Was it pretty? Heck no, but as the old saying goes, a win is a win.
That’s exactly what the Saskatchewan Roughriders did on Thursday night beating the Hamilton Ticats 18-13 at Mosaic Stadium.
An ugly win in football is nothing new. An ugly win for the Riders is nothing new and there isn’t much to write about here. The context of this ugly win? Well, that’s everything.
It was just five days ago we were talking about one of the worst losses in recent Roughriders memory. Perhaps the worst of the Chris Jones era. Heading into that game with the Montreal Alouettes, the favoured Riders were supposed to beat the hapless Als quite easily. Well, that didn’t happen.
Fast forward a few days. All of the talk heading into this game was eerily similar. The much better Ticats were going to have their way with the Riders, who came into the game last in the power rankings – not only on 3DownNation – but basically across the league. Frankly, it was hard to argue. Just as it was hard to argue last week.
But this is the CFL and that’s why I actually just about picked the Riders to win this week, I just didn’t have the guts to do it.
Whenever it feels like you have this league figured out, it throws you a curveball. When all the signs point one way, it tends to go the other. The Riders coming off an abysmal loss on a short week against a team that’s rolling? Seems like a safe bet. Just like the week before against Montreal, it wasn’t.
What’s next? Who knows. You got to love it.
There’s no question the Roughriders won this game because of their defence. Yeah, they gave up a pile of yards but it was the ultimate case of “bend but don’t break.” The Ticats put up nearly 430 yards of offence but didn’t score a single touchdown. Is that sustainable over the course of an entire season? Absolutely not but tonight it was their only hope.
Chris Jones admitted after the game his team didn’t expect the Ticats to go so run heavy early. It looked like it could be a long night for the defence because of it but they certainly adjusted.
Duron Carter wasn’t much of a story in this one. He looked serviceable as a defensive back, which is fine, but he’s still badly needed on offence (we’ll get into that side of the ball more in a bit). In a way, Jones recognized that something had to give with Carter as they actually matched him with Terrance Toliver, rather than a specific spot on the field. We tend to see this kind of thing more in the NFL than the CFL (usually top guys against each other rather than trying to hide someone) but short of actually adding another DB to the game day roster, Jones had no other choice. With the Riders now off for a week, hopefully, it means we’ll see a change.
I’m still not sure what Ticats head coach June Jones was thinking on his team’s first drive. They had their way with the Riders defence, got to their four-yard line and then kicked a field goal on third and two. Go for it. At worst you force a bad offence to go a long way to score. Based on the drive, they probably score and it might have been a different game. Instead, the Riders took the ball at the 35 and were able to flip the field.
For as good as the defence was, the offence was equally as bad. They made the one play when they needed it and deserve credit for it, but the rest was rough.
I thought the protection of the quarterbacks was better this week compared to last. A number of the sacks taken by Bridge or Watford were more on them than the offensive line. The big boys weren’t perfect and there’s still work to be done but it was a step in the right direction.
Until the final drive of the game, the Riders offence looked the best with Carter and Jerome Messam on the field. Coincidence?
The talk of the call in shows on the drive home was the quarterbacks. More so, Jones’ decision to rotate quarterbacks all night long. Before the game, Jones basically told everyone that David Watford was likely to come into the game at some point unless Bridge played lights out. I don’t think any of us could have expected that switch just two series into the game.
Jones told media gathered after the game that he expects a lot out of his quarterbacks and they’re going to keep at it until they figure it out. I just can’t wrap my head around this. It’s one thing if you think a change is needed after two or three games. Bridge/Watford is not Bridge/Kevin Glenn, the duo this year are basically the same quarterback.
Bringing in Bridge for Glenn was a big change for defences. Is Watford for Bridge enough of a change up? I don’t think so. Not to mention you’re basically telling a young quarterback you don’t believe in him. Then doing it again with the other when you take him out of the game. How is a young quarterback supposed to learn to work through his struggles if he’s consistently getting pulled?
Brett Lauther is quietly becoming one of the better stories in the CFL this year. After trying to crack another squad for years, he finally got his chance with Tyler Crapigna on the shelf for the year. He’s definitely making the most of it making a couple more clutch kicks against Hamilton. So far, the former Saint Mary’s Huskie has connected on 10 of his 11 field goal attempts. Lauther previously only played in four games with Hamilton in 2013. He was just six for 10 in four games all season.