While it will be unlikely the Saskatchewan Roughriders could defeat the Calgary Stampeders this weekend in their final home game of the year, it could happen.
Based on how the Hamilton Tiger Cats beat the Stampeders on Oct. 14, I expect the Riders will need to do the following to win the Oct. 22 game.
The defensive line and linebackers will need to pressure Jake Maier. Against Hamilton, Maier threw three interceptions in the first half. The last was returned for a touchdown.
On the first interception it was defensive end Julian Howsare dropping into coverage who intercepted the pass.
The second interception saw Howsare pressure Maier, maintaining good contain, and Maier flipped the ball out and it was intercepted by Richard Leonard.
The third interception saw Maier throw a late out pass that was also intercepted by Leonard.
On all three interceptions Maier was under pressure. On the first and third interceptions the Tiger Cats were blitzing.
The Riders have not been getting pressure with four rushers. I think they need to send blitzers frequently and force Maier into quick decisions.
The Rider front seven have been unable to stop opposing rushers. They have no chance if they allow 183 yards on the ground as the Tiger Cats surrendered to Calgary. Ka’Deem Carey has enjoyed playing against the Riders. Once again I expect the Rider defence will need to be aggressive in challenging the run. Existing schemes have not been effective.
On offence the line, which leads the league in sacks surrendered with 66, faces the team with the most sacks in the league at 46. The match-up is far from promising for the Riders. At this time extra blockers are needed. While the passing options will be reduced there is no point in seeing Cody Fajardo sacked another 6-8 times. The Riders need to consistently add two more blockers to the five offensive linemen.
The Riders have struggled to run the ball since their top three running backs have been injured. The Stampeders are third in the league in run defence giving up less than 90 yards a game. Watching Shaq Cooper against the Tiger Cats it is hard to see him having a big game. Fajardo is still not as quick as he needs to be for running the ball. Desperate times need desperate measures. Why not give Kian Schaffer-Baker more running plays?
For Farjado he maintains a 70.3 per cent passing percentage despite the constant pressure and an inconsistent running game and injury. I think if he gets some protection and plays an average game the Riders could win. They do not need heroics from him. It is the lines which need to elevate their play.
On special teams the Riders need at least one big return from Mario Alford. Considering his play this season a long kick return is the most likely event of what the Riders need to do on Saturday night.
Lastly, the Riders could use a sprinkle of Jesus to rival Dane Evans throw to Tim White in the last minute of Friday night’s game. Throwing into double coverage late in the game is normally a disaster. Unfortunately, sprinkles rarely happen in consecutive games. For the Riders to win they will have to win it the old fashioned way – on the line of scrimmage.
Bill Selnes, who’s based in Melfort, has written about the Saskatchewan Roughriders since the late 1970s. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, Football Reporters of Canada wing on Nov. 24, 2013.