July 8, 2024

MMQB: Roughriders make a statement

Arthur Ward/CFL.ca

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are serving notice to the rest of the league and it’s tough to ignore.

Now 4-0 after an impressive 33-20 win over Toronto on Thursday night, the Riders have displayed the ability to win in different ways. Saskatchewan has shown they’re just fine pulling games out of the fire in the fourth quarter. And, more recently, this Roughriders’ defence has been leading the way with its aggressive, in-your-face approach.

Take Thursday’s win over the Argos for example. It was Saskatchewan’s defence making life easy on Shea Patterson in the early going as he made his CFL starting debut. The Riders made life difficult on Toronto quarterback Cameron Dukes right from the start and it allowed Patterson to settle in. The result was another impressive win.

So much of what happened against the Argos started at the point of attack. Dukes was under duress all night and, on top of officially recording a pair of sacks, Saskatchewan pressure was directly responsible for two of his four interceptions.

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I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Thursday’s display was the best example yet of the Roughriders embodying the brand of football new head coach and defensive coordinator Corey Mace wants them to play.

And it’s not just up front. Everything about Sask’s defensive approach is based on taking away time and space. From Jameer Thurman at linebacker to Diontae Williams, Marcus Sayles and Rolan Milligan Jr. in the secondary, the Riders fly to the football much like Mace’s defences did for two seasons in Toronto.

In Week 5 it was exactly what Patterson and Co. needed. With the defence keeping the Argos to just nine points in the first half, Patterson was afforded the time he needed to get comfortable in his first CFL start.

By the second half he looked largely at ease. Patterson completed 15 of 23 passes and finished with 192 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He also racked up 18 rushing yards on four carries and called his own number on a nine-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter.

What we’ve seen from the Riders so far this season is promising. They’re resilient, they’ve got swagger and they’re a deserving 4-0. That sets them, and us, up perfectly for a marquee showdown on the road in BC Saturday night.

The not-so-secret weapon

There was one thing, or in this case person, that stood out more than anything else in Winnipeg’s first win of the season: Brady Oliveira.

After a nightmare start to the season, there’s no coincidence the Bombers got into the win column for the first time on the same night Oliveira really popped this year.

For the first time since 2023, the reigning Most Outstanding Canadian was at his very best as Winnipeg picked up a 25-16 win over the Ottawa REDBLACKS. As the 1-4 Blue Bombers try to climb out of an early season hole, it feels like Oliveira, more than anyone else, will be the one leading the way.


Oliveira ran for 129 yards against Ottawa and added 37 more receiving yards. Not only was it Oliveira’s first game over 100 yards rushing this season, it was also his first game over 100 yards of total offence period. Knowing Oliveira posted the league’s best rushing totals in a decade last season, Winnipeg needs to find ways to get more nights like that out of him going forward.

With Zach Collaros fighting a minor injury and with superstar receiver Dalton Schoen out for an extended period of time, Oliveira’s role on the Bombers has become even more crucial. With 23 carries and seven targets against the REDBLACKS, Oliveira was the primary playmaker on 30 offensive plays.

In his three prior appearances this season (Oliveira missed Week 2 with injury), however, that number was much lower at an average of 13. Other factors, including game script, have led to Oliveira’s usage being slightly lower so far this season. But his outing Friday night is a perfect reminder of how much better Winnipeg is when Oliveira is a true focal point.

Quick hits


After a frustrating 2023 campaign impacted mostly by injury, it was awesome to see Janarion Grant bust off a punt return touchdown on Thursday night. Now a member of the Argos, Grant exploded for an 84-yard touchdown return in the first quarter and finished the night with 132 punt return yards and 92 more returning kicks. It’s good to have him back.

I’m quite enjoying this shot-for-shot game Tyson Philpot and Alexander Hollins are playing right now and the league’s two leading receivers did it again in Week 5. Philpot racked up another 134 yards on 12 catches in Montreal’s 30-26 win over the Stampeders on Friday night. And then Sunday, Hollins went for 116 and a touchdown as the Lions topped Hamilton 44-28.

With each guy at four touchdowns each and with Hollins just nine yards ahead of Philpot on top of the CFL’s receiving table, this should be a fun battle to watch all season long.

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