REGINA - Battered and bruised, the Saskatchewan Roughriders are back on the road Friday night taking on the Ottawa Redblacks.
It is another critical game for the Roughriders who are now at 6-7 and on a two game losing streak. Any more losing threatens to open the door to teams currently behind them in the West -- Calgary and Edmonton -- to make the playoffs. The Riders need to beat the struggling 3-10 Redblacks to right the ship, but it might not be such an easy task.
The Roughriders last faced Ottawa on August 6 at home at Mosaic Stadium, pulling out a 26-24 win on a late Brett Lauther field goal. It was a night in which the Riders’ defence hounded Redblacks quarterback Dustin Crum all game and sacked him six times.
The Redblacks have since been on a major downside, and hit their lowest point of the season by blowing a 19-point lead in BC in a 41-37 loss last week.
The Riders will be looking to pounce on what they hope will be a demoralized Redblacks squad and extend their losing streak to eight games. The Riders are also looking to regain their form on defence back to what it was in the August 6 game.
The Riders are coming off another defensive meltdown in a 36-27 defeat against the Edmonton Elks last week. A major reason for the recent woes on defence has been injuries, with players moved around to fill the holes and learn new positions.
The Riders, who have struggled with injury woes throughout the season, ended up seeing four more players go down against the Elks. Among the defensive players who went out of that game injured in the first half were Anthony Lanier II, Nic Dheilly, Justin Herman-Reed, and Miles Brown.
A key offensive cog out for Friday is running back Jamal Morrow due to a knee injury, with Frankie Hickson in the lineup in his place. Christian Albright and Cody Roscoe are in on the d-line for the Riders and Matt Dean and Rodney Clemons are also in this week on defence as well.
Back in the lineup after weeks recovering from a hamstring injury is quarterback Mason Fine. He will back up quarterback Jake Dolegala in Ottawa.
A particular challenge for the Roughriders will be stopping the run, which has been an issue as of late. Both Winnipeg and Edmonton capitalized on the run game in their two wins and the Riders now face an Ottawa squad that has been reliant on their strong running game all season.
Another challenge for the Riders is winning at TD Place Stadium. The Roughriders have had struggles on the road this season. After winning their first two road games in Edmonton and Calgary, they have since dropped four road contests in a row including that now-infamous 51-6 Banjo Bowl blowout in Winnipeg.
When asked following last Friday’s game about what it would take to get back in the win column on the road in Ottawa, Head Coach Craig Dickenson pointed to having “a good week of practice. We’re going two days early so I think that will help. So we’ll get an extra night’s rest, get a chance to adjust to the time zone.”
“But the road games are hard, because any time you go to somebody else’s place there’s some advantages, some noise issues and stuff. But we hope we’re going to put the work in. I challenged the men in that room and I challenged the coaches as well, let’s see - we all want to win, let’s see who’s willing to work. Who’s willing to put in the work to get better. That goes for all of us.”
Game time is 5 p.m. Saskatchewan time.