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CFL Preview - Hamilton (1-2) at Saskatchewan (3-0)



From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Sunday, July 21, 7:00 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: For the only team in the CFL that is undefeated after three weeks of play, the Saskatchewan Roughriders are keeping a close eye on their star quarterback as they prepare to host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Mosaic Stadium on Sunday evening.

Darian Durant left the game against Toronto last Thursday, an eventual 39-28 triumph, after suffering a right foot injury in the fourth quarter, but subsequent MRI results came back negative which means he still could take the field versus Hamilton.

Durant managed to connect on 14-of-19 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns before giving way to backup Drew Willy. Making the job that much easier for Durant prior to his exit was Taj Smith who reeled in touchdown grabs of 61 and 70 yards, and finished with a game-high 141 yards receiving on just three catches.

Because of the efforts of Smith and other skill players on offense, Durant has completed 72 percent of his pass attempts in 2013, resulting in eight touchdowns and no interceptions. With numbers like those, it should not come as a surprise that Durant is blowing away the competition with his 135.1 efficiency rating.

Helping to spread the field for the Roughriders was Kory Sheets as he carried the ball 26 times for a hefty 178 yards and a pair of majors of his own. With his huge effort against the Argonauts, Sheets is easily the top rusher in the league at the moment with 442 yards and four TDs on 69 totes.

For his efforts last week, Sheets was named the CFL Offensive Player of the Week.

In addition to Sheets being rewarded for his strong play, so was teammate Renauld Williams who tallied eight tackles, including a pair of sacks, and a pass defended while picking up CFL Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Through three games, Williams leads the Riders in total tackles with 14 and has recorded three sacks. Despite the three quarterback takedowns by Williams, Saskatchewan is still third in the league in total sacks with 10.

While the Riders are crossing their fingers when it comes to the availability of Durant, Hamilton doesn't have the luxury of even considering a change at quarterback at the moment, even though Henry Burris took a beating during the team's 25-20 victory over Winnipeg at home last week. Burris, who was sacked seven times, still managed to complete all but six of his 32 pass attempts, leading to 362 yards and two touchdowns.

Burris, who also led the squad in rushing with 47 yards on six attempts, took entirely too many hits from the Blue Bombers defense and that is something that needs to change in a hurry if the Ticats hope to have him lining up for the long haul this season.

One of only two QBs in the league to have thrown for more than 701 yards Burris, who leads the CFL with 957 yards, has six TDs and two picks on 105 attempts. Now in his 14th season, Burris is coming off his best campaign in terms of touchdown passes and yards, having thrown a total of 43 scores and 5,367 yards a year ago, which is why his strong start to 2013 shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

As well as Burris has been playing, it is the running attack that needs to be ramped up for the Ticats to experience any true measure of success. Hamilton is one of three teams with just a single rushing score. The defense could also stand to be more aggressive as well, considering the group has forced a league-low two turnovers and is tied for the second-worst turnover margin at minus-two.

Saskatchewan is by far the best in the league in terms of turnover margin with a plus-six. The bulk of that can be credited to Durant who has been virtually flawless in his offensive approach.

In recent news off the field, the Ticats announced the naming of their future home beginning in 2014 as Tim Hortons Field. Named after the restaurant chain which was established almost 50 years ago, the new venue will also play host to international soccer events, major outdoor concerts and future Grey Cups.

Hamilton slipped by the Riders in the most recent regular-season tussle on July 28, 2012 by a score of 35-34 in Regina, snapping what had been a two-game win streak for Saskatchewan. The Riders have won 15 of the last 18 regular- season matchups and currently maintain a 40-38-4 edge in regular-season dates going back to 1961.

The squads are slated to meet up again in just six days in Hamilton to complete the season series.

At some point the opposition will catch up to Durant and the Saskatchewan offense, but until that time comes the Roughriders will be the favorite, especially when they are playing in the comforts of home.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saskatchewan 34, Hamilton 23

07/17 10:45:23 ET

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