BY: RODPEDERSEN.COM STAFF
The road to victory for the Saskatchewan Roughriders requires the following: limit mistakes, run the football, game-changing plays on defence and big plays on special teams.
Saturday night against the Calgary Stampeders they accomplished most of it by winning the turnover battle, holding Bo Levi Mitchell and the Calgary offence to under 250 total yards and limiting their mistakes on offence. Yet when the final gun sounded, the Green and White were on the short end of a 34-22 loss to the Stampeders.
Like many in Rider Nation (media included), all eyes are on the very basic Rider offence. They were somewhat successful running the ball to the tune of 100-yards at 3.8-yards per carry. We here at Out of the Tunnel love when they pound the rock; a successful run-game opens up plays down field as it brings the defence closer to the line of scrimmage.
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The lack of a downfield passing game isn’t held to just Saturday night. It’s an all-season problem. Heading into this past week, the Riders were dead-last in the CFL in pass attempts of over 20-yards with just 23 and after Saturday night, add just one more.
In Week 1 with Zach Collaros at the helm, the Green and White offence only attempted three passes of over 15-yards. The next week in Ottawa was a completely different story as both Collaros and Brandon Bridge were going deep a lot with some success but there were also a handful of interceptions (two in the end zone).
There isn’t much difference between the Riders and the Stampeders except for two glaring things that were front and centre at Mosaic Stadium Saturday night. The obvious one, having one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Bo Levi Mitchell and the other, as a team, Calgary doesn’t get too high or too low. They are just workman-like all the time.
The Riders are a team that feeds off their emotions. When they are down bad things happen and they have a hard time shaking out of it. When things are rolling, no one in the CFL is able to hold them back.
This game was a prime example. Saskatchewan couldn’t shake off the cobwebs fast enough and it ended up in a 24-point first quarter explosion by Calgary. Then when the Riders were starting to roll after Tobi Antigha’s interception for a score and a series of Brett Lauther field goals, the Stampeders coolly and calmly put together a 70-yard touchdown drive to stomp out any hopes of a Rider comeback.
So, what do the Riders have to do to pick up a win on the road in Edmonton? Unfortunately, Rider fans, more of the same.
Head coach Chris Jones alluded to the fact that what we saw offensively Saturday night is what we will see in Edmonton this week. This was more than likely just a lot of posturing and the words of a frustrated coach.
Reading between the lines, the Riders are what they are: a low-risk, low-reward offence whose prime directive is to protect the football and limit mistakes. But they will have to test the middle of the field on Thursday night in Edmonton and take a chance with at least a small handful of plays. If not, they will be a game under .500 heading into their second bye-week.
One other note: In back-to-back weeks the Rider special teams have given up a punt return for a touchdown. This is rare for a Craig Dickenson coached unit. Look for a great bounce back game for them in Edmonton.
- James Franklin will be planted on the bench for the Toronto Argonauts as they host Ottawa on Thursday night. McLeod Bethel-Thompson will get his first ever career start, and he will face his former Sacramento Mountain Lion teammate Trevor Harris. The two battled for playing time in 2011 with the United Football League team.
- The outcry that happened when Johnny Manziel didn’t hit the field this week in his first game with the Montreal Alouettes is comical. Even though head coach Mike Sherman eluded that Manziel would see the field, to feed him to the wolves would've crushed any sort of confidence that he had.
The clamouring continues this week for the former Heisman Trophy winner to start at home against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. If Coach Sherman is smart, he would give Manziel one more week and start him on the road in Ottawa.
The Alouettes front office must be begging for Sherman to announce Manziel to start, and to make the announcement early. They desperately want the bump in ticket sales.
- This is the first week that all four games are divisional battles and they all have great storylines.
The easy one is if Johnny Manziel gets the nod for the Alouettes as they host his former team, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Bethel-Thompson getting his first CFL start for a struggling Argo club needing a win over the Redblacks to keep pace in the East Division.
The dynamic Edmonton Eskimos offence welcoming one of the top defences in the CFL with the Saskatchewan Roughriders coming to town.
And finally, will the Calgary Stampeders push their undefeated string to 7-0 hosting the struggling B.C. Lions.
It’s going to be a fantastic week!!!
QB – Ohio University (Jr.)
High School – Edgewood Academy (Alabama)/Holy Trinity High School (Oakville)
When everyone was looking at either Brandon Bridge or the recently retired Andrew Buckley to be the modern-day Russ Jackson, the player with the biggest potential is currently a junior at Ohio University.
Nathan Rourke stepped out of the shadows and into the starter role with the Bobcats in 2017 and threw for 2,203 yards and 17 touchdowns while also rushing for over 900-yards.
He will be relied upon to lead Ohio to the MAC Championship game and their first conference title since 1968.