadian Press via]. Wake was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise grim night for the Lions.

Ian Smart: Last year's recipient of the John Agro Special Teams Award as the CFL's top special-teams player seems to be in fine form again. Smart led the CFL in all-purpose yards (2,440), punt-return yards (912) and kick-return yards (1,228) last season, and is having a good statistical year again. Against the Roughriders, he put up seven kickoff returns for 176 yards and six punt returns for 49 yards.

The Bad:

Joe Smith:
A horrible, horrible game for the mainstay of the Lions' ground attack. He rushed 13 times for 27 yards, a pitiful average of 2.1 yards per carry (and almost half of those yards came off one 12-yard run). In fact, he wasn't even B.C.'s leading rusher: quarterback Jarious Jackson picked up 29 yards on only six carries, a much better average of 4.8 yards per carry. Smith did pick up two touchdowns on short runs, and he did have that one great 12-yard carry, but he was utterly ineffective for the rest of the night. The Lions need much more from him if they're going to compete this year. According to the Vancouver Province's excellent football writer Lowell Ullrich, Smith apparently suffered a shoulder injury early on in the game but kept playing, which could explain his low numbers. I wouldn't mind seeing Ian Smart used more in regular-game situations: his slashing speed would be a nice complement to Smith's straight-ahead power, and the two of them together in the backfield might throw off the defence.

Jarious Jackson:

The Lions' starting quarterback showed brief flashes of brilliance, but prolonged spans of mediocrity. He put up one amazing touchdown drive with under a minute left in the first half, but only went 16 for 30 on the night for 164 yards, with no passing touchdowns and one interception. He also fumbled twice at key moments, and Saskatchewan took full advantage: they scored 13 points off his turnovers. At times, he'd throw perfect bullet passes to his receivers: at other times, he'd chuck up prayers that had a higher chance of causing rain inside the B.C. Place dome than being caught by his recievers. He needs to regain the consistency he showed for most of last year as the team's primary starter while Dave Dickenson and Buck Pierce were injured.

The crowd:

Yes, there were 33,815 people [Jim Morris, The Canadian Press via] there, but that really isn't that impressive for a Friday night home opener against the Leos' biggest rival. What was worse than the numbers, though, was the utter apathy shown by many in attendance. The intimidation and noise usually in full evidence at B.C. Place was missing in action (Saskatchewan only went offside on offence once by my count, very low for a game in the usually-raucous Dome), and the groups of Riders' fans present seemed more involved in the game than the hometown crowd. There were also way too many obnoxiously drunken fans of both teams: I have no problem with drinking at games (or any other time), but alcohol doesn't make you funny or give you the right to annoy others.

The lack of Rob Bagg:
One of the few things that would have made a Saskatchewan victory mildly palatable would have been if former Queen's star Rob Bagg was playing. Sadly, that wasn't the case, as he didn't even dress. Fortunately, another Gael, Matt Kirk, did see limited action for the Lions.

The Ugly:

The TV timeouts:

It's been a while since I've been to a CFL game in person, but I was shocked by how brutally long the TV timeouts have gotten and how many of them there are now: there seemed to be a break after almost every play. What made it worse was the lack of compelling distractions offered during the timeout: this was partly due to our seat location (see next item), but there really was little going on apart from the "Catch a launched football competition", which didn't even finish due to a streaker's intervention. Also, the CFL has red-shirted guys who come onto the field during the timeouts and wave to the refs when they can start play again, which I found somewhat ridiculous: TV broadcasters of hockey or baseball have to guess when they can come back from commercial breaks (which is why you sometimes miss the puck drop or the first pitch), so what gives TSN the right to tell the CFL to hold the game off until they're done the commercial break?

The Scoreboard:
This wouldn't have been a problem for most of the fans there, but it turned out that there's only one video scoreboard in B.C. Place, and rather than being mounted high in the middle like in many arenas, it's mounted at the top of one of the endzones. We were sitting in the second deck of that endzone, so the third deck floor prevented us from seeing any replays on the scoreboard. This was the first time in probably about 10 years that I'd watched a game without instant replay of one sort or another, and let me tell you, in the immortal words of Joni Mitchell, "You don't know what you've got till it's gone." It's much less enjoyable to watch a game when you can't easily see where penalty violations occured or can't enjoy a highlight-reel catch over and over.

The Injuries:

Some of the game's injuries were just brutal, especially D.J. Flick breaking his leg [], which was right up there with Eduardo [YouTube] in terms of horrible injuries that you can't stop watching. According to Greg Harder's story in the National Post, even Flick had to watch the tape of his injury. The Riders won the game, but at a cost so high that the victory may be Pyrrhic: in addition to losing Flick (fractured left fibula and torn ankle ligaments) and Crandell (strained hamstring), they also lost defensive back Leron Mitchell in the first quarter (broken right fibula). Crandell should be back soon, but Flick and Mitchell are expected to miss much of the year. That's good for the Lions, but I can't be happy about players getting so badly hurt, regardless of the colour of their jersey.

The SkyTrain lineups:
To really put a damper on the evening, we got stuck in a massive jam-up at the SkyTrain station afterwards (despite already having pre-purchased tickets). This was despite many people leaving the game early. In the end, we waited about 10 minutes on a packed platform with maybe 10 people getting into each train that came along (as they were already packed to the rafters) and then decided it would be faster to grab a train going the opposite direction, ride it to the end of the line and then back. This strategy worked surprisingly well: as we passed the Stadium station platform on the way back about 15 minutes later, we saw several people who had been waiting in line next to us. I forgot how terrible Vancouver transit is compared to the systems in Montreal or Toronto. Last summer, I was with a crowd of almost 60,000 at the "Big Owe" in Montreal to watch a U-20 World Cup doubleheader, and was able to get on the subway within 10 minutes of the game's conclusion. There's a similar lack of logjams riding the Rocket after Blue Jays' games. SkyTrain is all right, but it clearly can't handle large volumes of people at once: it backs up badly enough after Canucks' games, and the Lions' games are even worse due to the larger crowds.

Next Lions' game
: Friday night at Winnipeg (0-2), 8:00 P.M. ET (TSN)

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff.... not sure what the deal is in the NBA, but in the NHL, one of the ice-level cameras has a light on it that shines when the broadcast is in commerical. When it goes off, the ref knows he can drop the puck.

    They might have something more formal in baseball, but one way they used to do it was that a member of the broadcast crew standing in the press box would put a towel over his shoulder during the commercial break. When he removed it, the home-plate umpire would signal to play ball.

    At least the Leos took it on the 'Peggers tonight.