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October 27, 2018

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

For the final time in the 2018 CFL regular season, the Saskatchewan Roughriders are to play a game that has playoff implications.

The Roughriders are to complete their 18-game slate Saturday with a game against the B.C. Lions at Mosaic Stadium (5 p.m., CKRM, TSN). Saskatchewan then will have a bye in the final week of the regular season.

The Roughriders have faced the Edmonton Eskimos, Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Calgary Stampeders over the past three weeks during a frantic stretch drive in the West Division.

All five of the division’s teams have been jockeying for playoff positions, but the picture is slowly coming into focus.

Winnipeg beat Calgary 29-21 on Friday, clinching a spot for the Bombers and eliminating the Eskimos. The Stampeders’ loss also kept them from locking up first place, meaning the Roughriders can still catch the Stamps for top spot.

Saskatchewan can clinch a home playoff game with a win or a tie Saturday. If the Lions win by more than four points and then defeat Calgary on Nov. 3, they will pass the Roughriders and finish second in the West.

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

  1. On the rebound: Zach Collaros was excellent last Saturday against Calgary, completing 24 of 35 pass attempts for 352 yards — his second-highest yardage total of the season, behind only the 394 yards he had against the Montreal Alouettes on Sept. 30. Collaros’ showing in Calgary was a dramatic turnaround from his performance in Winnipeg on Oct. 13, when he was pulled early in the third quarter after going 8-for-19 for 69 yards with two interceptions. In Calgary, Collaros was 9-for-11 for 154 yards on passes that travelled between four and nine yards and 9-for-12 for 154 yards on passes between 10 and 19 yards in length. The Roughriders’ receivers had 159 yards after the catch against the Stampeders to bump up Collaros’ yardage total.
  2. K.D. Cannon: The former Baylor University star is set to make his first start for the Roughriders at wide receiver, one week after he came off the bench and had a four-catch, 61-yard game against the Stamps. Cannon was signed to the practice roster on Sept. 11 and spent three weeks learning the nuances of the CFL game before being activated for the Roughriders’ game Oct. 8 against Edmonton. He didn’t get much action in that game, but he certainly did against Calgary. Replacing Caleb Holley, Cannon showed great speed, good hands and a willingness to get in the face of Stamps defenders. He also proved a capable special-teamer — something that he had never done before in his football career.
  3. Lavar Edwards: Just four days after arriving in Regina, the former NFLer slots in at defensive tackle for the Roughriders. Edwards, who played 25 career regular-season games over five NFL seasons, spent the week getting a crash course in Saskatchewan’s defensive scheme and in the workings of the CFL. Having to line up a yard off the line of scrimmage will be one of the bigger adjustments for Edwards, but the 28-year-old didn’t think that would be much of a problem in his maiden voyage in the CFL. Edwards replaces the injured Curt Maggitt, who replaced the injured Mic’hael Brooks in the interior of the D-line. There, the newcomer can expect to see a lot of …
  4. Tyrell Sutton: Since being acquired from Montreal on Sept. 25, the tailback has played two games for the Lions. He rushed 22 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns against Calgary on Oct. 13 and then carried 16 times for 97 yards against the Eskimos on Oct. 19. A B.C. rushing attack that, at the start of the month, was eighth in the league with an average of 88.2 yards per game is now fifth in the CFL in average yards per game (99.5). Sutton and backup Chris Rainey will face a challenge against a Saskatchewan defence that entered the week ranked second in the league in rush defence (93.9 yards per game) and first in rushing TDs allowed (11).
  5. Saying goodbye: Lions head coach Wally Buono is set to retire at the end of the 2018 season, so this will be his final regular-season visit to Regina. Buono has a 17-17-1 career record in the Queen City in regular-season games, including a 9-8-1 mark with the Stampeders and an 8-9-0 record with the Lions. Saskatchewan fans like to give Buono a hard time, particularly when he wanders onto the field to discuss things with the officials. This will be the last time he does that in a regular-season game in Regina — barring another unretirement, that is. He also stepped away from coaching in 2011 before returning to the sideline in 2016.