BY: RODPEDERSEN.COM STAFF
In the past two weeks we have experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows of the Roughriders 2018 season. From their worst team effort of the season against Winnipeg last weekend to their best on Saturday against Calgary.
On Saturday at McMahon Stadium, the Green & White rode a dominant first half to a 29-24 victory over the Calgary Stampeders and in the process, kept their hopes alive for first in the West Division.
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Instead, Zach Collaros and the offence led the way. Collaros had his best game as a Rider with a mid-range passing game, Cam Marshall looked like he has returned to his 2017 self with 76 yards at almost a 7-yard-per-carry clip and Jordan Williams-Lambert picked up his second 100-yard receiving game of the season.
Defensively, the Riders deleted the Stampeders offence in the first half, but had their troubles in the second. If it wasn't for a clutch third quarter interception by Mike Edem, the best game of the season would have turned into the biggest heartbreaker of the year.
Here are a few more notes from this past weekend and a lookahead to a crucial Game 18 for the Saskatchewan Roughriders this Saturday against the streaking BC Lions:
- This was the seventh time this season that the Riders posted 29+ points in 2018, but it sure seemed difficult. They needed points on all but three drives to keep Calgary out of the win column. The finish in the redzone is still a sore point of this offence. The Riders are fantastic between the 35's but grind to a halt when they creep closer to the end zone.
- A big key to this game was the hidden yards. The 300-yard passing game by Zach Collaros was huge as was the 140 yards rushing as a team but just as important were the hidden yards picked up by the kickoff return teams. Loucheiz Purifoy had returns of 26 and 39 yards that started drives which ended in Rider field goals, then Cam Marshall's 58-yard return to the Calgary 47-yard-line turned the tide of momentum after the Stampeders took the early lead with a 78-yard punt return. The ensuing drive ended in a touchdown that ended the Riders' 152 minute touchdown drought.
- The defence was stingy in the first half, but after a few adjustments, Bo Levi Mitchell and the Stampeder offence seemed to have their way with the Riders and almost stole the game. Calgary also had a lot of success running the football between the tackles in the first half, but completely buried that in the playbook in the second half.
- The Rider offence finally decided to take some chances in the offence and allowed some plays to develop. Yes, it did end up in three sacks of Collaros, but in the end it opened things up in the passing game for one of the rare times this season.
Now to this Saturday's final regular season game.
The B.C. Lions come into Mosaic Stadium red-hot and seem to have turned the corner with Travis Lulay back at the helm of the offence.
It is pretty simple; a Riders win and they seal up a home playoff game and keep their shot at first in the division alive (Calgary leads by two points with two road games remaining at Winnipeg and BC). Lose, and things could still get messy.
A home playoff game is so crucial for the Roughrider organization on many fronts.
To host their first post-season game since 2013 is a reward for fans' patience and loyalty after such an incredibly frustrating rough patch of football.
The playoff game is great for the organization's coffers. The Riders will purchase the game from the CFL and the profits will put some cash in the bank account. A bonus game for ticket-sales purposes, more merchandise will be purchased at the Rider Stores. and those on the fence regarding season ticket renewal will more than likely pull the trigger.
A home playoff game would be a big boost for the entire organization. Like many organizations, the Saskatchewan Roughriders have a performance bonus structure. It's based on both personal and team success. Some of the team benchmarks: tickets sold, merchandise sales, on-field performance and if the team hosts a playoff game … check off another percentage point for a bonus.
Finally, hosting a playoff game is a big step in Chris Jones' future with the football club. This is Year 3 of his tenure and he signed an extension into 2019 last off-season. No coach in his right mind goes into a final season of his contract without an extension. So what happens in the next few weeks will go a long way in future contract negotiations.
This Week in Canada West:
The final nail in what could have been a fantastic season for the Regina Rams (1-6) was hammered in by the Calgary Dinos (7-0) this weekend. The top-ranked Dinos mopped the floor with the depleted Rams 58-6.
With injuries to both Noah Picton and backup Seb Britton, third string freshman Noah Donnelly made his first-ever Canada West start. He struggled with a pair of interceptions, couple that with defensive struggles, and the Dinos were able to pile on the points in quick fashion.
Adam Sinagra was an efficient 20/28 for 428 yards passing in the win.
The Saskatchewan Huskies (4-3) continue on their path towards a home playoff date making short work of the Manitoba Bisons (3-4) 27-4 at Griffiths Stadium.
Defence led the way for the Huskies as they held the Bisons under 250 yards of total offence with the help of five quarterback sacks.
The unlikely UBC Thunderbirds (4-3) run to the playoffs continued with a 30-11 victory over the Alberta Golden Bears (2-5). After a woeful start to the season, Thunderbirds quarterback Michael O'Connor has finally found his stride with 427-yards passing on 30/35 passes.
So much on the line in a stellar final week of the Canada West Season.
Week 8 in the Canada West:
Friday, October 26th
Saskatchewan Huskies (4-3) at Regina Rams (1-6) 7:00pm (Mosaic Stadium)
Saturday, October 27th
UBC Thunderbirds (4-3) at Manitoba Bisons (3-4) 2:00pm (Investors Group Field)
Calgary Dinos (7-0) at Alberta Golden Bears (2-5) 1:00pm (Foote Field)
This Week in the PFC:
The Saskatoon Hilltops will have a chance to win their fifth-straight Prairie Football Conference title and eighth in nine years after clobbering the Winnipeg Rifles 58-7. It is the 12th straight PFC final for the top junior program in Canada.
The 'Toppers will face the Edmonton Huskies who needed overtime to defeat the Regina Thunder 39-36.
The Thunder were held to a field goal on their first possession of overtime then the Huskies were able to punch it in the end zone on their first possession to pick up the victory.
The final will be next weekend at SMF Field in Saskatoon and a trip to the Canadian Bowl is on the line.
Tight End – Cincinnati
High School – Collège Montmorency
Their must be something in the water, or more than likely the offences they are playing in Quebec but they seem to be able to produce great tight ends. Bruno LaBelle is following in the shoes of Anthony Auclair (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) on a potential career in the NFL.
LaBelle has entered his second season with the Cincinnati Bearcats in the number two role on the tight end depth chart and has started a pair of games in the process.
He has six catches for 40 yards with his best career performance this past weekend in a loss to Temple. He had three catches for 27-yards in the game.