The Saskatchewan Roughriders will carry an unblemished preseason record into the 2023 regular season, but starting quarterback Trevor Harris isn’t reading too much into that success.
“I think a lot of times people can make a mountain out of a molehill when you’re 2-0 and be like, ‘We’re the best.’ It’s not necessarily true,” Harris told the Regina media following his team’s 28-16 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Friday.
“I mean, they weren’t playing their starters. They had a handful of starters in on their defence tonight, they’re playing base coverages and whatnot. I don’t think there’s a ton to take away from it, aside from the fact of the team supporting each other and everybody in sync, playing well and the young guys going out there and executing and carrying on what the guys who started the game started.”
The quarterback missed his team’s first exhibition contest, a 30-27 win over the B.C. Lions, while attending the birth of his third child, but made his much-anticipated debut for the Riders on Friday. He appeared in just one series, completing all four passes he attempted for 72 yards and a touchdown.
“I was happy to be out there. Lost an argument on the sideline with (head coach Craig Dickenson) to play some more but at the same time, I get it. I understand where he’s coming from,” Harris said.
“It felt good to get out there and just feel the play clock and be able to do some things that we wanted to do. We kept it real base and simple, which was our strategy. We want to stay base and simple all year so we can execute them fast, but I really love the guys all hitting their spots, the O-line protected well, and we were able to get the ball down the field.”
Saskatchewan fielded almost their entire projected starting offence in the preseason finale, with free-agent receiver acquisitions Derel Walker and Jake Wieneke making their debuts alongside Harris. Dickenson suggested earlier in the week that his franchise pivot would be on the field for most of the first half while he familiarized himself with new offensive coordinator Kelly Jeffrey’s scheme, but that changed quickly on gameday.
“We had anticipated playing him a little longer, but he got every throw that we’d planned on him making. He was able to handle some blitz, which we wanted him to do. I felt like that was a great drive and that was enough,” Dickenson told reporters post-game.
“He didn’t want to come out but that’s what they pay me to do, is to make those decisions. It was the right decision and I’m glad we got out of it relatively healthy.”
A fired-up Harris was interviewed by TSN at halftime of the television broadcast, indicating rather passionately that he was not satisfied with the number of minutes he was allowed to play. After spending the remainder of the contest toting an iPad on the sideline and assisting the trio of quarterbacks battling to be his backup, he was more measured in his explanation of the interaction with Dickenson.
“You try to temper your expectations because I know they’re trying to see certain things out of me and then see certain things out of other guys,” Harris said. “When he told me I was out, I asked him why and he answered it.”
“When they went out for the next drive, they had a little bit of time in between, I said, ‘Coach, still not too late. I can do one more drive. It’d be nice to go and get another series.” And he goes, ‘Uh, no.’ So I tried but I didn’t want to push too hard. But he said, ‘How about this, we’ll let you play all four quarters next week.'”
The Riders are scheduled to open their season in Edmonton on Sunday, June 11. With 732 yards of combined offence through two preseason victories, the team already looks improved from their disappointing 6-12 finish a year ago.
Harris’ strong debut, however brief, was the finishing touch to an impressive training camp, with tough decisions still to be made on cutdown day. With a renewed focus on the running game and a crew of receivers that have impressed their quarterback, hopes are high for a turnaround.
An undefeated preseason may not mean much towards that goal, but Harris did admit that winning is never a negative.
“A lot of times, confidence breeds confidence, and I think it does breed confidence if you expect to win going into the season,” he shared. “But at the same time, if you lose a preseason game, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gonna be the end of the world.”