’Riders desperate for a win before break

As if the Saskatchewan Roughriders don’t have enough to concern themselves with, given their dismal 1-6 record.

Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant believes they are close to turning things around in Regina.

Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant believes they are close to turning things around in Regina.

REGINA — As if the Saskatchewan Roughriders don’t have enough to concern themselves with, given their dismal 1-6 record.

But there’s another factor adding to the significance of the Riders’ game Thursday night against the Toronto Argonauts at Rogers Centre.

Saskatchewan has a bye week following its game versus Toronto. But a loss the Argos could result in firings or cuts — or both — prior to the ’Riders’ traditional Labour Day home-and-home series with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Yet despite the dark shadow that looms overhead, it was business as usual for the Riders as they prepared to face the Argos.

“We’re aware of what’s at stake,” quarterback Darian Durant said Tuesday prior to the club’s departure for Toronto. “Right now, it’s all about winning.”

First-year head coach Greg Marshall echoed those sentiments, albeit more emphatically.

“Whether we’re going into the bye week or not,” Marshall said, “I think the guys realize the importance of getting this thing turned around.”

Many football fans and pundits in Saskatchewan, however, remain convinced that such a turnaround will require change. But Durant doesn’t see it that way.

“Just because you’re struggling, you don’t have to change what you’re doing,” he said.

In Durant’s mind, hard work is the answer and he described the team’s mood as upbeat and confident.

“It’s no different than it was at the beginning of the season,” he said.

Saskatchewan boasts the CFL’s lowest-scoring offence (147 points) but Durant is encouraged by how the unit played in Friday’s 45-35 home loss to the Calgary Stampeders.

“We’re trying to build on what we started last week,” he said.

Another reason for optimism is the continued improvement of rookie receiver Efrem Hill, who caught 11 catches for 177 yards against Calgary and is taking some of the heat off receiving leader Weston Dressler (34 catches, 530 yards, three TDs).

“It was good to see some production out of (Hill) and out of that position,” said Marshall.

However, a revolving door at tailback has contributed to the Riders’ offensive inconsistency this season and yet another change could happen against Toronto.

Rookie Brandon West is expected to replace the injured Hugh Charles, who was playing in place of injured incumbent Wes Cates.

Durant described West as a “dynamic” player and said the Riders will try to get him the ball as often as they can. However, Durant also admitted West has “a long way to go” with respect to making up for his lack of experience.

And at five foot 10 and 193 pounds, Marshall said West “is not the kind of back you pound the ball with 30 times a game.”

But confidence remains the operative word for the Riders as they try to regain their winning form.

“If you don’t believe in yourself and what you’re doing,” Marshall said, “it’s pretty much done.”