|Photo: CFL.ca/Jason Halstead|
When you are given a gift, all you can say is thank you.
That is exactly what the Riders should say to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. For the second straight week, if it wasn’t for first half Bomber blunders, it would have been a tough hill to climb for a Rider victory. As it turned out, the Saskatchewan Roughriders swept their prairie rivals in the Labour Day Classic and Banjo Bowl by scores of 31-23 and 32-27.
Winnipeg was set and ready to take control of the Banjo Bowl late in the first half on Saturday. They had the ball first and goal at the Rider-7 when Matt Nichols sealed the fate of the gold-domers. He was under pressure from Willie Jefferson and for some reason tried an underhand throw to get rid of the football instead of taking the sack. Instead, it was a game-sealing 103-yard interception return by the Riders defensive MVP so far this season, Sam Eguavoen, and a 20-17 halftime Rider lead instead of a potential 24-13 Rider deficit.
In the second half, rookie Chris Steveler took over the Winnipeg offence, but he fared the same as his predecessor. He was only able to put up 10 points as the Riders defence was the judge, jury and executioner of the game in a 32-27 victory.
This may have been the worst Riders performance since their loss in Ottawa, but they were able to make just enough plays, and their opponent was inept on offence and defence.
The defence led the way again and along with special teams, have combined for 10 touchdowns this season. The offence has just 14 (seven passing, seven rushing).
But as the coaching cliché goes, Chris Jones will take another 10 more ugly victories all the way to the Grey Cup. And so would Rider Nation.
Everyone knows that the 2018 Saskatchewan Roughriders will ride their big-play defence as far as it can take them. It may be a bit more difficult depending on the condition of quarterback Zach Collaros.
Early in the fourth quarter, former Rider Jeff Hecht unloaded on Collaros with a devastating sack and forced fumble that sent the pivot into concussion protocol.
He looked o.k. on the sidelines, but with this being his third concussion of the season, this is a potentially serious situation for the Riders offence and more importantly, Collaros’s health now and in the future.
If he is good to go for the Redblacks Saturday night at 7:30pm at Mosaic Stadium, it will more than likely end in the Riders fifth straight victory. If Collaros is not ready, it will be very difficult to get past a struggling Ottawa club. If the concussion lasts longer than this week, multiply the difficulties the rest of the season.
- Tre Mason had the first 100-yard rushing game for the Riders in 2018. Jordan Williams-Lambert has the lone 100-yard receiving game this season. The green and white are still looking for their first 300-yard passing game.
- Sam Eguavoen now has an interception return for a touchdown to go along with his fumble return for a score in week 10 against the Stampeders. He is the Riders candidate for defensive (and maybe team MVP) honours. With the way he is playing, look for the former Texas Tech Red Raider to entertain NFL offers in the off-season.
- Brett Lauther was six-for-six Sunday and leads the CFL in scoring with 128 points and is second in field goal percentage behind the Redblacks Lewis Ward.
- While the Blue Bombers and much of the rest of the CFL were going down with injuries, the Riders have stayed relatively healthy at key positions (except for quarterback). A big shout-out to the training staff (Ryan Raftis and Trevor Len) and strength and conditioning coach Clint Spencer. Their work off the field has kept many of the key cogs healthy on the field.
The rest of the CFL:
- What the Riders/Bombers game was, the Stampeders/Eskimos Labour Day rematch was the complete opposite. The two combined for over 1000-yards offence and 12 touchdowns in a mistake filled 48-42 Edmonton victory. Was it entertaining, yes. Will it give their coaching staffs more grey hairs, absolutely.
The way these three teams are playing, it will be a great fight to the finish in the top-three of the CFL.
- Everything seems to be imploding in Winnipeg. They now have four straight losses with no relief in sight. B.C. will finish fourth in the West Division.
- The crossover to the East Division playoffs is all but secured for the West. There is no way either Montreal or Toronto will catch any of the teams in the West. It will come down to the struggling Ottawa Redblacks and the streaking Hamilton Tiger-Cats for first in the East.
This week in Canada West:
The team that was ranked last in the pre-season coaches poll in the Canada West are now in a tie for first in the conference.
The University of Saskatchewan Huskies (2-0) needed big plays by their defence at the right time in a 48-46 road victory over the Manitoba Bisons (0-2). The Husky defence forced five turnovers including a game sealing 90-yard interception return for a touchdown by Peyton Hall midway through the fourth quarter.
The win pushed the Huskies into a tie for first with the Calgary Dinos (2-0) who waxed the UBC Thunderbirds (1-1) in a Hardy Cup rematch at McMahon Stadium 57-7. It was the Tyson Philpot show. The son of former CFL running back Cory Philpot had a 107-yard catch and run in the fourth quarter and finished the day with four catched for 186-yards and two scores.
The Regina Rams (1-1) scored 37-straight points beginning late in the second quarter to route the struggling Alberta Golden Bears (0-2) 51-13.
Rams quarterback Noah Picton returned to form with 449 yards passing and three touchdowns. Ryan Schienbein was the recipient of 176 of those yards and three touchdowns while first year receiver Bennett Stusek had four catches for 91-yards and his first Canada West touchdown.
Week 3 Schedule:
Friday, September 14
UBC @ Regina 7:00pm (Mosaic Stadium) - CW FB Showcase – SaskTel MaxTV
Calgary @ Saskatchewan 7:00pm (Griffiths Stadium) - CW FB Showcase – SaskTel MaxTV
Saturday, September 15
Alberta @ Manitoba 2:00pm (IG Field)
This week in the PFC:
The Regina Thunder fell to the Edmonton Huskies 27-17 in the lone game in the Prairie Football Conference. It was the back end of a home-and-home series between these two teams with the Thunder winning last week 28-17 in Edmonton.
The loss drops the Thunder to all alone in third place at 2-and-2 while the Huskies take over second at 3-and-1.
Saturday, September 15:
Saskatoon Hilltops at Calgary Colts 7:00pm – McMahon Stadium
Winnipeg Rifles at Edmonton Wildcats 7:00pm – Clarke Stadium
Canadian to Watch in the NCAA
Punter – Eastern Michigan
High School – North Collegiate
This is the first time a punter has appeared on the NCAA future watch, but Jake Julien has been the starting punter at Eastern Michigan since entering as a freshman last season.
In 2017, Julien had nine punts of over 50-yards and averaged 42.6 yards per kick. He has improved already in 2018 with a hair under 45 yards per punt and 2 punts over 50 yards.
His kicking was a big part of the Eagles huge upset of the BigTen’s Purdue Boilermakers this past Saturday 20-19.
- Kirk Cousins looked great in purple. He threw for 244-yards and two scores as his Minnesota Vikings knocked off the San Francisco 49ers 24-16. It was the first loss for Jimmy Garoppolo as the quarterback of the ‘Niners.
- The Indianapolis Colts had the luxury of Andrew Luck back under center, but it wasn’t enough in a 34-23 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Luck attempted 53 passes completing 39 of them for 319 yards but 17-fourth quarter points helped the Bengals to the road victory.
- The Josh Allen era debuted a little too soon for the Buffalo Bills. Nathan Peterman got the start but after his 2nd interception led to another Baltimore Ravens score and a 40-0 lead, that was it for Peterman. Allen didn’t fare much better as the Ravens cruised to the 47-3 victory.
- The Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers outgunned Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints 48-40 at the Superdome in New Orleans. The two offences combined for a whopping 1004 yards of total offence.
- Saquon Barkley was solid in his New York Giants debut with 106 yards rushing including a 68-yard scamper for a touchdown, but it was the Jacksonville Jaguars defence that led the way in the 20-15 win. The key play was a Myles Jack interception for a score in the fourth quarter.
- Unlike 2017, the 2018 version of the Cleveland Browns won’t lose every game, but they are still looking for their first win since 2016. They ended up in a tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-21. Cleveland had a chance to win it in regulation, but T.J. Watt blocked a potential 43-yard game winning field goal with nine seconds remaining in the game.
- The Patriots looked like their old selves as ageless wonder, Tom Brady threw for 277-yards and three touchdowns leading New England to the 27-20 victory over the Houston Texans. Rob Gronkowski was his favourite target with 123-yards receiving and a touchdown.
- The Miami Dolphins survived two weather delays and used a Jakeem Grant 102-yard kick-off return to hold off the Tennessee Titans 27-20. The seven-hour, 10-minute game was hard on the Titans as they saw quarterback Marcus Mariotta, tackle Taylor Lewan and tight end Delanie Walker all leave with substantial injuries.
- The Kansas City receiver/returner Tyreek Hill had 169 yards receiving and a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown to help the Chiefs past the Los Angeles Chargers 38-28.
- The Carolina Panthers sacked Dallas Cowboy quarterback Dak Prescott six times in a 16-8 victory at home.
- Adrian Peterson ran for 96-yards and a touchdown in the Washington Redskins 24-6 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
- Quarterback Case Keenum had a rollercoaster day in his Denver Bronco debut with 329-yard passing with three touchdowns, but also had three interceptions. It was enough to knock off Seattle 27-24.
- And in the late game, Aaron Rogers was knocked out of the game early but came back in the second half and guided the Packers from 20 points down to the 24-23 victory over the Chicago Bears.
(By RodPedersen.com Staff)