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Saturday, July 21, 2018

BRIDGE FINDING HIS GROOVE

Photo: CFL.ca
The Saskatchewan Roughriders became difficult to stop when Brandon Bridge finally settled in at quarterback.

The Mississauga, Ont., native started the third straight game for Saskatchewan and took most of the snaps against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Tim Hortons Field on Thursday night, rallying the Roughriders from a 17-7 first-half deficit to a 31-20 win.

Bridge finished the night with 17-of-22 pass completions for 165 yards and one touchdown.

That wasn't the game plan going in, though.

Saskatchewan head coach Chris Jones planned to continue what he had been doing since Zach Collaros went down in Week 2 - switching up quarterbacks between Bridge and backup David Watford as the game necessitated.

In Saskatchewan's last game, at home against Hamilton, Jones changed between Bridge and Watford drive-to-drive six times. This time, it was Bridge's game, save for Watford's 2-of-3 passing for 13 yards.

Jones said Bridge looked comfortable and he didn't see a need to make the switches.

"Brandon did a real nice job,'' said Jones. "He threw for a very high completion (percentage) and took care of the football.''

"We just had opportunities and we were having pretty good success on first-and-10 doing what we were doing and so we just hung with it.''

In the first half, Bridge completed 8-of-12 pass attempts for 82 yards and the Roughriders were down 17-7. But he was near-perfect in the second half, completing 9-of-10 attempts for 83 yards and one touchdown, a 24-yard pass to Naaman Roosevelt. It was Bridge's first TD pass of the season.

Bridge said he felt like he was in a rhythm, especially after the TD pass.

"Definitely after that second drive of the second half,'' Bridge said. "We started to get a couple of passes in and then we got that shot play out to Naaman. After that, I felt like I was in my groove and I started to feel it.''

That's when Bridge figured the game plan would change.

"After the touchdown I really felt I was actually probably going to get the rest of the game depending on how we did,'' Bridge said. "I know how coach Jones is. If something isn't broken he's not going to fix it. He kind of left us all out there and we started rolling.''

Both teams return to the field next Saturday. Hamilton hosts Ottawa while Saskatchewan welcomes Calgary.

(Canadian Press)

Friday, July 20, 2018

REDBLACKS HOLD OFF LIONS 29-25

CFL.ca
OTTAWA - Ottawa Redblacks running back William Powell was talking earlier in the week about how they needed to get their offence back on track. Friday he let his play do the talking.

Powell rushed for 50 yards and scored a two-yard touchdown run in the final minute of the game to give the Ottawa Redblacks a 29-25 win over the B.C. Lions on Friday night. He also had seven catches for 61 yards while Lewis Ward kicked five field goals.

"We're going to go back to the drawing board and put a big emphasis on that we want to get touchdowns instead of putting three on the board and kicking field goals,'' Powell said.

"We can't have those stalled out drives and we have to keep the pace up. Whenever we keep the pace up and we're flowing and we're moving and we won't stop and we get the defence tired we always have success.''

That was certainly the case Friday as the Redblacks improved to 3-2 while dropping the Lions to 2-3 and handing them their eighth loss in their last nine road games.

"We have a new attitude and everyone believes. When the chips were down we came back and won,'' Powell said.

After Tyler Long kicked a 20-yard field goal giving the Lions a 25-22 lead with 1:59 to play, Trevor Harris drove the Redblacks 80 yards on eight plays capped off by Powell's two-yard run for the win.

Harris finished with 363 passing yards and a touchdown.

"The parity in this league is amazing. The close games we've got to be able to pull it off and tonight we did so we have to take a lesson from it, which we talked about as a team after the game,'' Harris said.

"It's gratifying to get the win, but just like last week that was one loss, this is one win.''

Travis Lulay threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns for the Lions, including a 78-yard catch-and-run play to Emmanuel Arceneaux inside the final three minutes that led to the Long field goal.

There was a time count violation that led to a loss of down on the drive taking the ball out of Lulay's hand for one more shot at the end zone.

"We had too many dropped balls. I don't know that we stalled, but at times we just didn't capitalize on plays and it hurts us along with the time count violation that cost us a chance to go for seven,'' Lions coach Wally Buono said.

"Give them credit though, they played hard and at the end they scored a touchdown at the end and we didn't.''

An incomplete pass on third down by Lulay with 25 seconds to play sealed the win for the Redblacks.

Lewis Ward's fifth field goal of the night, this one from 36-yards out, tied the game 22-22 for the Redblacks four minutes into the fourth quarter.

(Canadian Press)

SCRUFFY'S THIS N' THAT

Welcome to Saturday and the usual thoughts running through my muddled mind. As always, they come in no particular order:

--It doesn't matter how you do it and how unorthodox it may look.  It just matters that you win which is what the Saskatchewan Roughriders did Thursday night, beat the Tiger-Cats 31-20 in Hamilton. 

You can complain about Chris Jones all you want and criticize every move he makes, but at the end of the day his football team is 3-2. Yes, if it weren't for a brain-cramp against Montreal they would be 4-1. How are they at this point?  They are trudging along with the back-up quarterback who is showing signs of getting better, but still looks uncomfortable. They are doing it with their best player in the wrong position and they are doing it. They are finding a way.  The buttons being pushed by Jones are producing victories.  Its as unorthodox as you know what and you may not like it, but the bottom line is they are 3-2.

--The hue and cry of Rider Nation could be heard loudly as the Riders plodded their way through an uninspiring first half.  The offence couldn't do much and while the defence was doing its best to keep their team in the game, it looked like Hamilton would earn a split of the home-and-home as they went into the room at the half.  Then it was BOOM!!  The team that couldn't or didn't want to run the football started the 2nd half with an 80 yard Marcus Thigpen touchdown run, the dormant Jerome Messam got in the game and plowed his way to 70 yards on 12 carries.  Tre Mason busted one for 30 on a 3rd and 2.

Hitch screens and shovel passes which had some frantically cursing or typing away at their keyboards were silent when Jordan Williams-Lambert took a shovel pass for 17 yards with Bridge then sucking the defence in on a go pattern as he found a widdddddddde open Naaman Roosevelt for a 32 yard score.  As TSN's Glen Suitor so aptly put it,  the Riders baited Hamilton by continuing with the little hitch and dump passes knowing Hamilton would bite which they did.  When the green-and-white got their chance, they capitalized.

--As Chris Jones said a couple of weeks ago, he doesn't care what the fans think when it comes to his decisions.  He doesn't care what anyone thinks.  He just gets results. Results he has gotten at every CFL stop he has made.  The bottom line is Jones and crew are getting it done much to your enjoyment or your chagrin.  Is Jones above the criticism? No he's not as is any coach, but you are measured by wins and losses and at the end of the day this team is 3-2.  Not bad!

--Farewell Fantuz!  The announcement Thursday of Andy Fantuz's retirement didn't really shock anyone I think.  What a career he had!  There haven't been many better Canadian receivers in my time watching the CFL. His hands were special and his TD catch in the 2007 Grey Cup forever endeared him to Rider Nation.  Plaza?  Hall of Fame?  Absolutely!  How can you not have him in both!

--The Terrell Owens/Edmonton Eskimos story is bizarre and is now over.   Did the Eskimos think a 44 year old man who hasn't played football in years would help them? Did they think someone will give them something of substance to get T-O's rights? Will another team want to bring T-O in?  Please don't for the good of the league.

--The Kawhi Leonard-Demar DeRozan trade is still one that leaves me scratching my head. If Leonard can sign long-term with the Raptors, I think it is a win for them, but there is no indication at this time to think Leonard's time in "The Six" will be for more than one year when he bolts in free agency.   As PTI's Mike Wilbon said,  it comes down to the Raptors asking themselves can they get more in one year with Leonard than they could for three years with DeRozan.  Management thought yes so the deal was made.  We'll see.

--Speaking of DeRozan,  I guess Gatorade has to re-do its one commercial featuring him. It's been a pet peeve of mine for years, but why doesn't corporate Canada embrace CFL players,  Gatorade can't use Mike Reilly, Bo Levi Mitchell, Duron Carter or someone else? No company that advertises with the CFL can find a player for an ad campaign? It is somewhat astounding!

--Speaking on the Dan Patrick show this week, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred was talking expansion.  Montreal's name came up which didn't surprise me, but Manfred then said "maybe someplace else in Canada".  ??????  Is he talking about Vancouver? The Seattle Mariners would love them as a close rival, but they would hate Blue Jays fans staying away from SAFECO Field,  Winnipeg has a great park where the Goldeyes play, but that park would have to have a lot done to it to make it major-league standards.  The only other place would be Calgary.  Calgary certainly has the corporate to make it work. Would this be what is needed to get the Stampeders a new stadium?  I've never heard Manfred say another Canadian centre besides Montreal.  At the end of the day, I have to think he is talking about Vancouver, but who knows.  Calgary for an MLB team?  Sign me up for yearly visits, especially if the team is a National League one that would see a visit each year from the Cubs.

--We go into the weekend at the Open Championship and while some big names like Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia are out, many are right there.  Rory McIlroy is two back, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler are three back and Jason Day, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickleson are six back. It is going to be a great weekend of early-morning golf.  Sign me up!

--I never ever thought I would say this, but perhaps it is time we just scrapped the national anthem before sporting events.  Sadly, it has become too big of a hassle.  Just remove it from the equation and let's move on for the betterment of all.  When it comes to international play, play it at the end for the winning nation as done at the Olympics.

--That's all I got  Enjoy the weekend!

MITCHELL TO START VERSUS ALOUETTES

CALGARY - When it was announced that Bo Levi Mitchell would start at quarterback for the Calgary Stampeders this weekend, it may have come as a surprise to some people.

Not to Mitchell.

Although Mitchell sustained a knee injury late in the second quarter of Calgary's 27-3 road win over the Ottawa Redblacks on July 12, the veteran of seven CFL seasons with the Stampeders (4-0) knew he would be good to go to face the visiting Montreal Alouettes (1-3) on Saturday at McMahon Stadium.

"In my head, I knew I was going to start the whole week,'' said Mitchell, who will wear a brace on his right knee. "That's just my mindset; never wanting to come off the field.

"Just brace it up, get out there and tough it out and play, but make sure I run the offence to the best of my ability.''

Earlier in the week, Calgary coach Dave Dickenson was a little less optimistic than his QB, but he changed his mind after watching Mitchell run the offence during practice on Thursday.

"I wanted to see how he felt (Friday) morning after doing a little bit more,'' said Dickenson, who also gave backup quarterback Nick Arbuckle lots of practice time. "It seems like it responded. I feel good about it and he does too. He's been around our offence a long time, so the lack of practice reps I don't think will be a big issue. It doesn't hurt that we were able to get our other guy some reps.''

Arbuckle, who completed eight of 14 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown in a relief appearance against Ottawa, wasn't shocked that Mitchell was announced as the starter.

"If I was in his same shoes, it would take something extremely serious to keep me out of the game,'' Arbuckle said. "Under my own philosophy, if I can crawl out on the field, I'm going to play even if I'm not 100 per cent. That's just how I've always been as a competitor.

"Bo being Bo, it doesn't surprise me at all that he'll be starting.''

Should he get the call to relieve Mitchell once again, Arbuckle said he'll be ready.

"Just from a mental standpoint, I'm preparing like I always do and making sure I'm ready to perform and execute my job if I do get a chance to go in there,'' he said. ``Whatever it is, making sure that I can perform to the level that I expect of myself and that the coaches expect of me. I'll be ready to go in if I need to be.''

(Canadian Press)

Thursday, July 19, 2018

FAMOSO RECAP: ROUGHRIDERS 31 TIGER-CATS 20


HAMILTON - Brandon Bridge kept Dave Watford on the bench and Jeremiah Masoli out of the CFL record book.

Bridge threw a key TD pass and had just one incompletion in an impressive second half as the Saskatchewan Roughriders rallied for a 31-20 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Thursday night. After splitting time the previous two weeks with Watford, Bridge kept his teammate on the bench from the second quarter on.

"Obviously when you have a couple of drives then you start to feel it,'' said Bridge. "I will definitely say I got into a rhythm.''

Once again Saskatchewan's game plan was to use both quarterbacks throughout. But head coach Chris Jones said Bridge's play (17-of-22 passing for 165 yards and a TD) made him change that approach.

"Brandon did a real nice job,'' Jones said. "He threw for a very high completion (percentage) and took care of the football.

"He was having success on first and 10 with what we were calling. When something is going well, just like last year when KG (Kevin Glenn) played well you wouldn't see Brandon Bridge.''

Bridge was especially sharp in the second half, completing 9-of-10 passes for 83 yards and the touchdown.

Saskatchewan (3-2) erased a 10-point deficit by outscoring Hamilton 21-3 in the third quarter. Marcus Thigpen began the comeback with an 80-yard TD run just 33 seconds into the third before Bridge found Naaman Roosevelt on a 24-yard scoring strike at 5:10 to put the Riders ahead 21-17, thanks in part to a bizarre decision by the Ticats (2-3).

Roosevelt's TD came after Hamilton starter Jeremiah Masoli's stunning unsuccessful onside kick - ruled a fumble as it didn't cross the line of scrimmage - was recovered by Saskatchewan's Willie Jefferson. Lirim Hajrullahu's 35-yard field goal at 8:32 pulled the Ticats to within 21-20 before Christion Jones cemented the victory with a 61-yard punt return TD at 13:46.

"Any time you turn the football over, that's one of the biggest things,'' said Jones. "He (Hamilton coach June Jones) had a good designed play.

"They actually started out with their punt team and brought back their offence and kind of got us between personnel groupings. It comes down to the kick in those type things.''

Masoli took ownership of the play.

"I just missed it,'' he said. "We've been doing it pretty good, that's why we're confident about it.''

There were reports of discord on Hamilton's sideline in the second half, something June Jones addressed with his team.

"That's something that losers do,'' he said. "(After Thigpen TD), it's a one-score game still.

"You've got to answer the bell when everything's against you ... that's how you become a championship team.''

Chris Jones said Thigpen's touchdown was a big one for the Riders.

"We were down 10 and that's what we talked about before we went out,'' Jones said. "If we can come out with some kind of points then it will be a tight ball game.''

Brett Lauther's 35-yard field goal at 5:33 of the fourth rounded out the scoring. On Tuesday, Jones stopped practice and read his team the riot act for a sub-par effort.

Bridge, of Mississauga, Ont., earned his third win as a CFL starter. All have come against Hamilton.

Masoli fell short in his bid for a CFL-record 10th straight 300-yard passing performance. He finished 20-of-27 passing for 184 yards with an interception and a lost fumble before a Tim Hortons Field gathering of 23,346 that also included Andy Fantuz. The former Ticats/Riders slotback retired Thursday following a 12-year CFL career and was honoured on the field following the first.

"He (Masoli) is a great quarterback,'' Chris Jones said. "We've got to do some different looks and use some different people in different ways and try to utilize the coverage.

"Again we didn't do a great job of covering them tonight but we did enough to win the football game.''

June Jones said his team was often its own worst enemy.

"We didn't execute very well, obviously,'' he said. "A lot of stupid penalties, a lot of mental errors to be quite honest.

"Good football teams don't win that way and we're not a good football team right at the moment. But we'll get better from it and we'll have to let this one hurt for a while.''

Saskatchewan earned a sweep of the home-and-home series after earning an 18-13 home win over Hamilton on July 5. The Riders have earned five straight wins over the Ticats.

This marked the first time in Hamilton club history it opened a season with five straight games versus West Division teams. The Ticats host the Ottawa Redblacks next Saturday.

Frankie Williams, on a 98-yard punt return, and John White IV scored Hamilton's first-half touchdowns. Hajrullahu booted the converts and two field goals.


Lauther had three field goals, three converts and a single.

(Canadian Press)

POSTGAME COMMENTS FROM RIDER COACH CHRIS JONES:

- We'll see if we took the next step on offense. Give credit where it's due. They got a good football team and led by 10 points at the half. But we stuck to our guns and made the plays in the second half that we didn't in the first half. We kept our nose to the grindstone and believed in what we're doing.

- 213 yards rushing. I don't care if it's Little League football. That's a good job. All 3 backs did a nice job. No turnovers and five penalties. That's what I'm most proud of.

- They're a very good football team. They've done a nice job putting their team together and their coaches throw a lot at ya.

- We've gotta assess the injured guys. Hopefully Labatte isn't down and it looks like Moncrief will be for awhile. We've got some work to do but that's why we play and coach football.  It'll be a LB/DB type guy we put on.  We'll have to assess who we have and that guy's first test will be against Calgary.

RP
@rodpedersen

FANTUZ TO RETIRE


HAMILTON - One of the most productive Canadian receivers in CFL history is calling it quits.

Former Roughrider and Tiger-Cat Andy Fantuz announced his retirement before Thursday night's game between Hamilton and Saskatchewan.

The 34-year-old native of Chatham, Ont., played 12 CFL seasons with Saskatchewan (2006-11) and Hamilton (2012-17), registering 637 receptions for 8,363 yards and 44 touchdowns. He is ranked fourth among Canadians in receptions and 18th on the overall CFL list.

Fantuz was named the league's most outstanding Canadian in 2010. He played in five Grey Cup games, winning one in 2007 with the Roughriders. He also was named the Grey Cup game's most valuable Canadian twice.

Fantuz battled injuries in recent years, playing just three games in 2017 after returning from a torn ACL. He was not signed by any team for the 2018 season.

The Roughriders picked Fantuz third overall in 2006 after an outstanding university career with the Western Mustangs. He won the Hec Crighton Trophy as the top player in the CIS in 2005.

(The Canadian Press)

DOUBLE Z AG SALES PREVIEW: SASKATCHEWAN AT HAMILTON

Photo: CFL.ca
ROUGHRIDERS (2-2) AT TIGER-CATS (2-2)

WHEN: 5:30 pm Sask Time, Thursday, July 19/2018
WHERE: Tim Hortons Field, Hamilton
BROADCAST: TSN, ESPN+, 620 CKRM Network, Sirius/XM Ch 167
FORECAST: Sunny, 27 degrees Celsius
THE LINE: Ticats favoured by 11-points
REFEREE: Andre Proulx

RIDERS: Road 0-1, Vs East 2-2
TICATS: Home 1-0, Vs West 2-2

RIDERS OFFENSE: RUSH 5TH, PASS 9TH, OVERALL 7TH
QB Brandon Bridge leads the team in passing (357 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs) ... WR Naaman Roosevelt leads the club in receiving (166 yards, 2 TDs) ... RB Jerome Messam leads the team in rushing (110 yards, 0 TDs) ... Riders are 7th in points scored and 6th in fewest sacks allowed.

TICATS OFFENSE: RUSH 3RD, PASS 1ST, OVERALL 1ST
QB Jeremiah Masoli is #2 in CFL passing (1378 yards, 4 TDs, 4 INTs) ... WR Brandon Banks is #3 in CFL receiving (360 yards, 1 TD) ... RB Mercer Timmis leads the team in rushing (175 yards, 4 TDs) ... Ticats are 4th in points scored and 4th in sacks allowed

RIDERS DEFENSE: RUSH 1ST, PASS 9TH, OVERALL 4TH
DE Charleston Hughes leads the CFL in sacks (5) ... LB Derrick Moncrief leads in defensive tackles (20) ... DBs Duron Carter and Nick Marshall lead in interceptions (1) .. Riders are 4th in points allowed and 5th in sacks made.

TICATS DEFENSE: RUSH 4TH, PASS 2ND, OVERALL 2ND
DT Ted Laurent leads the team in sacks (2) ... LB Larry Dean leads in tackles (21) ... DBs Richard Leonard and Cariel Brooks lead in INT (1) ... Ticats are 2nd in points and 6th in sacks.

RIDERS SPECIAL TEAMS: K Brett Lauther is 3rd in field goal percentage (90.9%) ... P Josh Bartel is 9th in punting average (42.3) with 3 punts inside the 10 ... Christion Jones leads in KR and PR yards

TICATS SPECIAL TEAMS: K/P Lirim Hajrallahu is 2nd in field goal percentage (91.7%) and 6th in punting average (44.6) ... Jackson Bennett leads in KR yards and Frankie Williams leads in PR yards ... Lucas Wacha leads in special teams tackles (5).

NOTES: Saskatchewan is -2 in turnover ratio (6th) while Hamilton is -3 (8th) ... The Ticats are 4th in penalties, the Riders 6th ... Saskatchewan has won four consecutive games against Hamilton including an 18-13 victory in Week 4 on July 5 in Regina.

RP
@rodpedersen