BIG TEST FOR THE DEFENCE
Riders ready to take on Redblacks
REGINA The Saskatchewan Roughriders are known for putting pressure on the defence. Unfortunately for the Riders, it’s their own defence.
The paucity of points from Saskatchewan’s offence leaves the defence with little margin for error and sometimes even needing to score to win.
There could be more challenges Saturday at Mosaic Stadium, considering the wealth of offensive talent on the visiting Ottawa Redblacks — whose arsenal includes quarterback Trevor Harris, tailback William Powell, and receivers Greg Ellingson, Brad Sinopoli and Diontae Spencer.
“Every time we’ve played them, that little back (Powell) has been a thorn in our side,” said Riders head coach and general manager Chris Jones. “We have to be prepared for them to hand the football off.”
The Redblacks followed that strategy June 21 when they thumped the visiting Roughriders 40-17. Powell rushed 19 times for 94 yards and a touchdown. In three regular season games against the Riders, Powell has 53 carries for 331 yards and a touchdown.
Defensive tackle Mic’hael Brooks signed with the Riders after they met the Redblacks this year. However, he has faced Powell numerous times during his threeplus CFL seasons.
“He’s a hard runner and a onecut kind of guy,” Brooks said. “He’s small, but he busts through the hole hard.”
Powell leads the CFL with 167 carries and is second in rushing yards (864). Andrew Harris of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers leads the CFL with 984 rushing yards.
The Riders limited Harris to 21 yards on 10 carries in Saturday’s 32-27 win over the Blue Bombers. Saskatchewan is looking to reprise that performance.
“If (Ottawa) can get their run game started early, they can really hit you with play action,” said linebacker Samuel Eguavoen. “Trevor Harris is a great quarterback and when William Powell gets going, it’s hard to beat him. You have to get physical with him and we just have to tackle him.”
The Riders can’t simply focus on Powell, because of Ottawa’s talented receiving corps.
Sinopoli leads the CFL in catches (74) and is first on the Redblacks in receiving yards (894). Ellingson (62 receptions, 748 yards) and Spencer (51 for 514) are also major threats.
The trio was particularly effective against the Riders June 21. Ellingson had eight catches for 104 yards, Spencer had six for 82 yards and a touchdown, and Sinopoli hauled in six for 74 yards. Containing the receivers is key to Saskatchewan extending its winning streak to five games. The Redblacks are on a twogame losing streak.
Saskatchewan’s defence gets a boost Saturday with the return of Derrick Moncrief, a strong-side linebacker who has been sidelined since suffering a shoulder injury in a 31-20 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on July 19.
Moncrief was among the Riders’ leading defenders with 20 tackles before being injured.
Moncrief also has played well against the Redblacks. He has a combined 14 defensive tackles and a forced fumble in three regularseason games, and registered six defensive tackles in the Riders’ 3120 win over the Redblacks in the East Division semifinal.