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CFL Preview - Saskatchewan (8-4) at Montreal (4-8)

From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Sunday, September 29, 1:00 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: Saskatchewan was the top team in the CFL through the first nine games of the season, but since then the team has hit a rough patch to say the least.

On Sunday afternoon, the Roughriders will attempt to put a three-game slide behind them when they clash with the Montreal Alouettes on the road.

Outside of a 42-27 setback against Calgary the second week of August, the Riders were unmatched in their success until a month later. This past weekend the team suffered a 24-22 defeat against British Columbia as time expired, dropping Saskatchewan to 8-4 overall, which means the club is now tied with the Lions for second place in the West Division standings.

Held scoreless in the first quarter against BC, the Riders could barely gain any traction on the ground as they generated a mere 39 net yards on 12 attempts. With running back Kory Sheets, the top rusher in the league with his 1,222 yards, out of action due to injury Saskatchewan leaned even more heavily on quarterback Darian Durant, who was called upon to let fly with 52 pass attempts.

Durant converted 35 of those throws for 326 yards and two touchdowns, 10 of which went to Taj Smith who generated a game-high 104 yards. Saskatchewan ran 91 plays in the meeting, yet generated only 365 total yards. It certainly didn't help that kicker Chris Milo missed two of his four field goal attempts, clearly more than enough to have changed the outcome.

Somewhat overlooked during the defeat was the fact that Geroy Simon caught five passes for 60 yards. Now with 1,017 career receptions, Simon is tied with Ben Cahoon for the all-time CFL record in that department.

As for the Alouettes, a team which is just 2-4 at home, they are sitting in third place in the East Division with just eight points. The team led Hamilton the last time out by six points after three quarters, but then the defense surrendered and the Ticats came up with 15 points, en route to the 28-26 win.

Josh Neiswander handled the passing responsibilities for the slumping Als, a squad which is stumbling through their second three-game slide of the season, and hit on 26-of-36 pass attempts for 294 yards and a couple of scores. His aerial majors went to S.J. Green and Duron Carter, while in between Troy Smith, the former Ohio State signal caller, scored his first CFL major on a one-yard run in the third quarter.

Carter turned his nine receptions into 112 yards, both of which were game highs versus Hamilton, but even those numbers were not enough to offset the fact that the Alouettes ran for just 47 net yards. Jerome Messam carried the ball nine times and had a long of 16 yards, but that means he had just 15 yards on his own eight attempts.

Montreal is not only tied for the fewest rushing touchdowns in the league with just eight, but it is also last in terms of average gain per rushing attempt with just 4.9 yards.

There hasn't been much to cheer about in Montreal this season, but at least there was one highlight for the team last week as Chip Cox was named the CFL Defensive Player of the Week. Cox logged eight tackles, two sacks and made an interception in the setback versus the 'Cats. With six games still remaining on the schedule, Cox has already surpassed his career high for tackles in a season, now with a league-leading 86 stops. While that's certainly a positive for Cox from a statistical standpoint, it also means he has been on the field far too long already.

Considering how many times Durant dropped back to pass last week, Cox will have plenty of opportunities to add to his sack total. However, Durant has already shown that he is more than capable of getting rid of the ball, resulting in a CFL-best 26 touchdowns. Making it even more frustrating for defenses, Durant has been picked off just five times on 370 attempts, the best ratio of any active quarterback.

The Riders squeezed out a 24-21 win over Montreal in the first meeting of the season last month, which means the all-time series is now 37-29-1 in favor of the Als, when taking into consideration only regular-season bouts dating back to 1961.

In that contest, Durant threw touchdowns to Weston Dressler and Taj Smith in the first and fourth quarters, respectively. Durant completed 18-of-32 for 250 yards, with Chris Getzlaf reeling in five balls for a team-best 95 yards.

That was also the game where Montreal's Anthony Calvillo suffered a head injury that has kept him out of action since. Calvillo hit on half of his eight pass attempts for 85 yards, one of those being a 74-yard hook up with Green who finished with seven catches for 146 yards. Stepping in for Calvillo was Neiswander who converted just 12-of-30 for 147 yards and was picked off twice.

The possibility of making the postseason is still there for the Alouettes, but the window is closing fast. Unfortunately, with Durant directing the offense on the other side, odds are the window will close a little bit more this weekend.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saskatchewan 28, Montreal 24

09/25 10:42:52 ET

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