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CFL Preview - Saskatchewan (4-0) at Hamilton (1-3)



From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Saturday, July 27, 7:30 p.m. (et)

GAME NOTES: At the top of the standings after four weeks, the undefeated Saskatchewan Roughriders attempt to keep the good times rolling on Saturday as they challenge the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for the second time in as many games, this time at Alumni Stadium in Guelph.

The strong start to the 2013 campaign for the Roughriders is a bit reminiscent of the 2012 opening when the squad began with three straight victories over the likes of the Ticats, Edmonton and British Columbia. However, the team then lost five in a row and won just five more times the rest of the way.

Head coach Corey Chamblin already has the Riders halfway to their entire win total from a year ago, but with British Columbia and Calgary following close behind in the Western Division standings at 3-1, there is little margin for error.

Last Sunday's meeting at Mosaic Stadium was a one-sided affair, as the Roughriders dominated 37-0.

Darian Durant didn't seem to be bothered by his sprained foot, converting 20- of-32 passes for 347 yards and four touchdowns. Rob Bagg and Weston Dressler both caught five passes from the signal-caller, the former generating a game- high 125 yards and two touchdowns, the latter posting 73 yards and landing in the end zone once.

The CFL Offensive Player of the Week, Durant is third in the league in passing yards (1,021) and has converted better than 69 percent of his passes. But what separates him from the rest of the signal-callers in the league is his 12 TD passes, without a single interception. The only regular starter in the league other than Toronto's Ricky Ray who has yet to be picked off, Durant's efficiency rating is a ridiculous 136.9 heading into Week 5 action.

As good as the passing attack continues to be for Durant and the Roughriders, an equally important part of the equation has been running back Kory Sheets, who delivered his fourth straight 100-yard effort last weekend. Sheets carried the ball 24 times for 130 yards.

Second in the league in rushing last season with 1,277 yards on 229 carries, Sheets is far ahead of that pace in 2013 with a total of 572 yards, setting a new CFL record for the most rushing yards through the first four games of a season.

While Sheets, Durant and the rest of the Roughriders are ripping up the league, Hamilton is now one of those three teams (the other two being Montreal and Winnipeg) that have won just once in four chances in the Eastern Division.

Henry Burris, the leading rusher on the night for the Ticats with a grand total of 10 yards on four attempts, hit on 16-of-27 passing for 158 yards and was picked off once before taking a seat on the bench late in the meeting in favor of Dan LeFevour who completed three of his four passes for 21 yards in the shutout loss.

While the Roughriders were generating a hefty 500 yards of total offense, Hamilton posted a mere 195 yards, while getting hit with 12 penalties for a loss of 88 yards.

Bakari Grant was the lone bright spot for Hamilton, as he reeled in a game- best six passes, resulting in 80 yards.

Burris is actually second in the league in passing yards with 1,115 after four games, with six TDs against three interceptions. The real issue for the Ticats continues to be a lack of rushing yards.

Hamilton is last in the league with a paltry 65.2 ypg on the ground and the squad is all alone at the bottom of the CFL with just a single rushing major. By comparison, Saskatchewan is in the middle of the pack with four rushing TDs, but that hasn't kept the squad from keeping the ball on the ground more than any other club. The Riders are tops with 112 rushing attempts, leading to 672 yards, an effort that continues to keep defenses on their toes and buying time for Durant when he does drop back to pass.

With the victory last weekend, the Riders now lead the all-time series by a count of 41-38-4 during regular-season meetings dating back to 1961. Saskatchewan has won three of the last four encounters.

As the only undefeated team in the league, the Roughriders are painting a bull's-eye on their backs. However, until some squad figures out how to slow down Durant and keep Sheets from shredding defenses, wins will continue to pile up for Saskatchewan.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saskatchewan 31, Hamilton 23

07/24 10:30:35 ET

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