Jekyll and Hyde: Riders show good and bad sides in win over Redblacks

It’s official, the 2016 Saskatchewan Roughriders are better than last year’s edition after capturing their fourth win of the season, 32-30 over the Ottawa Redblacks.

On a great night for football in the Nation’s Capital, the Riders not only showed just how much they’ve improved but also how far they have to go if they want to be considered Grey Cup contenders in the future.

For much of the night, the Riders looked like the better team. Heading into the fourth quarter, they held a 16-7 lead. It was easily their best defensive effort of the season to date. Seven points represents the fewest numbers of points the Riders have given up all season heading into the fourth quarter. A team that hasn’t been able to create turnovers suddenly forced five of them in one game. A defensive line that couldn’t get to the quarterback, did with two sacks and pressure most of the night. Special teams did their part too keep returners at bay and picking up a few yards themselves.

It wasn’t perfect though, the offence didn’t hold up their end of the bargain through the first 50 minutes of the game as they only found the end zone once despite the turnovers and were forced to settle for five field goals in regulation. Just one of those becomes a touchdown and the Riders hang on to win the game in 60 minutes.

It seemed like they were going to get away with it, but then, the wheels fell off. For much of the second half, the Riders offence was stuck in neutral forcing the defence to spend even more time on the field. Eventually, the unit cracked and the Redblacks battled back to tie the game at 22 with less than four minutes to play. After the Riders regained the lead one of their biggest problems reared it’s ugly head. A kickoff out of bounds from Tyler Crapigna led to a touchdown drive by Henry Burris that was aided by four penalties, including two on 3rd down on Ottawa’s side of the field. They looked very much like a young team that was losing their composure. Even then, they had a chance to win with a 55 yard field goal on the final play of regulation after a couple of quick plays.

Even within that mess of a finish, there was some good. Both times the Redblacks tied the game, the Riders showed strong mental toughness to get back out there and do what needed to be done. The first time, Rob Bagg made an outstanding one handed grab in the end zone with a defender all over him, the second time, the Riders had a shot to win the game with a 55-yard field goal attempt that was ultimately no good.

In the end, they did do just enough to win thanks to a missed field goal from Chris Milo in overtime and a good kick of their own. The win is the Riders third in a row and first on the road this season.

There was a lot of good from the Riders on Friday night in Ottawa, there was a lot of bad as well. In the end, they got the win, and for a team trying to sell hope for the future, that’s all that matters.

Other Thoughts

There’s a whole lot of Rider fans that owe kicker Tyler Crapigna an apology. The Ottawa native had a tough go at it during the Labour Day Classic, with some calling for his release, since then, Crapigna has been nails. He was the offence for the bulk of the night and a big reason the Riders picked up their fourth win of the season.

Head coach Chris Jones can still be a little challenge happy, this time it didn’t cost him the game. Jones used up both of his challenges in the first half, losing them both, leaving him with no chances to review anything or call a time out over the final 30 minutes. Jones probably would have liked to have a challenge in his back pocket during that penalty filled game tying drive by Ottawa. Though, it’s hard to say if any of the challengeable calls would have been overturned.

The big three Jones added to the roster over the last couple of weeks had mixed debuts. Defensive lineman Willie Jefferson was the best of the three as he crashed through that Redblacks offensive line all night. Receiver Jeff Fuller made a few plays, a few blocks but also got hurt a couple of times. Linebacker Henoc Muamba didn’t see time on defence but took two special teams penalties.

Armanti Edwards continues to impress. The receiver had six catches for 83 yards, including a couple of highlight reel grabs. The Riders depth at American receiver is suddenly very deep. Now, they need to improve things on the Canadian end.

The team might have finally found their return man, Joe Craig racked up 217 yards on kickoff, punt and missed field goal returns. Craig lost some yards thanks to some penalties as well.

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