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September 8, 2018

Five players (or things) to watch during Saturday’s game

The CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders are looking for their second sweep in as many home-and-home series this season.

Saskatchewan beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 31-23 on Sunday in the annual Labour Day Classic, so the Roughriders will be out to complete the back-to-back sweep when they visit Winnipeg on Saturday (2 p.m., CKRM, TSN).

The Roughriders have played one home-and-home series already this season and they took both ends of the doubleheader with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Saskatchewan downed the visiting Tiger-Cats 18-13 on July 5 and then, after a bye week, defeated Hamilton 31-20 in Steeltown on July 19.

The Roughriders swept the annual back-to-back set with the Bombers once in the previous five seasons (2014), while Winnipeg won both games once (2016) and the teams split the other three series.

In the five years before that, however, Saskatchewan posted four sweeps (2008, ’09, ’11 and ’12) and split once (2010).

Here’s one man’s list of five things (or players) to watch during Saturday’s game.

 

  1. Sound waves: The Bombers have announced that the contest is sold out, meaning 33,134 patrons will be jammed into Investors Group Field. Some of them will be Roughriders fans, but the majority will be Winnipeg supporters. The Bombers claim that their home stadium is the loudest in the CFL — Saskatchewan maintains that Mosaic Stadium deserves that title — so the Roughriders know that they’re going to have to be ready for the din. Of course, a quick start by the visitors could turn some of the more impatient Bombers fans against their team, an occurrence that has happened already this season.
  2. The running man: Bombers tailback Andrew Harris rushed 15 times for 158 yards in the Labour Day Classic, posting the three longest runs (38, 31 and 25 yards) allowed by the Saskatchewan defence this season. The Roughriders weren’t happy with their gap cancellation in that contest, so head coach-GM Chris Jones and his defensive coaches addressed that in meetings and in practice this week. Saskatchewan entered the Classic allowing an average of 78.3 yards rushing per game; after giving up 193 yards to the Bombers, the Roughriders’ average jumped to 89.8 yards per game.
  3. Moore of the same: Rookie Kyran Moore was on Saskatchewan’s practice roster for its first eight regular-season games before being activated. In just his second game on the active roster, Moore had 106 combined yards against the Bombers, including a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown. His yardage total would have been higher if he was a tad longer: A 40-yard toss from Zach Collaros to Moore in the first quarter was just out of the reach of the diminutive receiver. Dubbed Swerve by his teammates, Moore lived up to his nickname in the Classic.
  4. Gaining ground: Roughriders defensive back Ed Gainey recorded his first interception of the campaign in the Labour Day Classic, a slow start that last season’s league leader in picks didn’t envision. But Gainey tends to get his thefts in bunches — in 2017, he had one game with four picks and two games with two interceptions — so it’s not impossible for him to chase down this season’s leaders. Entering Week 12, five players were tied atop the CFL’s interception board with three apiece and 18 players were tied for sixth with two each. Then came a gaggle of 27 players with one apiece, including Gainey.
  5. They’re kicking themselves: Roughriders kicker Brett Lauther began his CFL career with the Tiger-Cats in 2013 and appeared in four games with them that season. He spent the 2014 campaign on Hamilton’s practice roster, watching and learning from its more-experienced kicker. That gentleman, Justin Medlock, is now employed by the Bombers. Lauther has said that Medlock was influential in his development, and Lauther is putting those lessons to good use in 2018. The Riders’ kicker has connected on 29 of his league-high 32 field-goal attempts and entered the week tied for the CFL lead in points (108) … with Medlock.