There have been a few beautiful days since the Saskatchewan Roughriders evened their record to 2-2 on Thursday night.
The 18-13 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats victory wasn’t pretty, but this team isn’t built to win pretty games. Even last season their winning formula was getting pressure on the quarterback, creating turnovers, not turning over the football and doing just enough on offence to win.
That was exactly what the Green and White did on Thursday night. The pressure on Jeremiah Masoli forced him out of the pocket and made him uncomfortable. The Riders won the turnover battle 2-1 with the two forced turnovers leading to 10 points (the wonderful big-man touchdown by Charleston Hughes and the Tobi Antigha interception turning into a field goal). The only turnover by the Riders was the Brandon Bridge fumble at the goal line.
And finally, the quarterback play wasn’t pretty, but it was incredibly safe and there were no interceptions thrown.
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- The addition of Mic’hael Brooks has completely changed the defensive line. In Week 2 without Brooks, Ottawa's William Powell ran for 94 yards in a Redblacks victory. In the past two games, the Rider defence has only allowed 128 yards on 33 carries for a paltry 3.9 yards per carry. 60 of them were by Jeremiah Masoli running for his life on Thursday night.
- The offensive line is slowly improving. There were three sacks given up on Thursday night and running backs had a tough time finding their ground. But as we saw with the Marcus Thigpen touchdown run sealing the game, a great run is set up by more than just the offensive line, but a total team effort.
- Josh Stanford is slowly emerging as a solid option for whoever is leading the Rider offence. The third-year Canadian pass-catcher from Kansas and Virginia Tech has had a reception in all four games this season and is third on the Riders with a 14.6 yard per catch average.
With the defence playing lights out football, the offence does need to improve, and quickly.
The offence has been so anemic that the Riders are one of only two teams (B.C. being the other) without a 100-yard rusher, 100-yard receiver or a 300-yard passer in a game.
Including the preseason, the Riders have broken the 20-point plateau just twice in six games.
The offence is averaging just one touchdown per game. It’s to the point that the defence almost has as many touchdowns as the offence (4-3).
This makes the next five weeks incredibly important. This week the team gets their first break since the beginning of training camp and have a little extra time to prepare for a difficult three-game stretch.
It begins in Hamilton where Tim Horton’s field has become a difficult place to play again. Next up, the currently undefeated Calgary Stampeders pay a visit to Mosaic Stadium and they have all the signs of having the tools to make the Riders life miserable; great offensive line and defensive line play. It finishes with a road game in Edmonton against a very beat up Eskimos club before another bye week.
In the scope of a season, it looks like an inconsequential stretch, but a slip-up here would make a very grueling middle part of the schedule much more difficult. After the game in Hamilton, all but three games are against West Division foes.
- There have been many blowouts this season, but this week finally saw a pair of games come down to the wire (the Rider win, and Toronto's 20-17 triumph over Edmonton. Overall, the parity many pundits saw coming looks like is coming true.
We will begin to truly see how much parity there is once divisional play begins in earnest. There have been just four divisional games played thus far in 2018 and true divisional play on all fronts won’t begin until Week 8 when all four games will see rivals face each other.
- There may have been some in Rider Nation watching the winless Toronto Argonauts knock off the Eskimos 20-17 in James Franklin's Coming Out Party and wondering what could have been?
The hot topic off the field in 2017 was where would quarterback James Franklin end up. The former Eskimo was entering free agency and the majority of the rumours had him coming to Saskatchewan.
In the end, he was traded to - and then signed by - Toronto and, with the injury to Ricky Ray, may have been the biggest acquisition of the off-season.
- It’s been a common thread on Out of the Tunnel; we love ground and pound football. This past week, there were three more 100-yard rushers to push the total amount of 100-yard rushing games to seven. The team’s record when they have a 100-yard rusher? 6-1.
Pound the rock.
- The Canada West football season is just eight weeks away, and the preparation for the season preview begins.
One thing that stands out is that it might be the year of the quarterback.
Every team will have their starter back from a season ago. All are dynamic throwers.
Michael O’Connor of the UBC Thunderbirds and Noah Picton of the Regina Rams are the two well-known stars of the conference and have been at the top of the Canada West passing leaders for the past three seasons.
2018 saw the two quarterbacks in Alberta have break-out seasons. Calgary Dinos pivot Adam Sinagra was the top-rated passer last season while Brad Baker of the Alberta Golden Bears led his team to a surprise playoff berth.
Saskatchewan Huskie quarterback, Kyle Siemens is one of their all-time greatest passers and the Manitoba Bisons will return a pair of solid throwers. Des Catillier took over from the veteran Theo Deezar in the final two games of the season almost knocking off UBC and defeating Saskatchewan.
It will be a great year in the Canada west.
- The big news of the week is Nick Cross signing with the Okanagan Sun of the BCFL. Cross had his Canada West Rookie of the Year and all-star nod taken away from him a few weeks ago because he tested positive for marijuana.
Cross joins former Rams teammate Nicholas Dheilly who according to the Chilliwack Progress, joined the Sun in mid-June.
Canadian to watch in the NCAA:
G – Buffalo (Jr.)
High School – Vanier College
Kurdyla has started 20 of 22 games at right guard on the Buffalo Bulls offensive line since his freshman season in 2016. He is one of six Canadians that played in the Bulls 2018 spring game.
He is a part of a group of 2016 Canadian high school recruits that are starting at over 10 NCAA FBS schools.