Plan the parade.
Just kidding! The Saskatchewan Roughriders beat the Toronto Argonauts 27-19 on the strength of a dominating defensive performance and there were certainly a number of positives to come from the victory (though it wasn’t all rose petals and watermelons.)
Here are nine things we learned.
1. That defence is for real. The Riders held Toronto to just 265 yards of net offence and a paltry 2.8 yards per play on second down. Charleston Hughes, as you might have heard, had three sacks after calling his shot on Twitter before the game but the entire front seven was pretty darn good. With Hughes and Willie Jefferson (who was credited with two pressures), the Riders can get pressure with just four guys which opens up all kinds of options on the back end. Linebacker Derrick Moncrief led the team with eight tackles and looks like a legitimate beast while Sam Eguavoen had five.
2. The secondary might be too. The Saskatchewan secondary played well too with new boundary corner Nick Marshall providing a key pick-six in the fourth quarter. No reason to play Duron Carter in the secondary at this point.
3. Lauther has a leg. After missing a relative chippy, Brett Lauther canned four field goals including two from 45-plus. Lauther has always had a big leg, the issue has been his consistency but he looked great after settling down on Friday night.
4. The line is… OK? The Saskatchewan offensive line looked shaky in the early going, surrendering sacks on the opening two drives but they kept quarterback Zach Collaros clean the rest of the way. There were some adjustments: Darius Bladek took over for Jarvis Harrison at right guard and Collaros started getting rid of the ball quicker: take away the goofy 34-yarder to Caleb Holley on the wonky third down play in the first half and Collaros’ longest completion was 17 yards.
5. Running the football helped. The Riders got the run game going or at least demonstrated a willingness to run the ball. Jerome Messam finished with 74 yards but it took him 21 carries to get there, a meagre 3.4-yard-per-carry average. American Tre Mason had 37 yards on five carries but also lost a fumble.
6. The Riders were terrible on first down, especially in the first half. They averaged just over 4.8 yards on first down for the game – Toronto was 6.15 – but were in second and more than seven yards to go a whopping 10 times in the first 30 minutes. They were better in the second with just four second-and-long situations.
7. Collaros was tidy, throwing 18 of 25 for 203 yards and a touchdown and he didn’t turn the ball over – his efficiency rating was 109. 3 (Mike Reilly, last year’s MOP, was 103.2 in 2017.) Collaros seemed to get more comfortable as the game wore on and there were certainly some flashes of this Old Zach person everyone keeps talking about.
8. Collaros certainly spread the ball around. Nine Riders had catches in the game, though none had more than 50 yards receiving. Carter led the team with seven targets (three catches) and Namaan Roosevelt was next with five (three catches.)
9. The Riders won the turnover battle (2-1 ) and they were 8-1 last year when they did that. They also won the time-of-possession, holding the ball for 32:58.