TORONTO - As was the case in the Grey Cup last year, the Saskatchewan Roughriders had their way with Hamilton in the season opener last weekend, and now the team is tasked with taking on the Toronto Argonauts this Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre.
You can catch the action live on TSN at 3pm et/Noon pt. You can also listen to the game on NewsTalk 1010.
Last November the Roughriders barely got their hands dirty as they mangled Hamilton in the title game, 45-23, and on Sunday night the reigning champs experienced similar success in the rematch as they cruised to a 31-10 home win.
There were many aspects of the game in which Saskatchewan excelled, but the most notable area was with its pressure on quarterback Zach Collaros. Under heavy rain, Collaros had limited time to gain his footing and find open receivers, but to be sacked 10 times is still incredible. Leading the way for the Riders was defensive end Ricky Foley, who made a total of six tackles, three of those on Collaros in the backfield.
Last season, Saskatchewan ranked third in the league in sacks with 57, so they are already off to a tremendous start in that department. It should also be noted that Hamilton was the weakest club in the league in terms of holding off would-be sackers, allowing 65 takedowns of signal-callers.
For his efforts, Foley was named the Defensive and Canadian Player of the Week for Week 1. Because of the constant hitting under less than ideal conditions, the Tiger-Cats fumbled four times and lost possession twice.
On the offensive side of the ball for the Riders, quarterback Darian Durant orchestrated a decent effort, converting 15-of-22 passes for 136 yards and a couple of touchdowns, but the real story was new running back Anthony Allen.
Saskatchewan figured to have a huge hole to fill in the backfield with the departure of Kory Sheets, the league's second-leading rusher a year ago (1,598 yards), as he made the move back to the NFL to join the Oakland Raiders, but Allen seems to have turned more than a few heads with his hard-nosed play coming out of the gate.
Allen carried the ball 27 times for a game-high 158 yards, dwarfing the efforts of the entire Tiger-Cats rushing attack which managed to produce a mere 42 net yards. Allen, who crossed the goal line on a one-yard run in the second quarter, also caught a two-yard pass for a major earlier in the meeting.
While the Roughriders were again whipping up on Hamilton, the Argonauts were the ones taking a beating at the hands of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the season opener last Thursday night, 45-21.
On paper, Toronto should have easily handled the hosts, but that's why they actually play the game. Ricky Ray, the quarterback with the top efficiency rating in the league a year ago, threw touchdown passes to Jason Barnes and Jeremiah Johnson in the second and third quarters, respectively, but that was only after the hosts lit up the scoreboard with 24 unanswered points to begin the meeting.
Ray completed 27-of-38 passes for 283 yards, with Chad Owens being his favorite target with eight catches for 78 yards. Owens also pitched in with three punt returns for another 85 yards, one of those stretching for 83 yards and a major in the fourth quarter. Owens, who is always a threat to break a big play, was named the Special Teams Player of the Week for the seventh time in his career.
Even though the Argos came out on the losing end in the first game of the season, the team's management is keenly aware of the value that Owens brings to the field each and every week, which is why the mighty sprite was signed to a contract extension through the 2015 campaign.
Not limited to keeping only the skill players happy, Toronto also extended center Jeff Keeping it was announced on Monday. While he certainly doesn't get the same amount of press as Owens, Keeping has still made a name for himself after he was not only named an East Division All-Star, but won the Leo Dandurand Memorial Trophy as the East Division's Outstanding Offensive Lineman following the 2013 campaign.
Unfortunately, the Toronto defense had no answers for the Blue Bombers, a team that last season won a total of just three times. Bombers quarterback Drew Willy threw for a career-high 308 yards and four touchdowns while being named the CFL Offensive Player of the Week. Winnipeg generated 459 yards of offense, and kept the Toronto defense on the field for more than 36 minutes.
Toronto trails in the all-time series between these two clubs, 46-37-1, when speaking of regular-season meetings dating back to 1961. However, the Argos have won two of the last three meetings, including a 31-29 final in Regina last September.