REGINA — The Ottawa REDBLACKS and the Saskatchewan Roughriders carry identical 3-4 records into their Week 9 finale at Mosaic Stadium Sunday night.
There was no Crumback last week, as the REDBLACKS put up just 12 points in a loss to Hamilton.
The Riders offence is also looking to turn things around after being held to 13 points in a loss to Toronto during the Touchdown Atlantic game in Halifax.
Crum and the offence will try to get going against a Roughriders defence that ranks second against the pass and and fourth against the run.
Receiver Shaq Evans returned last week and should be motivated to face his former team. He joins a corps that includes Jaelon Acklin, Nate Behar and Justin Hardy. After totalling a lowly 158 yards through the air against the Ticats, they’ll be out to prove they’re capable of bouncing back.
Evans knows what he can contribute to the offence and now it’s a matter of doing it on the field, he says.
“I think I bring a guy that’s unselfish and that can do anything you ask him to do,” Evans told reporters.
“Whether that’s playing the slot, run deep, run underneath, catch over the middle, catch it down field. I feel like I’m a guy that can do any and everything very well. So, I just have to go prove it.”
Head coach Bob Dyce won’t need a bounce back from his running game. In fact, he’ll be hoping for more of the same. Crum and running back Devonte Williams teamed up for 135 yards at home last week but will be facing a talented and physical defence that’s holding opposing run games to under 90 yards.
If Crum and Williams want to have success, they need to find a way to avoid defensive lineman Pete Robertson who has four sacks. If they can do that, they’ll still have to deal with a linebacker group led by Larry Dean and his 46 defensive tackles.
The Riders can’t sleep on the REDBLACKS defence either, as they’ve been one of the best collective units in the league. Last week alone they had five different players with an interception.
They won’t have top defensive back Brandin Dandridge who was placed on the six-game injured list this week, creating a significant hole in the team’s secondary.
It’s not all bad news though as it’s a unit that will see the return of Justin Howell, and fellow defensive back Abdul Kanneh has been a difference maker all season long. With quarterback Mason Fine still unproven in the Riders pocket, it could have the makings of another big game for the REDBLACKS secondary.
Competition at the line of scrimmage is another aspect of the game to keep an eye on as the Riders rank last in sacks allowed with 28. Ottawa brings 21 into the game and feature multiple linemen and linebackers capable of making life difficult for opposing quarterbacks.
Look no further than Lorenzo Mauldin and Bryce Carter on the line and Douglas Coleman and Javon Santos-Knox behind them. Mauldin has three sacks and is a playmaker off the edge, while Coleman can make a difference against both the run and the pass games.
Riders head coach Craig Dickenson is dealing with a quarterback dilemma. Still without Trevor Harris, he’ll turn to Fine and Jake Dolegala under centre. The pair combined for 402 passing yards against the Argos but found the end zone only once.
It’s Fine who’s pencilled in as the starter on Sunday.
Finding offensive success won’t fall strictly on the arms of Fine and Dolegala. Receivers Shawn Bane Jr. and Tevin Jones continue to show they’re top tier receivers after recording 144 and 133 yards through the Atlantic air. National Samuel Emilus also managed to pull down 91 yards, making it a trio capable of executing at a high level.
Support for those three will likely improve as Jake Wieneke continues to work his way back into form after an injury.
It’s well known Dickenson’s offence often runs through the ground game. Running back Jamal Morrow is third in the league with 374 yards and won’t be intimidated by the physicality of the REDBLACKS who are surrendering a league low 60.3 yards per game.
In coverage, Saskatchewan is second best at limiting yards in the air and fourth in the league in interceptions largely thanks to the play of defensive backs Nic Marshall and Jayden Dalke.
Dickenson has been happy with the play of his defence but knows they can’t get complacent.
“Defence is playing well,” Dickenson told riderville.com.
“We still have to make improvements. We still make a few too many mistakes but I think the defence is playing hard. We have to be better still in all three phases.”
The REDBLACKS and Riders are both trying to get back to .500 with a win and inch up the standings in their respective divisions.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET. This game is available to International audiences on CFL+. Canadian viewers can watch on TSN/RDS. U.S. audiences can watch on CBS Sports.
— With files from OttawaREDBLACKS.com and Riderville.com