So what’s next for the Saskatchewan Roughriders? We’re about to find out.
Just under a week ago, the Riders were unable to win the one game they seemingly won every year when they lost the Labour Day Classic on a last second field goal to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. If not for their own mistakes, the Green and White could have been celebrating their second win of the season, but here we are.
If this team cares as much as they say, and can still turn it around, as they say. Then this is a game they have to win, even if they aren’t going to make the playoffs.
Here’s six things to watch from the Riders perspective in the Banjo Bowl against Winnipeg.
Life away from Mosaic Stadium has not been kind to the Riders. They have just one victory on the road since the start of the 2015 season. That record is even worse against western opponents as the Riders haven’t won a game on the road facing a team in their own division since the 2014 Banjo Bowl. Considering how that game went, and how the franchise changed that day, most Rider fans would probably trade a loss for a healthy Darian Durant that day. A win, as unlike as that is, at a hostile Investors Group Field would send a message to the league that his group isn’t about to roll over. Maybe some good news for the Riders? Winnipeg has swept this back-t0-back just once since the Banjo Bowl was born in 2004.
A big, loud crowd is expected at Investors Group Field. Winnipeg has been the one stadium we’ve seen the noise level have an effect on the Riders offensive abilities. Without veterans Brendon LaBatte and Chris Best, the offensive line will face a serious test. So will the a young batch of receivers. The Riders practised with noise this week, but no amount of recorded noise can prepare you for the real thing. That’s especially true in a place like Winnipeg where fans have been waiting a long time for a stretch like this.
Getting out of park
Outside of fixing some mistakes, one thing the Riders can do to help themselves is get off to better starts. The last couple of weeks, the Riders have only scored six points in the first half. The Riders have been even worse in the first quarter with no points scored in the opening 15 minutes in their last four games. Even just one major against Winnipeg and they might have won the game. Another slow start with a double digit deficit at the half could again be too much to ask to overcome.
When the Riders offence did get going last week, they were led by a trio of receivers. Naaman Roosvel will likely surpass the 1,000 yard mark in the game, he’ll be the quickest Rider to reach the mark in quite some time. Caleb Holley and Ricky Collins Jr. can further prove they belong by having another big game.
Rarely have the Riders gone from one week to another with the same starting secondary, but they’re doing that this week. Even though the defence still gave up an explosive play against the Bombers last week, only giving up one is a step forward for this struggling bunch. We’ll see if another week together can allow the defence to keep big plays at bay. If they can, then the team might have a chance.
Goes without saying that kicker Tyler Crapigna did not have a good week last week. Crapigna missed two field goals and an extra point. Making one of those kicks or even the extra point could have meant a win for the Riders in the Labour Day Classic. The Nepean, Ontario native needs to have a bounce back week to regain the trust of Rider Nation.