Chris Jones deserves credit for Riders win in Hamilton

Winning is always a team effort but one of the biggest reasons the Riders are back above .500 is thanks to their head coach.

Coming into the Riders game this week with Hamilton there were few reasons to believe the Green and White would beat the Ticats. Considering how the Saskatchewan offence has played this season, thinking that Hamilton should have won this game isn’t that far fetched. Was it a guaranteed win? No, of course not. That’s why the games are played on the field and not on paper. Predictions by pundits are made for fun and aren’t a sure thing.

The Riders have moved to 3-2 this season because they picked a quarterback and they gave the running game the respect it deserved and for that, Chris Jones deserves credit. Heading into the game, Jones said, in understandably vague terms that his team was going to make a few changes coming off a bye week. They did and it worked.

After giving Brandon Bridge two series off early in the game, Jones stuck with the Canadian pivot the rest of the way. Did Bridge light it up? No, it’s hard to say that with less than 200 yards passing but he was effective completing 77 per cent of his passes. Bridge also appeared to be more confident using his feet than he has so far this season. Funny how that works.

What really helped Bridge out was the team’s renewed commitment to running the football. Marcus Thigpen will make the highlight reels for his 80 yard touchdown dash but it was Jerome Messam and Tre Mason who did the work in this game. They combined for 121 yards rushing giving much needed balance to the offence. Messam was especially important in closing out the game.

Stephen McAdoo deserves some credit as well for using his naturally conservative play calling against Hamilton. His series of short passes, hitches and screens eventually led to Naaman Roosevelt being wide open in the end zone as the defence got caught looking toward the line of scrimmage instead of down field. After that touchdown, the Riders led the rest of the way.

The thing about being a columnist covering sports is that things change from game to game. Your opinion might change as the season progresses.

Something you might not have liked one game might change the next. In the eyes of some, that might make you a “critic,” but that’s the beauty of sports. You just never really know what might happen every game, especially in the CFL.

Game Thoughts

For as good as Chris Jones was, June Jones was not. Hamilton’s Jones’ performance was a classic situation of overthinking it. It started early with the coin toss. I know 3DownNation’s Drew Edwards likes to poke fun at The Athletic’s Kirk Penton’s thoughts on the coin toss when it comes to the wind, but taking the ball on a windy day was definitely not the right move Thursday. The Riders got the ball with the wind in the second quarter and got to choose in the second half. The poorly executed quick kick changed the game as well. Just pin what was an in effective offence deep.

Brendon LaBatte deserves a tonne of credit for the week he’s had. The veteran offensive lineman wasn’t afraid to speak out after practice was halted this week, echoing the thoughts of his head coach at the time. LaBatte followed that up by returning from an in-game injury and had probably his best game of the season. Leading by example at it’s finest.

Do I need to talk about how good the defence is? Once again it kept the Riders within striking distance before the offence woke up in the second half. Pressure on Masoli was again the key. After a couple of weeks it will be interesting to see if other teams will be able to do the same to the Hamilton pivot. Can he adjust?

After a few penalties early, the Riders settled in and kept things clean the rest of the way. 45 yards in infractions is a marked improvement for this team.

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