REGINA — The typically talkative Stevie Baggs spared a few words when assessing the state of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“I can say a lot, but I won’t,’’ Baggs said while reflecting on Saturday’s 24-6 CFL loss to the host Hamilton Tiger-Cats. “I’ll just say this: This game this past week was obviously a wake-up call, but it’s something you can hang your hat on to let you know you’re not as good as you think you are sometimes. That’s talking directly to me first, and then to the whole team.
“Sometimes you kind of get to a point where you feel like you’ve been playing very well, but you’re not as good as you think you are. Everybody in this league gets paid to play and to coach as well, so what’s going to make you different? I think our effort is our edge that makes us different. That’s probably the thing I’d say.’’
The Roughriders are to return to practice Tuesday in preparation for Saturday’s West Division first-place showdown with the visiting Calgary Stampeders. Calgary leads the West with a 10-6-1 record. Saskatchewan is second at 9-7-1. If the teams finish with the same record, the Roughriders would get the nod by virtue of having won the season series.
A quick return to form is required for the Roughriders, who were undefeated in three games before the regression at Ivor Wynne Stadium.
“It was humbling and humiliating in the same sense,’’ Baggs said. “Personally, I feel like I played a terrible game. I feel like I played the worst that I’ve played all year. It got to a point where you didn’t know what to do. I felt like defensively, at a point in time in the game, that we couldn’t stop these guys. You don’t want to feel like that, ever.
“I just think that this week is huge for us. This week is going to test how strong of a team we really are. Coming off a loss like that to an Eastern team — we’ve dominated the East, aside from Montreal — we were supposed to be in a position where we have our (10th) win and we’re going our fourth consecutive game without a loss. We have to do our business this week — our diligence.’’
Quarterback Darian Durant shares Baggs’ hope that the loss in Hamilton serves as a timely wake-up call.
“I was telling some of the guys, ‘We kind of needed this to bring us down a little bit,’ ’’ Durant said. “We’ve been playing pretty well on offence the past couple of weeks. We needed a game like this to bring us back down to show us what we need to do to get better. We have something to work towards.’’
That is especially true on offence, given how the Roughriders struggled to move the football against the Tiger-Cats — despite scoring 92 points in regulation time over the previous three games.
“I think we lost a little bit of focus in the Hamilton game,’’ Durant noted. “We have to make sure we focus on fundamentals and whatever it takes to win a football game. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to scratch and claw and do everything in our power. We have a game at home and that’s what it’s all about.’’
Now the question remains: Will the Roughriders seize the opportunity to finish first in the West for the first time since 1976?
“Throughout this whole season, we’ve let games go that we should have won,’’ Baggs said. “We wouldn’t even be in this situation had we done that. With that being said, we’re still in a position to be in first place in the West Division. You can’t ask for much more than that. It’s an opportunity, and all you can ask for is an opportunity.’’firstname.lastname@example.org
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Man, Baggs sure has as a way with words. It's good to see that he and others know that it's time to really buckle down and work out the kinks in order to seize this weekend's opportunity.