- 1979 -
2 Wins 14 Losses - 5th Place West Division
Joey Walters Touchdown Catch
The Origins of Rider Pride
Rob Vanstone, The Leader-Post October 28, 2009
Since 2007, it has been easy for any follower of the Saskatchewan Roughriders to precisely forecast the attendance -- given the frequency of sellouts.
Back in 1979, the outcome seemed just as predictable.
The Roughriders kept losing ... and losing ... and losing ...
Whether it was games or money, the losses kept accruing. Nearing mid-October, the rebuilding Roughriders had yet to win a game. The attendance at Taylor Field, which had just been expanded to 27,606 seats, generally flirted with an unsatisfactory 20,000.
A typical crowd -- 20,042 -- bravely turned out for what was projected to be the latest in a string of losses for the worst Roughriders team that any fan under 60 can remember watching.
The Roughriders had an 0-12 record heading into an Oct. 14, 1979, Canadian Football League home date with the Edmonton Eskimos, who would soon win their second of five consecutive Grey Cups. If ever a team looked like fodder, it was Saskatchewan on a day that would almost assuredly not be a happy 41st birthday for the team's first-year head coach Ron Lancaster, who had spent the previous 16 seasons as the team's quarterback.
Shockingly, it turned out to be one of those "on any given Sunday'' games.
The contest ended in dramatic fashion, when Edmonton's future Hall of Fame kicker Dave Cutler lined up to attempt a 32-yard, game-winning field goal on the final play. Cutler's kick went wide and was retrieved by Emil Nielsen, who booted the ball out of the end zone to prevent Edmonton from registering a game-tying single.
Tom Wilkinson, who was holding for Cutler, caught the ball and booted it back into the Saskatchewan end zone.
Roughriders kicker Bob Macoritti retrieved Wilkinson's punt and again hoofed it out of danger. Wilkinson caught the ball once more, but did so while out of bounds. Macoritti, meanwhile, was writhing on the turf with a serious knee injury. For everyone else, the victory had alleviated the pain.
"As much as I loved to win and we were able to celebrate and get the monkey off our back for a minute, I was still thinking, 'Let's just keep this in perspective. It's just one win. We've lost 12 of them. Let's not get too carried away here,' '' said Joey Walters, who caught nine passes for 212 yards -- including a 52-yard touchdown pass from Danny Sanders -- on that autumn afternoon.
"We could breathe for a minute, but we were still at the bottom of the pole.''
Fan morale had also descended leading up to the Edmonton game, but the improbable victory ignited a fuse.
John Robertson took notice.
Robertson, who wrote classic sports columns for the Leader-Post in the 1960s, was a sports writer and broadcaster in Winnipeg in 1979. Few Winnipeggers have been inclined to lead a charge in favour of the Roughriders, but Robertson was an exception.
With one home game remaining -- an Oct. 28, 1979, meeting with the B.C. Lions -- Robertson was a key player in "Rider Pride Day.'' The goal was to sell out Taylor Field for what was, according to the standings, a meaningless clash with B.C.
In the 10 days leading up to the game, Robertson made five trips to Regina while paying his own travel and accommodations expenses.
"There is a magnet here,'' he told the crowd at the Roughriders' $200-a-plate dinner. "It's like an old lover I keep coming back to.'' Robertson was offered a $500 speaker's fee, but declined any compensation. He was also a guest on open-line radio shows that were used to sell tickets for the game.
The campaign was an unqualified success. After staring at thousands of empty new seats, game after game after game, the Roughriders were welcomed by 28,012 onlookers -- many of whom were wearing Rider Pride buttons.
The Green and White delivered, much like the fans, by defeating B.C. 26-12. The Roughriders would not win another game that year, finishing 2-14, but the regular-season home finale left an enduring imprint.
"It was good to see that last game come about when they put together the slogan 'Rider Pride' to see the 28,000 at the game,'' Lancaster said in May of 2008. "That was the beginning of Rider Pride.''
And it happened 30 years ago today.
Dave Naylor- Globe Webpage Oct 2, 2007
Former Saskatchewan Roughrider running back
Kenton Keith had his best NFL day on Sunday when he carried 10 times for
80 yards in the Indianpolis Coltsí win over Denver.
1979 Team Statistics
Avg Att: 21,143
Week 1 v BC
British Columbia 28
A seemingly-weak offensive effort spoiled Ron Lancaster's debut as coach of the Roughriders, as three second-half touchdowns, two by RB Larry Key, put the Lions on top
Week 2 @ Edmonton
Edmonton WR Waddell Smith romped through the defense, as he caught 10 passes for 232 yards and scored two TDs, as the Eskimos rolled up 559 yards on offense
Week 3 v Hamilton
Hamilton could muster just seven points in the first three quarters, then exploded for 17 in the fourth. Zac Henderson made an end-zone interception with 14 seconds left to clinch
Week 4 @ British Columbia
BRITISH COLUMBIA 24
The Lions recorded their fourth straight win thanks to Lui Passaglia who kicked five FGs. RB Larry Key scored the Lions' lone TD with 1:34 left in the game
Week 5 - Bye
Week 6 @ Toronto
Terry Metcalf and Mike McArthur scored a TD each for Toronto's first win over Saskatchewan since 1974. Metcalf scored on a 10-yard pass and McArthur's TD came on a five-yard run
Week 7 v Calgary
Penalties and flaring Calgary tempers forced the Stamps to punt from their own 26 in the final seconds. A Rider attempt at a single and a tie by kicking the ball back failed
Week 8 @ Winnipeg
Mike Holmes hauled in six passes for 107 yards, with two of his receptions from Dieter Brock good for TDs of 47 and 13 yards. Walt Passaglia scored the other Winnipeg major
The Riders took another financial bath with the crowd, with rumors the team will lose $450,000. Mike Holmes, Dieter Brock and Gord Paterson scored the Bombers TDs
Week 9 @ Edmonton
The Eskimos ran up 39 points in the first half, as QB Warren Moon, in his first start of the season, directed the Eskimos for five first-half TDs, two from RB Jim Germany
Week 10 v Calgary
Calvin Kirk scored two TDs in his first game since coming over from the Riders, who suffered their 10th straight loss. Calgary's Willie Burden scored three TDs
Week 11 @ Montreal
David Green picked up 129 yards on 25 carries to become the first rusher to pass the 1,000-yard mark. He ran 17 yards for the only TD in the third
Week 12 - Bye
Week 13 v Ottawa
The Roughies continued their winless ways thanks to a failed two-point conversion attempt on the final play of the game
Week 14 v Edmonton
Week 15 @ Winnipeg
Dieter Brock completed 21 of 36 passes for 248 yards and two TDs. The rest was up to league scoring leader Bernie Ruoff, who kicked three FGs, a convert and a 54-yard single
Week 16 v British Columbia
Brit Col 12
Before a record crowd, CB Frank Dark intercepted a Joe Paopao pass and returned it 100 yards for a TD to give Saskatchewan an early lead and the Roughriders were never in trouble
Week 18 @ Calgary
QB Ken Johnson had a big day for the Stamps completing 14 of 20 passes for 305 yards and four TDs. He received 105 yards on one play when he teamed with Willie Armstead