October 20, 2023

Riders host Argonauts eyeing playoff spot

REGINA — A six-game losing streak has turned a clear path to the playoffs into a winding road for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. 

They’ll try to snap their skid and take a much needed step toward the post-season when they welcome the Toronto Argonauts to Mosaic Stadium on Saturday afternoon. With a win and a Calgary loss, they’ll guarantee themselves November football.

Quarterback Jake Dolegala steers an offence that has the skill to break out at any point and is facing a secondary surrendering 291.3 yards per game. Shawn Bane Jr. caught seven passes for 103 yards in their most recent loss to Calgary. Tevin Jones, Samuel Emilus, Kian Schaffer-Baker and Mitchell Picton all must be on their game to give their quarterback as many options as possible.

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For the Argos, Qwan’tez Stiggers continues his rise as a top defensive back, while linebackers Wynton McManis and Adarius Pickett have shown an ability to interrupt the opposition’s pass game.

Finding success in the air is important because creating it on the ground will be a challenge. Much like the team’s receivers, running back Jamal Morrow can be a game breaker but the Argos’ front is known for not giving up much and applying unrelenting pressure.

Morrow is sitting 114 yards shy of 1,000 for the first time in his career, and while he would love to reach it, it’s not the top priority heading into the game

“It’s definitely circled by me, but the main thing is the win,” Morrow told riderville.com. “If I get 114 and it gets us a win, I’m happy. Whatever it takes for us to win, that’s all I care about.”

Defensive linemen Brandon Barlow, Jared Brinkman, Thomas Costigan, Benoit Marion, Robbie Smith and linebackers Jonathan Jones and McManis all had a sack on Dustin Crum last week, led by Brinkman and Smith with two each. With the Riders having given up 52 sacks on the season, creating time and space for Dolegala and Morrow is of heightened importance.

The Argos are sure to spread the ball around on offence over the final two weeks as they prepare for the Eastern Final. Quarterback Chad Kelly is 152 yards from the 4,000 mark and is listed as the starter but Cameron Dukes could see action as well.

Receiver DaVaris Daniels is 75 receiving yards shy of 1,000 and if he can achieve it, it’ll be for the first time in his seven year CFL career.

Kelly and Daniels aren’t the only ones looking for milestone moments as running back AJ Ouellette is 41 yards away of 1,000. As the handoffs will likely be spread around, the Riders must game plan for Daniel Adeboboye and Deonta McMahon who combined for 78 yards against the REDBLACKS.

The Riders defence is giving up an average of 267.1 yards through the air and another 119.1 on  the ground, good for sixth and seventh best.

The front is anchored by defensive lineman Pete Robertson and his seven sacks and Larry Dean’s 100 defensive tackles.

Downfield, Jayden Dalke, Amari Henderson and Nic Marshall have to be playmakers if the Riders hope to keep big plays to a minimum and points off the board.

The play of the Riders special teams will be a focal point as Toronto punt returner Javon Leake has wreaked havoc all season long. With his 12 yards last week, he surpassed Michael “Pinball” Clemons single season record of 1,070. He’s also contributed four punt returns for a touchdown, which leads the league.

Point being, there’s isn’t much give in the Argos offence and no time for the Riders to take a play off.

As good as his team’s been, Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie knows his side is going to see an urgent group across the field.

“They’re fighting for a lot right now,” Dinwiddie told reporters. “It’s their last game of the season. I’m sure they don’t want to leave it in Calgary’s hands, so we’re going to see their best.”

If Saskatchewan can find the win column for the first time since Week 13, they’ll maintain their lead over Calgary for the final playoff spot.

Much like it has been the past few weeks, the Argos are using their remaining games as a way to get ready for the post-season.

Kickoff is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. ET and can be watched on TSN in Canada and on CFL+ in the U.S. and Internationally.

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