June 15, 2024

Riders, Ticats clash on Sunday to close out Week 2

Ticats.ca, Kevin Sousa/CFL.ca

HAMILTON — The Saskatchewan Roughriders head east for a Sunday night showdown with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Tim Hortons Field to close out the Week 2 schedule.

Saskatchewan is coming off a 29-21 win over the Edmonton Elks to start the season.

On the other sideline, Hamilton is hoping to build on the momentum of a 17-point fourth quarter in their 32-24 loss to Calgary in Week 1.

With a game and another week of practice under his belt, Roughriders’ quarterback Trevor Harris continues to find his stride in the pocket. Harris threw for 305 yards and three touchdowns in Edmonton but did throw a pair of interceptions.

With talented Ticats’ defensive backs Dexter Lawson Jr., Kenneth George Jr. and Stavros Katsantonis lurking downfield, along with the return of Jamal Peters, Harris needs to find a way to avoid turnovers and get the ball into the hands of his top receivers with consistency.

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Of those receivers, Shawn Bane Jr. is making an early case for a breakout season. Bane had 125 receiving yards and three touchdowns in his team’s opener. He’s joined at wideout by Jerreth Sterns and Kian Schaffer-Baker as players with at least 50 receiving yards for the Riders through one game.

As good as Harris can be, head coach Corey Mace would love a better performance out of running back AJ Ouellette and there’s every reason to expect it after he rushed for just 40 yards in Week 1.

Hamilton gave up 117 yards on the ground against Calgary and Ouellette is familiar with the Ticats’ defence from his five years with the Toronto Argonauts.

His former teammate Brandon Barlow and veteran Casey Sayles, who had a sack last week, will be leaned on to stuff the run game and make life difficult for Harris in the pocket.

On the offensive side for Hamilton, Bo Levi Mitchell appears to have returned to form against the Stamps after throwing for 300 yards.

Not only will Mitchell have his typical targets in Tim White, Kiondré Smith and Steven Dunbar Jr. available, Shemar Bridges showed no signs of intimidation in his CFL debut. Bridges pulled down seven passes and led all Ticats with 85 yards. If a repeat performance is in store, it’ll be a handful for the Riders’ pass defence.

It’s a secondary that’s already received an interception from rookie linebacker C.J. Avery. Behind him, Rolan Milligan Jr. and Damarcus Fields will look to make plays.

With Mitchell wanting to build on his Week 1 performance, Mace expects his team to be ready for the test.

“Being in an environment where he’s won a lot of games, he knows what it looks like to be winner,” Mace told reporters about Mitchell.

“So, it’ll be an excellent challenge for us I think defensively from that standpoint and as a full team going against a guy that’s leading their team like Bo.”

Bo Levi Mitchell will be looking to build on an encouraging Week 1 performance as the Ticats head into their home opener (Ticats.ca)

Mace’s group has to cut down on penalties to have success after taking six and coughing up 84 yards because of it in Edmonton.

Extra yards means extra opportunities for both Mitchell and running back James Butler, who’s off to a hot start with 119 yards.

For Butler to put up back-to-back impressive games, he’ll have to deal with a defensive front that held Edmonton to 39 yards on the ground.

Lineman Bryan Cox Jr. is playing with confidence after a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Not to mention Jameer Thurman should also be motivated to make an impact against his former team.

Ticats’ head coach Scott Milanovich knows the Riders are coming in with momentum but says his side is concerned with what they need to do to come out on top.

“Honestly, we’re really more focused at this point on what we’re doing,” Milanovich told reporters.

“We understand that they’re going to have emotion and that they’re coming off a big road win and we get that. But right now, I think we need to concentrate on what we’re doing.”

A win in June counts the same as a win in October and a 2-0 start would be a welcome sight for the Riders as they navigate a tough West Division.

Meanwhile, the Ticats are trying to not dig themselves an early hole in the East.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET. Fans in Canada can watch on TSN, while American viewers can catch the game on CBS Sports Network. International audiences can tune in on CFL+.

— With files from Riderville.com and Ticats.ca

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