BIG TEST FOR THE DE­FENCE

Rid­ers ready to take on Red­blacks

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - MUR­RAY MCCORMICK mm­c­cormick@post­media.com

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.

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