SPORTS

Saskatchewan Roughriders credit Miller's return to sidelines for turnaround

09/13/2011 05:47 EDT | Updated 01/12/2012 02:21 EST
REGINA - The Saskatchewan Roughriders are on a nice roll and they're giving Ken Miller credit for it.

Miller returned to the sidelines and took control of an under-achieving offence Aug. 19 following the firing of head coach Greg Marshall and offensive co-ordinator Doug Berry.

The Riders were a dismal 1-7 at the time but under Miller are 2-0 following consecutive victories over the East Division-leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

"We feel confident in what we're doing right now," defensive halfback Lance Frazier said Tuesday. "That's what we were lacking before.

"Coach Miller has made us believe in ourselves again."

Quarterback Darian Durant has arguably benefited the most from Miller's influence, most notably being able to call his own plays. While Durant completed 27-of-48 passes for 462 yards combined versus Winnipeg, he had seven TD passes against one interception.

Durant has also protected the ball while running, surrendering no fumbles after giving up six before Miller's return.

"He makes you want to play for him," said Durant. "That has everything to do with him.

"When you're calling your own plays you're in a position where you can't fail."

Or, as veteran slotback Jason Clermont put it: "With privilege comes responsibility."

According to Clermont, Miller's influence isn't about motivating players, it's about teaching them to motivate themselves.

"I think what he does is streamline the focus for the guys each week and instills a certain culture," Clermont said.

Motivation, Clermont suggests, is often misunderstood.

"It's not at all about cheerleading," he said. "There's no cheerleading involved. He's not a rah-rah kind of guy."

Miller stepped down as Riders coach after last season to concentrate full-time on being the club's vice-president of football operations. He has stressed the importance of dedication and perseverance to his players by citing an ancient Greek myth, the story of Sisyphus, who was condemned to rolling a huge boulder up a hill, only to see it roll back down again.

"Football is like that," Clermont said. "You're going to be pushing that rock every week."

Miller has also drawn analogies between athletes and horses.

"He told us, 'I'm asking everyone in this (dressing) room to be a thoroughbred,' " Clermont said. "Thoroughbreds want to run hard all the time, they almost have to be held back.

"If you need to be whipped, that makes you a donkey or a mule."

Miller is taking the compliments in stride, adding modestly that the real credit for the turnaround should go to the assistant coaches and players.

"The guys are playing fast and physical and having fun doing it," he said.

Miller led Saskatchewan to Grey Cup appearances in 2009 and 2010 and already there's the feeling he should remain as head coach beyond the 2011 season.

"Hopefully, if I'm lucky to be around, he'll be here, too," said Frazier.

Clermont agrees.

"You don't have enough pages in your notebook to write about Ken Miller," he said.

Saskatchewan will look to earn a third straight win Saturday when it hosts the struggling Toronto Argonauts (2-8). It was after a 24-18 road loss to the Argos on Aug. 18 that Marshall and Berry were relieved of their duties.

Clermont said he believes the momentum Miller has generated will carry the Riders through their final eight regular-season games and into the playoffs.

"Absolutely," he said.

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