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August 22, 2019

Nye: Different story for Riders, REDBLACKS since first meeting

Patrick Doyle/CFL.ca

The last time the Roughriders and REDBLACKS faced each other we were treated to nearly 900 yards of offence, including 714 passing yards and 85 total points.

The Riders came back to score late and had a short kick to try and continue a fantastic fourth quarter comeback.

Dominique Davis and Dominique Rhymes drove the Riders secondary crazy with 11 completions for 168 yards.

On the other side, it was the first sign that Riders new starting quarterback Cody Fajardo was creating some chemistry with Shaq Evans and Kyran Moore, who both went over the 100 yard mark.

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In the end, it was a 44-41 win for Ottawa. Ottawa moved to 2-0 to start the season. Saskatchewan dropped to 0-2.

But what a difference two months makes.

Since that game, the Riders have been rolling and Ottawa has rolling down the standings.

The loser that night has now won five of their last six and Cody Fajardo has established himself as the team’s number one quarterback.

The June 20th loss was Fajardo’s first start of the season replacing the injured Zach Collaros.

For Ottawa, somehow the season has gone south since they held off the Riders that night. Ottawa has lost six of their last seven games.

It’s gotten so bad in Ottawa they’ve reconfigured the offensive coaching staff by promoting veteran coach Joe Paopao to play caller.

The REDBLACKS offence scored 32 and 43 points in their first two games and the offence has been unable to contribute 20 points in any game since then.

People are already writing off Ottawa in the second meeting of these two teams in Regina.

There is no doubt the test will be massive but after showing the CFL they can score and pile up points and yards early in the season, you have to believe they have it in them to do it again.

The problem is they face the improving Roughriders.

Fajardo is getting handed keys to a truck, t-shirts are being made for him, and his jersey sales are going up by the win.

But it’s not only Fajardo’s play that needs to be noted, the Riders defence is finding their groove.

The hard hitting, ball hawking, and scoring defence has arrived after a slow start to the season. They were not happy with their game after Davis threw for over 300 yards in Week two and have given up only one other 300-yard game in their six games since.

So that’s what happened then and since. However, the future is much more important for these teams.

The Riders have climbed their way into the race for first in the division, while the REDBLACKS have stumbled their way in to a race just to make the playoffs.

Saturday provides a chance for Ottawa to regain their footing. Yes, the first priority is the offence to get going. There was much made of the playmakers that left Ottawa in the off-season and those losses have been noticeable lately.

Finding game breakers is what they need. It appears they’ve found a serviceable running back in John Crockett who has averaged 5.6 yards a carry.

But the play of their receivers has been inconsistent. Dominique Rhymes is their only receiver on pace for a 1,000 yard season and Brad Sinopoli has been unable to find any chemistry with his new quarterback.

Cody Fajardo and the Roughriders have trended upwards since their last meeting with Ottawa (The Canadian Press)

Now, Dominique Davis also has to start showing starter capability, although the second option of Jonathon Jennings wasn’t good in his two starts.

However, it’s not only the offence. The REDBLACKS defence has allowed over 400 yards in six of their last seven games. They to have to make plays if Ottawa wants to turn their season back around.

It’s a bit ironic that the REDBLACKS need some playmakers while the Riders are one of a few teams that have benefited by the amount of players that have left Ottawa.

Ottawa could use running back William Powell and defensive end A.C. Leonard, who are fitting in well in Saskatchewan.

The REDBLACKS head into the bye week after this game and without a win and if they struggle, more changes than just a coaching shuffle could be on their way.

The Riders future is much brighter than Ottawa’s.

While the power rankings (somehow) have the red hot Riders ranked sixth, they are easily a top three team right now.

They come off their bye week with just three losses, which puts them right there with Edmonton and one back of Winnipeg with a game in hand.

Saskatchewan is salivating at the notion of moving their win streak to five to finish off their first nine games.

But it’s only going to get harder for Saskatchewan from here. They’ll have seven divisional games in their final nine after just three in the first half of the season.

The Riders are riding momentum toward their Marks’ Labour Day Weekend home and home against Winnipeg and it doesn’t feel like Ottawa will get in their way.