REGINA -- The East Division-leading Alouettes travel west to Regina this weekend for their second clash of the season with the Roughriders, as two teams look for key points on Saturday afternoon at Mosaic Stadium.
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For the Green and White, a 37-20 loss to the Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium is just another example of why Riders fans might be scratching their heads.
After an impressive 36-10 road win over the Argos in Toronto made the Riders a sudden Grey Cup contender in the eyes of some, it all fell apart the following week on the road in Edmonton.
But as we know, one game a season does not make, and with wins in six of their last eight contests, the Riders remain just two points behind second-place Calgary.
Cooler heads have prevailed in Riderville, thanks in part to the voice of reason in the locker-room – the youngest coach in the CFL, Corey Chamblin.
“I’ve been on championship teams and none of them have been undefeated," noted Chamblin, who was the Calgary Stampeders’ defensive backs coach when they won the 2008 Grey Cup.
“You’re going to have losses in this game, no matter how hard you prepare, and sometimes a loss helps you correct what you’re doing and to be able to move on."
While it’s easy to look at the bad, there’s a lot of good still to go around.
On a considerably more positive note, the Roughriders need only one more victory to clinch a playoff berth. They play on each of the next three Saturdays, playing host to the Montreal Alouettes and Toronto Argonauts before visiting the B.C. Lions.
“We still have three more chances," Chamblin continued. “I think that we’ve put ourselves in a position to even look at going to the playoffs – I think that’s the biggest thing that we have to look at: we’ve come this far, and we’ll make it."
If the Roughriders don’t earn one of the top three spots in the West, they can also advance by finishing fourth and securing a crossover spot in the East but would need some help to do that.
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“Like I told those guys, they just have to stay hungry," Chamblin said. “That’s one game (that the Riders lost in Edmonton). We won five of six and you guys (in the media) swore we were going to the Grey Cup next week. Now it’s one game and now here we are. Is the world coming to an end? No, it’s not."
The Alouettes, meanwhile, should be prepared for a team that’s a little bit grumpy coming off a loss to a divisional foe.
“We have to look forward and still use this as momentum,” said Riders defensive tackle Tearrius George. “We will be ready for them. We have to be ready to work this week and put (Saturday's game) behind us even if it still hurts. We had a reason to be out there and a reason to win and for some reason we didn't get it done.”
Chamblin, meanwhile, acknowledged that the final stretch of the season will provide his team with a significant test heading into the playoffs. But instead of looking at the remaining three schedules as obstacles to getting into the playoffs, he said he’s glad his team gets to play teams that are as hungry as they are.
"We love it that we have those two games at home," said head coach Corey Chamblin, who have won five of thier seven home games so far this season. "It will be tough because we're playing two quality opponents. Montreal and Toronto are both fighting (for playoff position), so we actually have a part in their fate. We just have to get rested up, get back to the drawing board and be ready to go."
That means being prepared for the Alouettes, who are one victory away from clinching first in the East after a 24-12 win over the host Argonauts, but still seem to be looking to hit their stride on offence after being limited to just once touchdown offensively in the win.
|The last time they met|
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Alouettes 28, Roughriders 17
Anthony Calvillo threw for 266 yards and a touchdown, while the Als defence picked off rookie quarterback Drew Willy twice on the way to a 28-17 home win over the Roughriders at Percival-Molson Stadium. Willy threw for 225 yards and a touchdown in his first career start in place of an injured Darian Durant, but couldn't avoid a late turnover as the Riders' modest two-game winning streak was ended. Brandon Whitaker had 45 yards rushing and a team-high 102 yards receiving, but went down with a serious knee injury in the third quarter that would require surgery, putting an end to his 2012 season.
A big part of the inconsistencies on offence have had plenty to do with injuries, as leading receiver S.J. Green and emerging threat Brian Bratton have each missed substantial time with injuries.
Meanwhile, last month multi-talented all-star running back Brandon Whitaker had surgery after injuring his knee, and will miss the remainder of the season. It got even more challenging in last weekend’s win over the Argos, as Brandon London went down with an injury and will also be out with the season.
Least talked about is quarterback Anthony Calvillo, who continues to play through lingering pain in his injured non-throwing shoulder, yet remains atop the CFL lead in passing yards.
None of that has stopped the Als from being well on their way to winning another East Division title though, as they’re now one win or one Argos loss away from getting a much-needed first-round bye and home advantage through the playoffs.
This week they’ll look to wrap up top spot, but without starting running back Victor Anderson – the initial replacement for Brandon Whitaker – who will sit out with a minor concussion.
That means another Alouette will get his first start, as 5-10, 225-pound power runner Chris Jennings will take handoffs from Calvillo in the Montreal run game this weekend.
He showed last Sunday that while he was originally third on the depth chart, he doesn’t play like a third-stringer, after running for 86 yards on 10 carries in less than 30 minutes of work.
“I’ve started at the bottom of the pile many times throughout my life and career,” the 26-year-old said on Wednesday, following practice at Stade Hébert in Saint-Léonard. “You work your way up. When your number’s called you go after it.
“You want to expose what you’ve been blessed with, in a positive manner.”
Jennings, a native of Ashland, Ky., dressed on special teams for one game with the Als in 2008. He returned the following season, but starter Avon Cobourne was being backed up by Whitaker. When the Cleveland Browns expressed interest in Jennings, general manager Jim Popp allowed him out of his contract.
Jennings played nine games with the Browns over two seasons, gaining 220 yards on 63 carries, along with a touchdown. He also caught nine passes for 56 yards.
Andy Bischoff, who coaches the Als’ running backs, noticed an immediate change in Jennings upon his return — the player was older, wiser and more mature.
“He has certainly matured as a person. We feel we’re getting the best of Chris Jennings,” Bischoff said. “He had an opportunity, saw the world differently there, returned to us with a clear mind and appreciative outlook. He has been nothing but wonderful in his return.”
“The way he goes about his business. He’s more detailed. He’s in earlier and staying later. There’s more detail to his work as a pro.”
Now, with many of the offence’s top impact players out with injuries, Jennings will be a focal point for Calvillo and co. – at least until Anderson returns to the lineup.
Kickoff is at 3:30 P.M. ET, and can be seen on TSN or followed live via Game Tracker on CFL.ca and CFL Mobile.
- With files from Postmedia
|2||Blue Bombers||DE||Mulumba, Andy|
|3||Alouettes via EDM||LB||Edem, Mike|