Late Saturday afternoon I was thinking I thought I had seen every possible way for the Riders to lose a game but I had never seen four missed field goals be the deciding factor.
Fortunately, the offence and the defence pulled through in the final minutes and the Riders defeated the Eskimos 23-13 and won first place in the West.
Brent Lauther is certainly not Robo-kicker. He can be extremely effective, as proven by his game winning kicks this year, and maddingly inaccurate at other times of the game.
On Saturday, to his credit, he was in the locker room to answer questions. He said there were no excuses and no adjustments needed. He said he knows when he is off and thought he would do the same again on his kicks.
Riders head coach Craig Dickenson said there was just enough wind to get into a kicker’s head. He felt Lauther pushed a couple of kicks early and maybe pulled the last one.
Lauther managed a joke that the offence clearly thought he needed to be closer on the last drive where the field goal was from 12 yards that provided the winning points.
When asked how he was going to get over the game Lauther said he was going to drink a lot of beers and go to sleep and in the morning forget it had happened.
To set up that winning field goal, the Riders had carried out yet another long late drive. In this game the drive went eight plays from the Rider 32 to the Eskimo five-yard line. The key play was a 29 yard pass by rookie quarterback Isaac Harker to rookie wide receiver Justin McInnis down the right sideline.
Earlier in the game McInnis, who was playing because Shaq Evans had an injured toe, had dropped an easy pass over the middle. He said this play was redemption. Harker said he was not going to McInnis to give him a chance to make up for the drop. He said that is not how he plays the game.
On the play Harker said he had a couple of hot routes but decided to take a chance on McInnis who had a step on the corner who was playing him in man coverage.
Harker said he, knowing he was going to get hit, threw the ball before the break by the receiver and was not sure whether it would be in the right place. It was perfect.
On what he would be doing Saturday night Harker, who earlier in his post-game comments said he always has nerves, remarked that he would probably not sleep. With his family have driven the RV up to see him he was glad to have a lot of people around to celebrate.
There was still time for the Eskimos to come back but Cam Judge’s interception which he returned for a touchdown sealed the victory.
Judge said he had a strong feeling from the formation that Troy Williams was going to Natey Adjei on an out route. He said he was trying to bait Williams into making the throw but caught behind and was a step late in breaking to the receiver. However, Charleston Hughes tipped the pass and it came to Judge. He said someone (Adjei) was tangled around his feet after he caught it but it was not to let anyone stop him from the end zone.
Judge said the last time he had a pick six it was in his senior year of high school.
Dickenson was enjoying the win and finishing first. He agreed it was special to be one of three Rider head coaches to finish first in the over 40 years I have covered the team. Until this evening he was always calling his brother, Dave, to talk about the Stampeders finishing first. On Saturday night, noting Calgary was playing the late game, he said he might bug Dave on the way home.