October 16, 2013

West Division showdown pits Lions against Roughriders


The race for the best record in the West Division gets even tighter, as the British Columbia Lions tangle with the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium.

Both teams are already locked into the postseason, with the Roughriders sitting in second place in the division standings behind Calgary, and BC two points below Saskatchewan with three games remaining in the regular season.

The most recent playoff scenarios show that, if Saskatchewan comes out on top this weekend the team will be assured no less than a home playoff contest.

Last weekend the Roughriders, a team which came screaming out of the gate in 2013 with five straight wins and eight victories in the first nine outings, captured a second consecutive triumph with a 14-9 decision over Edmonton at home. The Riders scored all of their points in the second quarter, courtesy of a 20-yard TD pass from Darian Durant to Weston Dressler, and a five-yard major on the ground by Kory Sheets.

Sheets finished the meeting with 24 carries for 106 yards, while Durant converted 16-of-24 passes for 170 yards and a pair of interceptions while being sacked three times.

Defensively, Saskatchewan limited the visitors to 324 yards of total offense and benefited from Edmonton suffering 13 penalties for a loss of 115 yards.

As for the Lions, they kicked off Week 16 action last Friday night versus Calgary, giving them a chance to close the gap in the division standings, but the Stampeders came out on top in a 40-26 final.

With Thomas DeMarco at the helm of the offense, BC got off to a slow start and didn’t get into the end zone until the final two minutes of the first half on a 27-yard TD pass to Courtney Taylor. DeMarco managed to complete 23-of-39 passes for 301 yards and two scores, the other major going to Nick Moore who ended up catching six balls for a game-high 109 yards.

In desperation mode late in the fourth quarter, DeMarco saw his one interception of the game returned 65 yards for a score by Chris Randle.

DeMarco also logged a rushing touchdown in the matchup, placing second on the team with 23 net yards on the ground, but overall British Columbia was limited to just 56 yards on 17 carries.

Last week, the Lions were not very good at generating offense on the ground, but typically it is the passing game that has the potential to hold them back. Granted, the team has completed a solid 62.0 percent of 500 attempts, but the yardage total of 3,869 yards is third from the bottom in the CFL.

Thanks to DeMarco and Travis Lulay, BC has managed to post 26 majors through the air, but in his last appearance in September the latter also tossed three interceptions, so not all was perfect with Lulay under center.

Meanwhile, Durant is second in the CFL in passing yards with 3,765 and has the most touchdowns of any signal caller with 29, which means he is averaging roughly one major per 10 completions.

While Durant stands in the pocket and seeks out receivers when the Riders need big gains, Sheets is more than willing to add some punch to the offense coming out of the backfield as he bills himself as the top running back in the league. Sheets is currently second in the CFL with 1,408 yards rushing, but is tied with Calgary’s Jon Cornish for the lead with 11 touchdowns.

However, the big difference between Sheets and Cornish is that the latter is averaging an impressive 7.2 yards per attempt, while the former checks in with 5.6 yards per carry. Both players have been solid receivers as well, so it’s not unusual to see Sheets placing second in yards from scrimmage (1,667) behind only Cornish (1,865).

These teams faced each other just two weeks ago, with the Riders coming up with a 31-17 road victory. Sheets paved the way for Saskatchewan with a pair of rushing touchdowns, while Durant converted 21-of-31 passes for 234 yards and a score. Defensively, the Roughriders captured three interceptions in order to help the squad overcome seven penalties for a loss of 118 yards.

The Lions crippled themselves during Week 15 action with 13 infractions, costing them 138 yards.

With the win, Saskatchewan now leads the all-time, regular-season series by a count of 93-83-4, dating back to 1954.