They know they can’t afford to look back or dwell on the past, especially with a rejuvenated, green-clad opponent in town Saturday afternoon. Truth be told, the 2-3 Saskatchewan Roughriders probably look at the BC Lions as motivation: a squad that can turn its fortunes around in one season, while playing up-tempo and entertaining football in the process.
In this era of the salary cap and more frequent player movement, this has become the norm. You can’t always just assume results to stay the same from season to season. That is one of many reasons why Solomon Elimimian knows you can never judge a team based on their record.
“They’re a very talented team with the receivers they have. Look at that catch Duron Carter made last week, making the headlines,” said Elimimian.
“They have a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball, and obviously they think they’re a better team than the last time we faced them in pre-season. At the end of the day it’s about us, and I always preach that.”
As far as Saskatchewan goes, any success will be dependent on their quarterback. Kevin Glenn looks to like a man half his age. The Quarterback threw four 340 yards and four touchdowns in Saskatchewan’s win over the Toronto Argonauts last week, and also surpassed 50,000 career yards earlier this season.
Glenn’s top receiving targets in 2017 have been Carter, Naaman Roosevelt and Bakari Grant.
“He just keeps going and keeps going like the Energizer Bunny,” said Elimimian of the 40-year old pivot.
“He’s always been a very good quarterback and he’s making some really good throws. He’s playing with confidence and the team as a whole is playing with confidence, but at the same time it comes down to us executing and playing fast and physical.”
What a time to be playing a big home and home series that could set the tone for a big second half of the season in the wild west. The return contest goes Sunday, August 13th at new Mosaic Stadium.
The way things are shaping up right now; it would be premature to count out any of these divisional opponents for what should be a tight playoff race down the stretch. It’s worth noting Western teams have a remarkable 14-2-1 record against Eastern teams.
“It’s a chance for us to keep getting better, and that’s the biggest thing you want,” added Elimimian.
“You don’t want to look too much into the standings and things like that. You just want to play hard because it’s the next game on the calendar. Obviously it’s a division game, but it means a lot because it’s the next game.”
“We don’t look at wins and losses,” added GM/head coach Wally Buono.
“We’re 4-2 ,their 2-3 and it’s the quality of football that you’re playing. We could have played better in games, we could have played worse in games. At this point the Riders are getting better each week, and that’s the most noticeable thing to me. Those are the things that you concern yourself with. For us it’s game seven, for them in game six. There’s lots of football to be played.”
Buono’s team did some good things in last week’s loss in Edmonton, escaping from an early 14-point deficit chief among them. To a man, they know they have to be better and continue to put an emphasis on playing a full four quarters.
Although Jonathon Jennings continues to throw following his shoulder injury suffered on July 15th, Travis Lulay will get another start at quarterback.
The 33-year old had a monster outing in his last start against Saskatchewan on July 17th, 2015: 404 yards passing, four touchdown tosses and a career high 105 yards rushing in a 27-24 victory.
169 days after he put pen to paper on a contract, Chris Williams finally makes his highly anticipated debut at wide receiver. The speedster has been sprinting for a few weeks and looked crisp and agile in the last couple weeks of practice. He should no doubt add even more intrigue and playmaking ability to this offence.
“Excited more than anything. I am just ready to get out there and play,” said Williams.
“I got to watch all of these guys throughout camp and the first six games. I’ve been jealous so I am ready to get back out there.”
Williams should provide matchup nightmares for the opposing defence, and should also be kind of a Swiss Army Knife with his ability to be a decoy perhaps even return a few kicks. Most important: he is anxious to win after being forced to watch his Ottawa REDBLACKS win the Grey Cup from the sidelines.
The Lions offence has been great at second down production and sustaining drives, areas that should continue to be productive with number 80 on the active roster.
“I feel like I have developed into a pretty well-rounded receiver. I know my speed is the glaring thing that stands out, but anything I can do to help, breaking tackles or moving the chains, I am willing to do.”
“I’m very thankful that we progressed the way we did. It let me get as close to 100 percent as I possibly can. I am feeling good going forward.”
Look for Williams to share reps with Nick Moore at the “X” wide receiver spot. Make no mistake: Buono and Khari Jones will do what they can to get as many of these guys on the field when they have to. It’s a wonderful dilemma to have.
Changing Of The Guard
Offensive line and the secondary have no doubt been the most scrutinized positions for the club through six games. Up front, they will make a change for the second time in as many weeks as Charles Vaillancourt starts at left guard in place of David Foucault. The first round draft pick from 2016 is taking a “business as usual” approach.
“The important thing is to progress every day of the week so you are 100 percent ready,” said Vaillancourt.
“I can play left guard, right guard or centre so you have to be prepared to play every game. We didn’t have our best game in Edmonton so this week we want to answer back, be physical and show what kind of offensive line we have.”
Heading into this week Saskatchewan’s defence was ranked second in points allowed, trailing only the undefeated Eskimos. Vaillancourt agrees that is a tribute to what head coach Chris Jones brings to the table.
“Of course they are going to bring a lot of stuff and they want to get in our heads,” added Vaillancourt.
“They have some very fast and athletic guys, so they’ll want to get us moving. That’s why we prepare and watch tape every day.”
The injury to TJ Lee has created quite the domino effect in the secondary. The most notable change sees Steven Clarke making his first appearance of the season at field corner. You can check out the entire depth chart at the bottom.
Three Keys To Victory
Start Fast- The longer Saskatchewan hangs around and believes they can pull off the upset; the more interesting the game gets. Lulay and the offence would be best served by scoring early and often, but this goes for both sides of the ball. An early statement by the defence also goes a long way.
Pressure the QB- A glaring theme in the two losses to Edmonton was the lack of a pass rush. That must change in order for them to get back in the win column.
Shutdown Carter– The Riders’ biggest playmaker should get plenty of attention from an improved secondary. It will be interesting to see what they do in terms of covering number 89.
“He’s a guy I was excited about when we signed him, we’ve seen him for years on other teams making big plays, and now he’s on our side. It’s an opportunity for him to kind of establish who he is on this team too. It’s just another weapon and that makes all the other guys excited to, because you know he is going to get attention.”- Lulay on having Williams in his offence.
Stats of the week: those who clamoured to have Chris Rainey play a bigger role in the offence, take note: The Rain Main leads all CFL players with 1,051 combined yards, 231 of those coming from scrimmage. After six games last year he had 85 yards from scrimmage. The Lions still lead the CFL in first downs (146) and rushing touchdowns (11).
Jeremiah watch continues: the running back is 52 rushing yards shy of 2,000 for his career.
The Lions swept three games against Saskatchewan last season, and have won six straight meetings dating back to the start of 2015. Jennings was on fire in last year’s season series, passing for 927 yards and eight touchdowns, but will have to wait at least a week to build on that dominance against flat landers.
Former UBC Thunderbirds kicker and 2015 Vanier Cup Champion Quinn Van Gyslwyk will appear in his second pro game in place of the injured Tyler Crapigna. Van Gyslywk’s tenure at the Point Grey campus included Canada West All-Star nods in 2013 and 2015. The Riders selected him 26th overall in the 2015 CFL Draft.
Along with Glenn, the former Lions contingent in green includes DL’s Zach Minter and Ese Mrabure, LB and Cameron Ontko.
TSN 1040 has you covered, beginning with the pre-game show at 2:00PM. Bob Marjanovich and Giulio Caravatta have the call at 4:00PM. Viewers can watch on TSN 1, and our fans in the United States can see the action on ESPN 2.
Download the roster and depth chart for Saturday’s game HERE!
Matt Baker: email@example.com