Don’t blame the referees.
That’s the message that offensive lineman Thaddeus Coleman had at the end of the west semi-final Sunday night.
The Roughriders fell 23-18 to the Blue Bombers in a snow game at Mosaic Stadium, but the ending was marred when Brandon Bridge took a vicious hit to the head on the second last play of the game.
The hit by Bombers defensive lineman Jackson Jeffcoat crumpled the starting pivot who was in the game because Zach Collaros was not feeling right after he took a head shot at the end of the season – a call that was also missed by CFL referees.
“It’s unfortunate it seems like it’s a part of football – that physical plays happen,” said head coach Chris Jones after the game. “We’ve kind of revisited it two times in the last few weeks. It’s an unfortunate event but I guess it’s part of football in our league.”
Commissioner Randy Ambrosie responded to the non-call with a statement on Twitter Sunday which said it was “clearly a missed call” and that the league will look into allowing the command centre to make these kind of calls.
“We need to do more than admit an error. We need to search for a solution,” the statement closed.
There was no update on Bridge’s condition at the end of the game as he was still being assessed by the Riders medical staff.
There was one play left in the game when Bridge was knocked out of it and had the play been penalized the Riders would have been 15 yards closer to the end zone. Instead, David Watford came in and his Hail Mary pass was intercepted.
But Coleman refused to put that on the referees or the non-call.
“I’m not even going to blame the refs,” the offensive lineman said. “We as Saskatchewan – we can’t let it comes down to the last two plays. No, that’s not on the referees … We had our shots in the first half to score touchdowns, we took field goals. I’m keeping it real, we can’t do that. In professional football you can’t keep kicking field goals.”
And the Roughriders kicked four of them, Winnipeg kicked three, but they also added two touchdowns to Saskatchewan’s one. The Bombers also won the turnover battle, keeping the ball in their own hands while Bridge threw an interception late in the first half.
“They countered what we did and we never countered back,” Coleman said.
“If we could have just got one of those balls in there for a touchdown it might be a little different,” added Jones. “It’s a team effort, it has been all year long and for us, it always will be.”
And it was hard for the team to imagine if they’d have been better off with Collaros behind centre. Jones said the defence brought a lot of pressure and Bridge handled it well.
“Who is to say that either guy would have done any better,” Jones said.
And with the season over he also shined some light on the circumstances that saw Collaros sit out for the game.
Jones said Collaros cleared concussion protocol on paper, but was not feeling 100 percent.
“We knew early in the week that Zach wasn’t (playing). He came back off his break, he didn’t have any problems when he was home, he flew back over and said he just didn’t (feel right),” he explained. “I just wasn’t going to risk it.”
Instead he prepared his players the best he could for the circumstances and when it was over sent them home with an important message.
“I love ’em. I love ’em. I love ’em. I appreciate all of them. I want to wring their necks one minute but then you want to put your arm around them the next … they play hard, they show up to work everyday. It makes it real easy spending 18, 19 hours a day down here because you know you’re doing it for the right reasons. You got a good group standing behind you.”
A group whose season unfortunately ended a little short of its goal.
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