Craig Dickenson believes Redblacks will use power rankings as ‘ammo’ after placing ninth despite 1-0 record

Photo courtesy: Hannah Souster

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ head coach Craig Dickenson knows that football teams are the most dangerous when they feel they’ve been disrespected.

After the Ottawa Redblacks were placed at the bottom of the power rankings for back-to-back weeks despite being 1-0, Dickenson feels his team’s upcoming opponent will be extra motivated to prove the doubters wrong.

“I’m sure that’s ammo. That’s one thing that guys don’t like — when you doubt them, they want to prove you wrong,” said Dickenson. “I’m sure they’re going to come out blazing and they’re going to come out with a lot to prove. Hopefully our guys feel the same way, that we got work to do as well and we’re far from a finished product. We gotta come out and play our best game if we expect to win on Saturday.”

Ottawa was abysmal on offence in Week 1 with Matt Nichols completing 12-of-20 pass attempts for 71 yards and Timothy Flanders managing just 39 yards on eleven carries. It was the first time a CFL team won with 71 passing yards or fewer since Sept. 27, 1992 when Winnipeg threw for 56 passing yards in a 17-16 win over Calgary.

“I’m sure they’ve done some self-scouting. They’re probably going to come out and try to do some things a little differently,” said Dickenson. “Matt Nichols is a good quarterback. They’ve got some good people on that team and we know it. They’re 1-0 and I don’t know why they’re picked ninth in the power poll. I don’t know how that happened when you’ve got 0-2 teams and they picked Ottawa ninth and Ottawa’s 1-0.”

Ottawa did not play in Week 2, which has given the team extra time to prepare for Saskatchewan’s tough defence. The unit leads the CFL in sacks with eight and is ranked second in interceptions with four.

“We feel like we’ve got a decent handle on what they’re doing, but at the same time they’ve had a bye week in between game one and us. We know they’re going to come out with some different stuff and one of the things we mentioned to our team is be ready to make adjustments on all three phases,” said Dickenson.

Saskatchewan defensive coordinator Jason Shivers has a deep respect for Ottawa head and offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice, who spent the past four seasons coaching Matt Nichols in Winnipeg. He’s expecting to see a lot more from the Redblacks’ attack on Saturday at Mosaic Stadium.

“LaPo’s a great OC. He can hit you from all different angles, so I’m definitely expecting him to come in and try to throw the ball with Matt. He’s a good quarterback, he can get the ball out quick, he’s pretty accurate. I’m looking forward to the passing game, but I also think that they’re going to try to run the ball a lot more against us, just to try to establish some kind of rhythm with their offence,” said Shivers.

Dickenson also said that the coaching film from Ottawa’s win over Edmonton — also known as the “all-twelve” or “end zone” film — was not shot well, which made it more challenging to prepare this week.

“The film is not very good and I don’t mean the film as in the play on the field, but the end zone copy, something happened with it,” said Dickenson. “It’s hard to study, to be quite honest. Hopefully they get that cleaned up over there.”

“We expect a tough game from Ottawa,” said Dickenson. “They haven’t lost a game. They’re undefeated just like we are. We know it’s going to be a battle, we’re working hard this week and trying to stay very focused on the task at hand which is to play our best game to date.”

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.