The Saskatchewan Roughriders are hurting right now.
At 9-7, they've lost four games in a row including Sunday's 24-19 home loss to Edmonton which clinched second place in the CFL West for the Eskimos. With first place going to the Calgary Stampeders the night before, we now know the Green & White will be heading on the road for the 2014 CFL playoffs. All that's left to be determined is whether they go on the road in the West or through the East via a crossover.
As I've written in other spots, there are millions of fans in the Rider Nation and therefore there are a million different opinions coming out of Sunday's game. The Riders themselves are spitting mad that they lost another one, as this club isn't used to that. As far as the fans go, of course several are spitting mad as well while others saw it was a very entertaining football game on a beautiful fall afternoon.
But everyone can agree on the fact the Roughriders now have hope with Kerry Joseph at quarterback until we see the return of the injured Darian Durant. Joseph got his first start since 2012 and tossed for 213 yards and a pair of touchdowns and truly did enough to win.
The backbreaker for the Riders was a 95-yard kick return touchdown by the Eskimos' Kendial Lawrence to open the second half. Saskatchewan was leading at the time, 13-4, but that took the wind out of their sails. And K.J. was on the sidelines watching as Lawrence cut through the Rider cover unit like a hot knife through butter.
It's all part of the tune up for the playoffs.
"You always want to win the game," reasoned Rider coach Corey Chamblin. "That's number one but you do have to look at the positives. We were up at halftime and if we don't give up the kick, maybe it's a different game. We are getting chemistry back together but we still have lots of work to do to pull it off."
And an assessment on Kerry Joseph?
"I thought Kerry was awesome," Chamblin twinkled. "I couldn't ask too much out of him. I thought he had to have help around him and he got it. He gives us a chance. When you look in his eyes, there was always a look that we could win it. That's what you want.
"For a guy that didn't go to camp and probably retired in his mind, I thought Kerry did an excellent job. It wasn't about individual play. It was a 5-point deal. Last time we lost 24-0 to them. We are headed in the right direction."
As far as Joseph is concerned, it was back to reality. Two weeks ago he was focusing on retirement. On Sunday and he was kicking smacked in the head by Odell Willis and crunched in the ribs by Almondo Sewell. The Eskimo defenders put every lick on him they could.
"It was real," Joseph explained. "But it's a nightmare we didn't come out with the win. I'm gonna be better and this team will be better. I know we'll do the things we need to do to be there in the end."
Immediately after the game Corey Chamblin anointed Joseph the starter for Friday's game at Calgary. It's a short week, prep time is limited, and Chamblin said Joseph's healthy, he'll play.
And what a convoluted mess the Rider quarterback depth chart will be since Darian Durant's due to come onto the roster this week as well! It's been a head-spinning seven weeks since Durant went down in the Banjo Bowl and although he hasn't yet been throwing (publicly anyways), he's scheduled to be activated this week according to GM Brendan Taman.
Hang onto your bingo cards. This thing isn't over yet.
(For daily Rider news follow Rod on Twitter at @sportscage)