The Roughriders and TiCats square off to close Week 5 in the CFL, and normally a battle between two last place teams wouldn’t garner as much excitement, but there’s a lot to look forward to here on Sunday.
Statistically, the TiCat defense is at the top of the league. Hamilton yields a CFL low of 308 yards per game to their competition and boasts the CFLs best run-D, holding teams at 68 yards per game.
Now those are impressive stats to fans and media that will be pouring over numbers trying to find advantages on either side, however all those numbers are to the Green and White is an opportunity.
When a player is given their game plan packages at the beginning of the practise week, the opponents stats are always included as part of it. In the case of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the CFLs #1 offense, one of the first thoughts may have been, “Everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” #TysonSaidItBest
It is going to be interesting to see how Orlondo Steinauer schemes the Rider O. Making Saskatchewan one-dimensional has been impossible thus far, and because the Riders have had to rely so much on its offense through the first 4 games, this is shaping up to be the match-up of the week.
Both of these teams are so close, talent-wise, that it may be the kicking game that determines the W. The battle over this 1/3 of the game will be humongous. Obviously, both sides want to make the field as long as possible for their opposition, but when teams are struggling it’s the special teams units that need to step up and provide the sparks needed to create a fire. Everyone and their mama knows how lethal Brandon Banks is. The Hamilton returner is one of the only players in the league that has the ability to score on any part of the field, but DO NOT overlook Saskatchewan’s shifty rookie Nic Demski. The Riders 1st round pick is every bit as explosive as Banks and is capable of making the same decisive cuts. Once he gets some more experience under his belt, the University of Manitoba product is going to be a beast.
One of the primary questions, going into to Sunday, is how the Green and White plan on slowing down the TiCat attack. Hamilton is a distant 2nd to Saskatchewan in offensive production, moving at a clip of 388 yards per game. Their problem is that only about 68 of those yards get accomplished on the ground and that may be something Tabbies experiment with early, now that CJ Gable’s getting back into the lineup.
The word “pressure” has been thrown around whenever people mention the Riders Defense during 2015. They’re going to have to be careful this week, because as was the case in week 4, Hamilton has a QB that can make plays with his legs. The Green and White need to get off the field in 2nd and 6+ situations this week, and keeping Collaros contained and in the pocket is going to be a priority. The Hamilton pivot made some critical errors last week in Montreal, and the more that Saskatchewan can keep him from playing to his strengths, the more likely they are to finally getting some turnovers that they’ve been lacking and have contributed to keeping them out of the win column.
So as one can see, there are many factors and battles that are going to take place on Sunday, and much has been made of both teams needing the victory. While all the drama that comes with being 0-4 in this province goes on, it’s still important to note how crucial it is that this team remains focused on “the now” and going 1-0 this week.
Having said that, it is impossible to be completely oblivious to everything that is trying to penetrate the locker room, and even having veterans with experience in this process can’t keep the feelings that are associated with being winless completely at bay.
Here’s what can be done however…
This team and its leaders need to understand that winning the game on Sunday isn’t going to require anything more than players focusing on their individual jobs (alignment, assignment, and execution) and doing those jobs better than they’ve ever done them before. Nothing more. Players cannot sit and dwell on all the extras that they bring to the table at this point. One of my old coaches used to tell me all the time, “Hey man, make sure the leaves in your own yard are clean before you go do someone else’s.”
Everyone in the business of sport wants to make plays, but the minute the guys in the Green and White start pressing, overthinking, and trying to do too much, they’ll open up an opportunity that Hamilton will be able to capitalize on. There’s been examples of overcompensating all year throughout the CFL.
A defensive lineman can’t let the fact that he’s close to a sack, lead to a late hit on the QB that gives the Cats a 1st down, when they wouldn’t have made it on their own.
A Receiver or RB can’t let 1-2 yards extra yards after a big run be the reason for costly fumble and turnover. Trying to make a block that isn’t there cannot be the reason that a spectacular kick return gets nullified, and DBs can’t overplay their zone assignments in order to position themselves for a pick.
The Riders will make things terribly hard on themselves if the guys begin to overthink the game in order to make plays. It seems like such a hard task considering it’s been the absence of playmaking that has led to this 0-4 start…But that’s the key...That’s why the overall focus has to be 1-0 and the individual focus needs to be on specific tasks.
This is a very winnable game for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Players need to compete, fight, and do what is asked of them within the structure of the scheme. Everyone has a role to be carried out, and in the end, the W will be a team accomplishment, regardless of the individual accolades. Being at one’s best on Sunday involves knowing what needs to be done, as opposed to knowing what would be a good headline.
Be yourself, everyone else is taken.
Cups up to the boys going 1-0 against the Hamilton TiCats.