Corey Chamblin and the Saskatchewan Roughriders are heading into the CFL playoffs on a positive note.
The defending Grey Cup champions capped the regular season with a 24-17 home win over Edmonton on Saturday night. The Eskimos had already secured second in the West but Saskatchewan clinched third with the victory, and more importantly snapped an ugly five-game losing streak.
The Riders and Eskimos will get to do it all over again, this time at Commonwealth Stadium on Sunday in the West semifinal. The winner will travel to Calgary to face the first-place Stampeders on Nov. 23.
“There are two sets of guys in the locker-room right now,” Chamblin said. “There is one set of guys who want to defend last year’s title and there’s another set of guys who want this year’s title to be their first.
“There’s a healthy blend in there and I’m really looking forward to getting back to the drawing board to get ready for another game that we know will be ready for us and that we will be ready for.”
The big question with the Riders is if incumbent Darian Durant will start Sunday? Durant suffered an elbow injury in a win against Winnipeg on Sept. 7 and recently returned to practice. Veteran Kerry Joseph was Saskatchewan’s starter in the victory over Edmonton.
Edmonton won the season series 2-1.
Also on Sunday, the Montreal Alouettes (9-9) will host B.C. (9-9) in the East Division semifinal. The Lions finished fourth in the West but secured the third Eastern playoff seed by posting a better record than the Toronto Argonauts (8-10).
The Lions will attempt to become the fourth straight team to win the Grey Cup on home soil. B.C. and Montreal split their season series 1-1.
The East Division semifinal winner will face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Tim Hortons Field on Nov. 23. The conference champions square off in the Grey Cup game Nov. 30 at B.C. Place.
Ottawa (2-16) ended its inaugural season losing 23-5 in Toronto on Friday night. It was the fifth straight loss for the expansion Redblacks, who became just the third CFL club to suffer 16 losses in a season, joining the ’88 Rough Riders and ’97 Ticats.
When Calgary’s Jon Cornish takes to the field Nov. 23, he will do so with a third straight CFL rushing title under his belt. The Stampeders’ star ran for 1,082 yards despite playing in just nine games this season, becoming the league’s lone 1,000-yard rusher in 2014.
Cornish, who averaged 7.8 yards per carry, had six 100-yard games this year and broke the 150-yard mark four times, including a season-high 174 yards against Toronto on Sept. 13. Cornish averaged 120.2 yards per contest, compared to the 114.7 yards Hall of Famer Mike Pringle averaged in ’98 when he ran for a league-record 2,065 yards.
Cornish joins a very select group of CFL players to have recorded at least three rushing titles. The others include Johnny Bright (’57, ’58, ’59), George Reed (five straight from 1965-’69) and Pringle (four consecutive ’97-2000).
Not surprisingly, Cornish has been nominated for the CFL’s outstanding player and Canadian awards, honours he captured last season.
But it was B.C. linebacker Solomon Elimimian who had a record-breaking campaign. Elimimian registered a league-record 143 tackles, 54 more than runner-up Bear Woods of Montreal. Elimimian was also the only CFL player to register more than 100 tackles this season.
Despite missing Toronto’s season-ending win over Ottawa with a concussion, Argos quarterback Ricky Ray finished the season as the league’s top passer. Ray threw for 4,595 yards, the only player to crack the 4,000-yard plateau.
Ray also led the CFL in touchdown passes (28) and was its most accurate starter (68.5 per cent).
Adarius Bowman led the league in receiving (112 catches, 1,456 yards and six TDs) and yards from scrimmage (1,470). Bowman was one of just three players to surpass the 1,000-yard plateau, the others being Winnipeg’s Clarence Denmark (65 catches, 1,080 yards, three touchdowns) and Montreal’s Duron Carter (75 receptions, 1,030 yards, seven TDs).
Saskatchewan’s John Chick led the CFL in sacks with 15. He anchored a Riders’ defence that posted a league-leading 61 sacks, six ahead of second-place Edmonton.
Toronto’s Swayze Waters had two solid accomplishments. He finished the season as the CFL scoring leader with 192 points and connected on 47-of-52 field goals (90.4 per cent). Waters was also the league’s top punter with a 47.7-yard average.