BY: RODPEDERSEN.COM STAFF
Two weeks ago, there were whispers that the downfall of the Saskatchewan Roughriders had begun.
At the time it was warranted. The team was coming off a 26-19 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos which they followed up with the release of their top offensive player, Duron Carter.
Fast forward to today and the Green & White has two solid wins over West Division foes and the fans' outlook has completely changed for what the rest of the 2018 season has in store for them.
Like we say every week, the keys to victory for the Riders are: a couple of big plays on defence and special teams, while being conservative and mistake-free on offence.
The biggest play of the game came early, and it wasn’t a scoring play or turnover. After the Riders scored their first touchdown of the game, the Lions dynamic returner, Chris Rainey, looked like he was well on his way to a score and a 10-7 lead. Crezdon Butler tracked down Rainey catching him at the Riders 28-yard line, the defence made a stand and forced a field goal.
A touchdown there, and it would have been a completely different game.
The other big play was at the tail-end of the game with the Lions in Ty Long field goal range (albeit a lengthy one but still in his range). Wally Buono decided to go for the first down. The Riders defensive line stood its ground. Turnover on downs. Game over.
These big plays come in handy as the Riders offence still has a difficult time consistently moving the football. There will be times this season when the Green & White will need the offence to take over a game. Let’s just hope that the consistent improvement from week to week will get this unit to a place that it can be relied upon when the time comes.
Those two wins have moved the Riders into a tie for third with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as we kickoff the most electric weekend of the season.
LABOUR DAY CLASSIC LIV (54)
There is so much on the line this Sunday in the Labour Day Classic. A win by the Riders and they jump a full game ahead of Winnipeg for third in the West and it places a lot of pressure on the Eskimos for that crucial home playoff date.
A loss, and it sets up the difficult task of stealing a win the next week at the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg. To lose back-to-back games would be a killer for the Riders.
The matchup on Sunday will feature polar opposite teams.
Winnipeg’s defence led by Richie Hall is as basic as it comes and relies on the players on the field to make plays, while the Chris Jones defence throws out a tone of exotic blitz packages and motion to try to confuse the offence at the line of scrimmage.
Winnipeg’s deep offensive playbook is fun to watch and when it gets on a roll is tough to stop. When it does get mired in the muck, they can turn to running back Andrew Harris to pick up the slack. Whereas the Riders conservative offence relies on capitalizing on turnovers and keeping mistakes to a minimum.
Like in almost every LDC, there will be one or two memorable plays that will be the difference in the game. Look for those plays to come on special teams.
1 - The loss for the Lions is the first nail in the coffin of the final season for Wally Buono at the helm of the Leos. They now trail the Riders and Bombers by two full games in the West with no real hope in sight.
It’s a tough way for a CFL icon to end his run, and there is a lot of work to be done for the Lions on the field to get back to glory. It just seems doubtful that it will happen in 2018.
2 - The Calgary Stampeders got back on track in a 39-26 victory on home turf over the Blue Bombers.
It was the first time this season that Bo Levi Mitchell returned to his previous MVP form with a 25/42, 452 yard and three touchdown performance. If BLM continues to play like this and the defence holds then the runaway train to first in the West Division will be done by mid-September.
3 - Another interesting game was the battle of the backups in Montreal, where the Alouettes upset the Argonauts 25-22. Those backups may be the unlikely futures of both the Toronto Argonauts and the Alouettes. McLeod Bethel-Thompson played well again, and the former third-string pivot looks like he has completely taken over the offence for the Argos leaving James Franklin relegated to short-yardage duty.
What may be more surprising was the play of the Alouettes Antonio Pipkin. The former Tiffin University Green Wave pivot picked up a 300-yard performance along with a couple of rushing touchdowns helping the Als to their second win of the season.
It will be interesting to see what happens when Johnny Manziel is cleared to play. Will Montreal relegate Pipkin back to the bench or will the former Division Two star take over from the former Heisman Trophy winner? We will have to wait and see.
The Saskatoon Hilltops look well on their way to another PFC title. They opened the home part of their schedule with an easy 59-1 victory over the Calgary Colts.
The ‘Toppers led 31-0 after the first quarter and cruised from there. They have outscored their opponents 100-8 in the first two games of the season.
|Wanda Harron Photography|
The week rounded out with the battle of Edmonton. The Huskies rolled to the 41-12 victory over the Wildcats.
Saturday, September 1st
Edmonton Wildcats at Calgary Colts
Sunday, September 2nd
Saskatoon Hilltops at Winnipeg Rifles
Regina Thunder at Edmonton Huskies
Canada West Diary:
The Canada West football season kicks off this weekend on all fronts and every University of Regina and University of Saskatchewan game can be seen on the Canada West Football Showcase across western Canada.
The games will be available on SaskTel maxTV, and Telus Optik TV in B.C. and Alberta.
Friday, August 31st:
Calgary at Regina 7:00pm – Mosaic Stadium
Alberta at Saskatchewan 7:00pm – Griffiths Stadium
Saturday, September 1st:
Manitoba at UBC 7:00pm (PDT) – Thunderbird Stadium
Canadian to Watch in the NCAA
Tackle – New Mexico State
High School – Canada Prep Academy
Doxtater has started 20 of 24 games as a freshman and sophomore for the New Mexico State Aggies. The majority of his starts have been at left tackle and he will be one of the top-rated Canadians in the 2020 CFL draft.
He made his 21st start along the Aggies offensive line as the NCAA season kicked off this past Saturday. The Aggies had a tough time on the road in Wyoming losing to the Cowboys 29-7.