REGINA — After a roller-coaster victory in Week 1, the Saskatchewan Roughriders are looking for a complete effort when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats come to town on Saturday.
Saskatchewan’s season opener against the B.C. Lions on Aug. 5 was a tale of two halves for the Riders, who stormed out to a 31-0 lead midway through the second quarter only to have to withstand a furious second-half comeback by the Lions. Limited to just two first downs in the second half, the Riders held on for a 33-29 victory.
Head coach Craig Dickenson believes they won’t repeat their second-half struggles this week.
“I hope we’ve put it behind us, it was eight days ago so we’ve had a long week. That was the idea: learn from the mistakes and try praise, reward and reinforce the good,” said Dickenson. “We felt like we did a lot of good things in the first half. In the second half we didn’t play as well, but we were resilient and we found a way to get more than they did when it was all said and done.
“I felt there was way more positives than negatives from that first game.”
Riders quarterback Cody Fajardo finished the game 28 of 35 passing for 230 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Like Dickenson, Fajardo is focusing on the positives from the opener with a goal of repeating the first-half success.
“We started off so great. Whatever we felt going out in that first week, let’s try and replicate it because obviously it worked for us,” said Fajardo. “For me, I’m always going to be nervous, going to be emotional because whenever you get the chance to play football for another game, that’s a blessing in my eyes. This game is so funny, it doesn’t matter how much you love the game it will never love you back so you can’t take snaps and plays and games for granted.”
Like the Riders, the Ticats got off to a quick start in their opener against Winnipeg with a seven-play, 89-yard drive that ended in a 37-yard touchdown pass from Jeremiah Masoli to Jaelon Acklin.
Unlike the Riders’ extended success, however, Hamilton couldn’t find a rhythm on offence and dropped a 19-6 decision to the Blue Bombers. Masoli finished the game 24 of 41 passing for 242 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Receiver Brandon Banks, Hamilton’s top offensive weapon, was held to 77 yards on eight catches.
Riders safety Mike Edem said he respects Masoli and isn’t about to underestimate what the veteran quarterback brings to the table.
“Masoli can beat you from inside the pocket and outside the pocket, that’s the biggest thing. He can make every throw in the book,” said Edem. “He makes his throws from an unorthodox base, in terms of he can throw from any platform. As a safety, you cannot think he’s committed to one side because in a heartbeat he can put his foot on the ground and throw it opposite. You’ve got to play him like a true quarterback.”
The Riders’ offence has one interesting change this week, with Andrew Lauderdale replacing Brett Boyko as the left tackle. Dickenson said Boyko has been feeling “under the weather” all week and the decision was made to start a healthy Lauderdale in his place.
The Ticats are bringing two veterans back to the roster Saturday with right tackle Chris Van Zeyl and nose tackle Ted Laurent suiting up after missing Week 1.
HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (0-1) AT SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (1-0)
Saturday, Mosaic Stadium
FAJARDO FIRED DARTS: Cody Fajardo started last week’s game against the Lions with 15 consecutive completions. The streak ended early in the second quarter when Fajardo missed connecting with Kyran Moore. The CFL record for most consecutive completed passes in a single game is 23 by Jeremiah Masoli on July 23, 2016.
PICK-SIX RECORD: Nick Marshall tied the Riders’ franchise record for most career interceptions returned for a touchdown when he scored on a 27-yard interception in last week’s victory over the B.C. Lions. Marshall, Ken McEachern and Jackie Mitchell share the franchise record with four career interception-return touchdowns each.
FIELD POSITION WOES: In last week’s loss to the Blue Bombers, the Tiger-Cats started 13 of their 14 drives in their own end of the field. Their average starting point was the 30-yard line, which was the poorest mark in the CFL in Week 1.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 13, 2021.
Jeff DeDekker, The Canadian Press