REGINA – The Saskatchewan Roughriders, it seems, have very quickly answered their questions at running back.
Newcomer Anthony Allen rushed for one touchdown and hauled in another as he racked up 158 yards on the ground in a 31-10 Saskatchewan Roughriders win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at a rainy Mosiac Stadium Sunday night.
The Georgia Tech product, who became the Riders starting tailback had big shoes to fill in this one, taking over for last year’s Grey Cup MVP Kory Sheets who left in the off-season to join the Oakland Raiders.
Assisting Allen and the Riders ground attack on this night was an unforgiving Saskatchewan pass rush which totalled 10 sacks on the day. In a rematch of last year’s 10st Grey Cup, the Roughriders picked up where they left off last season after capturing the championship on home soil in a 45-23 win over the ‘Cats.
Saskatchewan opened the scoring on their first possession when quarterback Darian Durant handed off to newcomer Anthony Allen for 13 yards before finding both Taj Smith and Brett Swain for first downs. Chris Milo nailed a 34-yard field goal to get the Riders started.
Down 3-0 early, the Zach Collaros era officially began in Hamilton. Tiger-Cats GM and head coach Kent Austin made a bold move releasing Henry Burris and going with a younger quarterback after the Cincinnati product led the rival Toronto Argonauts to a 5-3 record while taking over for Ricky Ray in 2013.
Last season Collaros impressed many, passing for 2,316 and 14 touchdowns while completing 66.2% of his passes. He also ran 59 times for 246 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Collaros went two-and-out on his first drive as the Riders pass rush got to the youngster for a sack on second-and-long to force a punt.
The ensuing drive was all Allen as he helped march the Riders down the field with ease. Allen carried the ball three times, totalling 30 yards before hauling in a 2-yard pass for a touchdown to complete an 8-play, 71-yard drive.
With a solid lead after two possessions, the Riders defence pinned their ears back getting after Collaros again and forcing Hamilton to concede a safety.
With an early 12-point lead in their favour, Durant and the Riders offence looked to add to their lead and it only took four plays to do so. After an Allen rush and an 8-yard completion to Smith, Durant fired a pass to slotback Chris Getzlaf who turned up field for a 32-yard gain. Allen notched his second major of the game as he jumped over the pile on a goal line dive the next play for his first career rushing touchdown.
Up 19-0 in the second quarter, the defence continued to come after Collaros. This time it was defensive back Terrell Maze that was the benefactor of a fumble recovery which helped set up a 44-yard Milo field goal.
The Tiger-Cats would earn a point off a punt single before Milo knocked through a 21-yard field goal to give the Roughriders a 24-1 lead heading into halftime. The last score before the break was set up by a 48-yard punt return by Ryan Smith who is another newcomer from North Dakota State.
While the Riders put points on the board, the story of the first half was indeed the defence. Generating four sacks in the process, Saskatchewan held Collaros to just 56 yards passing and 24 yards on the ground.
For his part, Allen finished with 71 yards on the ground on 13 carries in the first two quarters.
As the teams headed to the locker room Mosaic took a moment to celebrate last year’s championship by raising their 2013 Grey Cup banner. Helping do so was former Riders Geroy Simon, Mike McCollough and Weston Dressler.
Turning things over to the present, Allen only got better as the game went on. As the second half began, the 220-pound back ripped off runs of 14, 6 and 12 yards to help set up a 35-yard Milo field goal attempt.
Kicking into a stiff wind however, Milo’s kick fell short and was fielded by Hamilton receiver/kick returner Brandon Banks. The slick football got away from him and his fumble was recovered by Levi Steinhauer, putting the offence back on the field.
Durant promptly found Swain in the flat who found the end zone from 10 yards out to extend the lead to 31-3.
With just under seven minutes remaining, Collaros started to piece together Hamilton’s first major score of the game. Despite trying to evade the Riders’ rush, Collaros calmly found Sam Giguere and Bakari Grant before scrambling to find Luke Tasker for a 4-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 31-10.
Durant left the game just before the three minute warning to give way to Tino Sunseri. The Riders pivot finished 15 for 22 with 136 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Collaros, meanwhile, completed 19 of his 33 passes for 159 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
Hamilton will head to Edmonton next week to take on Mike Reilly and the Edmonton Eskimos while the Roughriders will travel to Toronto to take on Ricky Ray and the Argonauts.