REGINA - Don't tell Ryan Dinwiddie that Saturday's game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats is “meaningless.”
He’s not buying it.
Dinwiddie will start at quarterback for the Roughriders in place of Darian Durant, who has a broken bone in his left foot and a sprained ankle. Cole Bergquist, Saskatchewan’s third-string quarterback, is expected to get some playing time as well.
Dinwiddie’s future in the CFL, either as a Roughrider or with another team, might well depend on how he performs against the visiting Tiger-Cats on Saturday and the Edmonton Eskimos next Friday.
“I think about it every day,” Dinwiddie said. “It comes with the territory. We all know that.”
The 31-year-old Dinwiddie, in his second year with the Riders, has seen only limited action this season and has not lived up to expectations — his or anyone else’s.
He has completed 37 of 67 passes for 515 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions.
The Riders are a disappointing 4-12 and, after back-to-back losses to the Montreal Alouettes in the Grey Cup, will not qualify for the playoffs this year.
Saskatchewan is now focused on rebuilding for next season, and in that respect, Dinwiddie said, the remaining two games are important to all of the players.
“The guys realize this is our last two weeks together,” he said. “The locker-room is never the same the next year.”
Bergquist, who is in his second season with the team, has not thrown a pass this season. He has seen the field only twice, on short-yardage situations, gaining one yard on two carries.
“It adds a little pressure on me,” Bergquist said of his promotion from third-stringer to backup, “but I put even more pressure on myself.”
Saskatchewan head coach Ken Miller told reporters Friday that he has discussed the situation with both quarterbacks, but would not divulge exactly how the playing time will be split between Dinwiddie and Bergquist in the final two games.
Bergquist, 25, appears to be the fan favourite these days, but Dinwiddie is not concerned that his teammate is waiting in the wings.
“I’m not worried about what he does,” said Dinwiddie, who is concentrating on his own performance and, of course, the Hamilton defence.
The Tiger-Cats (8-8) rely on a strong outside pass rush from defensive ends Justin Hickman and Stevie Baggs, and a secondary known for tight man-to-man coverage.
“They’re a good team,” Dinwiddie said. “We’re going to have to play well to beat them.”
Miller expects his offence to "go hard" regardless of who is taking the snaps.
“It’s a very tight unit,” he said. “It’s a cohesive group.”
While he acknowledges that, under the circumstances, the prudent thing would be to do some “groundwork” for 2012, Miller stressed that the ultimate objective remains the same.
“I want to see them win,” he said. “We’re going to play the football game to win the football game.”
With his players, Miller has emphasized such things as “individual dignity” and individual pride.”
Along with that, he argued, the Roughriders have an obligation to put forth a strong effort as a gesture of appreciation to their fans, this being the final game at Mosaic Stadium this season.
“Playing the last game here,” Miller said, “is going to be emotional for a lot of people.”