Brandon Smith isn’t looking at the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ record.
The West Division-leading Calgary Stampeders (3-1-1) host the Riders (1-4) at McMahon Stadium on Thursday night. And although Saskatchewan is coming off a 41-3 road loss to Montreal, Smith has a healthy respect for his divisional rival.
“You can’t look at records in this league,” said Smith. “Records don’t show the talent and the way the team plays.
“Anybody can be a couple plays away from being 5-0 and anyone can be a couple plays away from being 0-5. We can’t sit back and look at their record and dwell on what’s happened in the past. They’re getting better just as well as we’re getting better.”
Calgary is riding high following a 44-41 overtime win over the B.C. Lions last week. Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was named one of the league’s players of the week after completing 29-of-44 passes for 364 yards and three touchdowns versus the Lions.
And Mitchell expects Chris Jones, the Riders head coach/GM, to have his team prepared to face the Stampeders.
“To me, they’ve got a great coach,” said Mitchell. “I don’t care what they looked like in the past and what they looked like last game.
“They can come out and be the hottest team in the league with a coach like that. We’ve got to make sure that we don’t tread lightly at all.”
Saskatchewan will also have its offensive leader back. Quarterback Darian Durant will start after missing two games with a sprained ankle.
“I’ve been in this league a long time,” said Durant. “I’ve seen teams go 0-5 and win Grey Cups.
“At the end of the day, this is a long season. There’s no such thing as a season being over in August.”
Jones wants the Riders to forget about last week’s loss and concentrate on a Stampeders’ squad riding a four-game unbeaten streak.
“We stumbled and stubbed our toe last week,” said Jones. “We’ve put that game behind us and it’s time to focus on a very good Calgary team.”
Calgary coach Dave Dickenson wants his players to learn from the mistakes they made against B.C.
“Our guys need to be better,” said Dickenson. “As long as we’re improving, I’m fine with whatever outcome because I want this team to get better each and every week and if we do that I know wins will take care of themselves.”
Durant considered waiting until Aug. 20 when the Riders host Calgary to make his return but figured his team needed him more now.
“I’m just anxious to get out there more than anything and help our team,” he said. “With the situation we’re in and me trying to be there for my guys, it just made it a no-brainer for me.
“I know my body and I feel like that I can help the team. I wouldn’t go out there if I didn’t feel like I was going to help us or if I felt like we’d be in a bad position with me being out there.”
Receiver Naaman Roosevelt is excited to have Durant back under centre. Roosevelt had eight catches for 182 yards and a TD in Saskatchewan’s 30-29 home win over Ottawa on July 22 with backup Mitchell Gale in the lineup.
“To have that guy (Durant) back there leading us is just awesome,” said Roosevelt. “We definitely want to set the tone.
“They’re at home and they’re a good team and very disciplined, so for us our main goal is to just come here and just match their intensity and match their physicality.”