How are the Saskatchewan Roughriders 3-0?
While Head Coach Corey Chamblin answered the question with a satirical 'because we won our first three games’, the question deserves to be answered.
And it’s going to be a far more detailed response than the one Coach Chamblin provided.
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The Roughriders are the league’s only undefeated team because they, up to this point, have won due to all three phases of the team.
In game one, the Riders’ 500 yards of total offence and five touchdowns was an amazing spectacle.
What’s interesting is that the offence has cooled off over the last two weeks but the wins continue to pile up. The fact the offence has yet to turn the ball over yet is simply astounding.
The Riders are now plus-eight in the take away/give away category.
Though he hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since week one, quarterback Darian Durant’s efficiency has been more important to the team’s success than his stats. In the first few years as a starter, Durant had a propensity to throw a few questionable balls that would tend to come back to haunt him and the team.
So far this season, he has been smart with the football and has never put his defence in a bad situation.
That brings us to that vaunted Saskatchewan Roughrider defence.
They’ve been the league’s best this season, allowing an average of just 12 points per game. They can take credit for victory number two of the season, as they held the Edmonton Eskimos to just one point.
But it hasn’t been just one game where the defence has shined. In game one they frustrated Henry Burris and did the same to last year’s Most Outstanding Player Travis Lulay in game three.
The defence has been the most integral part to this team’s turnaround from 2011 and Chamblin admits it all has to do with speed.
The Riders got younger and faster in the off-season as the old legs were starting to show their age last season from Lance Frazier, Sean Lucas, Barrin Simpson and Dario Romero.
The Riders secondary is made up of two veterans in James Patrick and Chris McKenzie but the other three players are relatively new to the CFL. The linebacking corps is a group of three first-year starters. However, you wouldn’t know it by watching them.
What is helping all that youth is the veteran presence up front as Brent Hawkins, Keith Shologan, Tearrius George and Odell Willis are getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
That brings us to the third phase of the game: Special Teams.
There is obviously no doubt they were the heroes of game three against the B.C. Lions.
Tristan Jackson returned one missed field goal 60-yards to mid-field which allowed the Riders to kick a field goal. Later on, Jackson was at it again with his Rider record 129-yard missed field goal for a touchdown that put the Riders up 23-13 ultimately winning the game for the Green.
The coverage unit on punts and kickoffs was also superb. BC’s Tim Brown had nowhere to go on his returns against the Riders after he compiled nearly 300 return yards the previous week.
But that too has been a common thread this season. The Riders’ coverage teams have kept the opposition in check and allowed has Saskatchewan to win the field position battle in all three victories.
Rookie Sam Hurl is second in special teams tackles and kicker Chris Milo leads the league in net punting (second in punting average).
Chamblin preached throughout training camp and into the early portion of the season that he’ll take a win any way he can get it and that it takes a complete team effort to come out victorious.
His team is doing just that. And that is why the Roughriders are 3-0.
Jamie Nye bleeds green and is the Roughrider insider for News Talk 980 CJME Regina and News Talk 650 CKOM Saskatoon. All of his Rider coverage can be found at www.GreenZoneFootball.com and you can follow him on Twitter @JamieNye.
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