VASTLY IM­PROVED RID­ERS NEED TO BOL­STER ANE­MIC PASS­ING GAME

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - SPORTS - ROB VAN­STONE rvan­stone@post­media.com twit­ter.com/rob­van­stone

To­day’s col­umn, which is suit­able for fram­ing, harps on the tra­vails of the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers’ al­leged of­fence.

We do so, ad nau­seam, by com­par­ing two edi­tions of the Roughrid­ers at the 11-game mark.

2018: Roughrid­ers have a CFLlow 14 of­fen­sive touch­downs.

1966: Hugh Camp­bell, by him­self, has 14 of­fen­sive touch­downs — all on re­cep­tions.

It just so hap­pens that Gluey Hughie’s son — Rick Camp­bell — is the head coach of the Ot­tawa Red­blacks, who will op­pose the Roughrid­ers on Satur­day at Mo­saic Sta­dium.

The el­der Camp­bell was such a scor­ing threat that Tay­lor Field’s north end zone was once dubbed “Hughie’s Haven.” He was such a fix­ture in the Haven that the City of Regina should have charged him rent.

Con­trast that to the 11-game mark in the 2018 sea­son: the Roughrid­ers’ wide re­ceivers have yet to pro­duce a ma­jor. The team, as a whole, has eked out seven TD passes.

The Roughrid­ers have scored an equiv­a­lent num­ber of touch­downs when their dom­i­nat­ing de­fence is on the field.

Mirac­u­lously, the Pre­vent Of­fence hasn’t pre­vented Saskatchewan from win­ning.

The Roughrid­ers carry a fourgame win­ning streak and a 7-4 record into Satur­day’s game. Their suc­cess is largely based on the ex­cel­lence of its de­fence and spe­cial teams.

If the Roughrid­ers were re­liant on the of­fence, there would likely be a telethon any day now.

The cur­rent plight of the of­fence is es­pe­cially sur­pris­ing when you con­sider the bold move that was made in Jan­uary with the ob­jec­tive of help­ing the team as­cend to a higher level.

Hav­ing de­ter­mined that the quar­ter­back­ing could im­prove, head coach and gen­eral manager Chris Jones ac­quired Zach Col­laros from the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats. Once that deal was con­sum­mated, Kevin Glenn was sum­mar­ily re­leased.

Glenn and Bran­don Bridge com­bined last sea­son for a league-high 35 touch­down passes. Glenn ac­counted for 25 of those ma­jors, in ad­di­tion to boast­ing a quar­ter­back ef­fi­ciency rat­ing of 100.0.

As the 2017 sea­son pro­gressed, how­ever, Jones was in­creas­ingly in­clined to re­place Glenn with Bridge dur­ing games.

When the Roughrid­ers made three quar­ter­back switches in the East Di­vi­sion fi­nal, won 25-21 by the Toronto Arg­onauts, it was clear that Jones didn’t have abun­dant faith in ei­ther sig­nal­caller. Glenn was typ­i­cally re­moved in favour of Bridge when the pres­sure af­fected the pro­duc­tiv­ity of the less-mo­bile starter.

Ergo, im­prov­ing a por­ous of­fen­sive line was also of the essence.

Well, guess what? Af­ter some early-sea­son strug­gles, the cur­rent of­fen­sive line has be­come a fortress.

Saskatchewan has al­lowed a league-low 14 quar­ter­back sacks — and only five in the past seven games.

Stel­lar play by the of­fen­sive line has also en­abled the Roughrid­ers’ run­ning at­tack to im­prove. With 112.4 yards per game along the ground, Saskatchewan trails only the Win­nipeg Blue Bombers (135.0) and Hamil­ton (117.3).

The Roughrid­ers’ run­ning game is trending up­wards, with Tre Ma­son com­ing off a 20-carry, 117-yard per­for­mance in last Satur­day’s 32-27 vic­tory over the Blue Bombers.

So, to sum­ma­rize ...

The run­ning game is bet­ter. The pass pro­tec­tion is bet­ter. The spe­cial teams are coached by Craig Dick­en­son, which is all you need to know.

The de­fence, chore­ographed by Jones, is his­tor­i­cally great.

But with­out a pass­able pass­ing game, the best de­scrip­tion of the 2018 Roughrid­ers is, well, in­com­plete.

SASKATCHEWAN SPORTS HALL OF FAME

Roughrid­ers wide re­ceiver Hugh Camp­bell recorded 14 touch­down catches through 11 games in 1966. The team’s wide re­ceivers have yet to find the end zone through 11 games.

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