BY: RODPEDERSEN.COM STAFF
After being about as down as a team could be, the roller-coaster that is the Saskatchewan Roughriders season is back in the upward motion.
This after an outstanding 40-27 victory over the now previously undefeated Calgary Stampeders Sunday at a soldout Mosaic Stadium.
It was the prototypical Roughrider win: big plays on defence, a big play on special teams and mistake-free offence.
With the release of Duron Carter one week ago, there were many questions surrounding who would step up to be the next "big-play" stars on the Roughriders. Two were front and centre on Sunday:
REC Jordan Williams-Lambert: If anyone said he would be the first Rider receiver to have a 100-yard game in 2018, that person is a down-right liar. The former all-conference receiver out of Ball State had his best game as a receiver since a 11 catch, 179-yard performance on October 11, 2014 against Western Michigan.
CB/QB Nick Marshall: In this game, the Auburn star showcased his impressive his offensive and defensive skills. The 67-yard interception for a touchdown late in the first quarter was his second pick-six of the season. Marshall has an incredible knack for sitting on a route and baiting a quarterback to throw the football. As a former quarterback, Marshall has keen insight on what a quarterback can see in situations like that and uses that to his advantage.
His other touchdown was reminiscent of how he helped the Auburn Tigers win football games. Marshall just wanted the ball, and he willed his way into the end zone for the score.
Those were the top two performances of the night but there were others. Matt Elam picked up a pair of sacks and five tackles; the ageless wonder Charleston Hughes picked up two more sacks to push his league lead to 11 while adding a tackle for loss and another two tackles; the Rider offensive line kept Zach Collaros relatively clean while piling up over 100-yards rushing.
There were so many positives in a game that the Riders hope is the first step in a strong 11-game run to the end of the season.
There are still a few things that need to be cleaned up. As solid as the offence was, they had to settle for too many Brett Lauther field goals. If it wasn’t for the Marshall interception for a score and the blocked punt for a touchdown, the reliance on the offence would have gotten the Riders in trouble.
Granted it was a great first step offensively, there needs to be a few more strides before fans can get comfortable with the offence on the field.
This gets us to a big game against the B.C. Lions on Saturday night. If we turn back the clock to a season ago, the Riders took one on the chin in Vancouver 30-15 in week seven. This was the bottom point of 2017 and seemed to be the rallying point for the Riders on a run towards the playoffs.
This one has the same feel to it. The Lions are lights-out good at home and are smarting after the Toronto Argonauts came from 10-points down to knock off the Leos at BMO Field in Toronto.
Travis Lulay is having a fantastic comeback season and has a great group of receivers to throw to but still has to make up for an average offensive line. With the addition of Shawn Lemon, the Lions defence has stepped it up a notch and it will not be an easy night in Vancouver.
A Rider win would set up yet another thrilling chapter in the Labour Day Classic against Winnipeg.
AROUND THE CFL
- Ottawa went on the road and beat the brakes off the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 44-21.
In a battle of two of the top offences in the CFL, it was the Redblacks that had the extra firepower. Trevor Harris threw for 361 yards with 100 of them going to Greg Ellingson and William Powell picked up yet another 100-yard rushing game with 106-yards on the ground.
The East Division still isn’t as good as the West top-to-bottom (oh hey there Montreal). Both Hamilton and Toronto are 3-5, but it’s not a bad 3-5 record so the playoff crossover isn’t a sure thing in the West.
- The other game that shocked many was the Toronto Argonauts 25-24 comeback win over the Lions.
It was the second come-from-behind win and second career win for Argonaut quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Toronto may have found a diamond in the rough in the much-travelled pivot.
In just two games Bethel-Thompson has thrown for 562 yards and five touchdowns with just a single interception. If they continue to get play like this, it will be an interesting off-season for the Double Blue at the quarterback position with the impending retirement of Ricky Ray and a lot of value tied up in James Franklin.
It’s a problem most CFL teams would like to have.
The 2018 Prairie Football Conference season began much the same as the 2017 season ended, with the Saskatoon Hilltops dominating the competition.
The four-time defending Canadian champs went on the road to Mosaic Stadium and laid it on the Regina Thunder 41-7. Running back Ben Abrook picked up 71 yards on the ground while quarterback Jordan Walls threw for 316 yards and a score.
In other action, the Winnipeg Rifles used a solid defence to pick up the 19-3 victory over the Edmonton Wildcats. The weekend finished with the Edmonton Huskies routing the Calgary Colts 66-0.
PFC Week Two
Saturday August 25th
Winnipeg Rifles at Regina Thunder 3pm – Mosaic Stadium
Calgary Colts at Saskatoon Hilltops 7pm – SMF Field
Edmonton Huskies at Edmonton Wildcats 7pm – Clarke Park
Canada West Notebook
There's pre-season action this week on many fronts.
The Regina Rams will host the Manitoba Bisons on August 22nd at Leibel Field in Regina. The Calgary Dinos will take on the Alberta Golden Bears on the 22nd at Great Chief Park in Red Deer. The Saskatchewan Huskies will play their green and white game on August 23rd at Griffiths Stadium.
Canadian to watch in the NCAA
RB – North Dakota
High School – Oak Park
Much of the Fighting Hawk offence will rest on the shoulders of the senior running back. Oliveira had a standout junior season in 2017 with 637 yards and three touchdowns as a reserve running back. This earned him an All Big-Sky honourable mention.
This came on the heels of a stellar 2016 that saw the Winnipeg native roll up 897 yards rushing and 10-touchdowns.
He was a star in high school at Oak Park with the highlight being a 370-yard, six touchdown effort that broke the Winnipeg high school record for rushing touchdowns in a game.