Riders are setting the tone at home

There’s one thing you can’t take away from the Saskatchewan Roughriders this year: they are making sure their new barn is a tough place to play.

Before the Riders began their season against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, I wrote how the team had the rare chance to take advantage of a new stadium and a new era. It was time to make Saskatchewan a tough place to play again. The last few years, Taylor Field wasn’t the most difficult place to play in the league. Now, you can begin to make the argument that the new digs on Elphinstone might be.

Are the Saskatchewan Roughriders an elite team? No. Are they good at home? Based on the results so far this season, the answer is yes.

The green and white have played four games at their new home, winning three of them. Even the one loss on home turf, the Bombers had to fight and claw to get in overtime. Overall, the numbers are staggering. The Riders scored as many points against the Lions on Sunday night as they have all season on the road. In total, the Riders have put 156 points on the board at home. The defence is also able to get pressure on the quarterback, helping the secondary. It’s night and day.

Before Sunday’s game wins against Hamilton and Toronto easily cast a shadow of doubt on this team. Were they actually good in those games or was it their opposition? Beating a western team and a team with a winning record shows that something special might be forming at Mosaic Stadium. You can see it from game to game. The Riders definitely have a very different level of confidence at home compared to the road.

For a team that’s still rebuilding, defending home turf is an important first step. We’ve seen it in Calgary where the Stamps haven’t lost at McMahon in what seems like forever. Winning more often than not at home leaves some room for error on the road as every team has a stinker or two a year (like the Lions on Sunday).

Now, they just need to figure out how to do it away from home. Then they might be onto something.

Game Thoughts

– The formula for success for the Riders doesn’t appear to be that complicated. Pressure the quarterback and get Cameron Marshall involved. All of their wins have involved both of these things to various degrees. The defence had four sacks and plenty of pressure (which could say a lot about the Lions offensive line that has been struggling this season). Marshall didn’t have a huge game on the ground but did have over 100 yards of combined offence and scored two touchdowns. As a team the Riders rushed for 100 yards, which also helped.

Ed Gainey had the game of his life (hot take, I know). Up to this point, Gainey wasn’t having as good of a season as he did last year. Chris Jones told the media after the game that he had a rather direct conversation with Gainey this week. It paid off as the vet set a new franchise record with four interceptions in a single game. Gainey added a fumble recovery for good measure. You can’t expect those kinds of numbers every week, or probably ever again, but Gainey needs to make an impact every week to help a young secondary.

– Duron Carter played corner a couple of times after Kacy Rodgers was dinged up. I wonder if Carter was put out there late to give Gainey a shot at the record. Why the Lions didn’t test Carter the first time he was out is a mystery to me but they went for it the second time and Gainey was right there like they were expecting it. If this was the case, I love it as it’s not every day a player has a shot at setting a team record, especially for interceptions in a game. That being said, it would have been pretty cool to see Carter get a pick as well as Gainey did basically steal it from him.

– The Riders held back on Chad Owens for now with a bye week ahead to give the veteran a little more time to recover from an injury. He was eligible to play this week after spending six weeks on the injured list. Owens might be in tough though with some younger players having some strong games returning kicks. This week it was Christion Jones’ turn. Owens will get his chance but the pressure has to be on.

– Bravo to the CFL for reacting to what happened in Virginia this weekend. Those diversity is strength shirts are amazing and the fact that the league thought quickly and got them to Regina on short notice is great. I’m sure a lot of planning went into their planned debut later this season and giving that up probably wasn’t easy but it was the right call. Sure, there’s a few yahoos out there that will say “stick to sports” but that’s just nonsense. Hopefully fans will be able to get their hands on them at some point with proceeds going to an appropriate organization.