This is going to be a very to-the-point edition of Out of the Tunnel. There really isn’t too much left to discuss after the Riders sleepwalked their way over a very bad Montreal Alouettes team 37-12 Friday night in Regina.
The Riders have some very good things going for them heading into a crucial Week 20 battle against the Eskimos this Saturday at Mosaic Stadium.
Save for the awkward rotation of the quarterbacks (more on that later) and a hint of showboating by Bakari Grant (to which he has now learned his lesson - we hope!) offensively, the Riders look solid.
The offensive line is getting healthy, Chad Owens and Caleb Holley showed that there is great depth at receiver and for all the doubt coming in about Trent Richardson, he had a strong 127-yard effort and notched his first two touchdowns in the CFL.
The rotation of Kevin Glenn and Brandon Bridge was incredibly intriguing. It felt very much like a final pre-season game of the year. It’s a luxury the Riders had against a weak Alouettes club and it gave the coaching staff a bit of insight on who will start (and get the bulk of the playing time) against the Edmonton Eskimos.
Defensively it was more of the same: big plays, turnovers and buzzing around the football.
After the final whistle, the road to the Grey Cup began for the Green and White. The formula is simple, a win over the Eskimos Saturday evening at Mosaic Stadium and the Riders will battle through the West Division with a semi-final game in Winnipeg, a loss and it’s eastward bound to either Ottawa or Toronto.
It is a great gauge to see if the Riders have peaked at the right time of the season. After a 30-15 loss in Week seven in B.C., they have gone a sparkling 8-3 and have a shot at third in the division.
Edmonton has had some extreme ups and downs this season. Starting with a seven game winning streak then losing six games and now the winners of four straight, including a 29-20 win over the Stampeders on Saturday night.
Mike Reilly is returning to form and has a receiving corps that rivals that of the Riders. Brandon Zylstra is having an all-star year, Derel Walker has made a successful return from his crack at the NFL, Adarius Bowman had five catches against Calgary and even Vidal Hazleton is contributing.
Even with all of that, the key to Edmonton’s turnaround is C.J. Gable. Stop him and the Eskimo offence should grind to a halt.
It’s much of the same for the Riders offensively. They now have a bell cow running back in the fold with Trent Richardson (and one in the wings in Cameron Marshall) and they should ride him as far as they can, or at least until they figure out the quarterbacking situation.
To sum everything up, if the Riders want to play in the Grey Cup in Ottawa, they must go through the West. Both Toronto and Ottawa are playing great football right now, while Winnipeg is ravaged by injuries and Calgary has finally shown some rust in the armour.
That is why Saturday is so big for both teams. The winner of this game will be in the Grey Cup.
The Saskatoon Hilltops breezed their way to the Canadian Bowl championship game by dismantling the BCFC champ Vancouver Island Raiders 47-0. They will now head out east to play the Windsor AKO Fratmen next Saturday afternoon for the national title.
Saskatoon used a stifling defence, holding the Raiders to under 200 yards of offence for the whole game, while racking up almost 400 yards of offence on their own.
As a point of reference, Windsor hosted the Edmonton Huskies in the beginning of the season and the Huskies rolled to the 40-7 victory.
Canada West Diary:
It was a wild final week of the Canada West season with three playoff positions up for grabs. The real drama began with what may be the biggest upset of the season.
The Alberta Golden Bears ripped the number one ranked and undefeated Calgary Dinos 53-3. It is the first time since 2010 that the Golden Bears will make an appearance in the Canada West Playoffs. Ed Ilnicki had another great game. His 159 yards rushing gave him a new conference record for rushing yards in a season with 1,468. That win put all the pressure on the Saskatchewan Huskies as they hosted the Manitoba Bisons Saturday night.
The Huskies had to win and win by 37 for them to snatch a playoff berth. It was looking promising as mid-way through the second quarter the Huskies led 22-0, but it was all Bisons after that. Quarterback Dez Catillier hit nine different receivers en route to their second win of the season 36-32.
So, after all that drama, the Golden Bears will head back to Calgary this Saturday to play the Dinos in the Hardy Trophy semi-finals.
The other playoff spots up for grabs were second and third. That was resolved when the UBC Thunderbirds beat up on the visiting Regina Rams 44-15. The Thunderbirds sacked Rams quarterback Noah Picton five times and intercepted him once.
The Rams will have to make the difficult trip to Vancouver for a second straight week for the semi-finals against the Thunderbirds.
Hardy Trophy semi-finals
Saturday, November 4th (All times local):
Alberta at Calgary 1:00pm
Regina at UBC 4:00pm
Canadian to watch in the NCAA
Deshawn Stevens - LB
University of Maine
Hometown – Toronto, Ont.
Class – RsFr.
After redshirting his first season with the Maine Black Bears (and playing well on the scout team), Stevens has found a spot on special teams as well as spot duty at linebacker.
So far in 2017, Stevens has 13.5 total tackles, 1.5 sacks and 2 tackles for a loss. His best game of the season was a five tackle, one sack effort against William and Mary this past Saturday.
He was the captain of the Canadian U-19 and Junior squad that played in the 2016 IFAF U-19 World Championships and the 2016 Junior World Championships.