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September 19, 2018

CFL Insights: Riders taking new approach to scoring

Arthur Ward/CFL.ca

REGINA — The Saskatchewan Roughriders have taken a new approach to scoring touchdowns this season.

With an offence that ranks third-last in the Canadian Football League with 310.6 yards per game, and second-last in first downs with 199 total, the Green and White have resorted to other methods of putting the ball in the end zone.

A dangerous group of kick returners has found the end zone four times on special teams, while the league’s most opportunistic defence has put the ball in the end zone eight times. Only 15 of the team’s 27 total touchdowns have come on offence, a record-breaking pace.

In short, whether it’s in the return game or on defence, Chris Jones’ team has had a knack for scoring points when it’s least expected:

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The Riders’ return antics continued last week, when Marcus Thigpen scored on the game’s opening kickoff. A second return touchdown came when receiver Kyran Moore went 90 yards on a punt return in the second quarter.

In total, 44 per cent of the team’s touchdowns have come off returns, whether it be on special teams or defence, marking the highest percentage of touchdowns not coming from the offence in CFL history.

What stands out about this emerging trend in Riderville is the fact that it’s been consistent with the team’s entire 2018 season thus far. The touchdowns haven’t just come in spurts, with the Riders recording a return touchdown in nine of 12 games.

Meanwhile, the 12 touchdowns have come from nine different players: Christion Jones, Willie Jefferson, Charleston Hughes, Kyran Moore, Nick Marshall, Tobi Antigha, Duron Carter, Samuel Eguavoen and Marcus Thigpen.

Just as impressive as the Riders’ special teams aces has been their defence. With eight defensive touchdowns, the Riders are three away from tying the CFL record set by BC in 1987 with 11. That same Lions team also set the record for most overall return touchdowns in a season with 15 — a mark that is very much reachable for the Riders, who are just three touchdowns away from tying.

Not only are the Riders chasing second in the West and a home playoff game over the next month, but they’ll also be chasing history as one of the CFL’s most dangerous teams across all three phases of the game.

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