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From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
DATE & TIME: Saturday, August 2, 7 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: The defending Grey Cup champions hope to carry over their strong performance from Week 5 versus the Toronto Argonauts, as the Saskatchewan Roughriders clash with the expansion Ottawa RedBlacks on Saturday evening at TD Place.
The Roughriders, who lost to Toronto in the second game of the season by a lopsided 48-15 score, exacted some revenge last weekend when they blew out the Argos, 37-9. Granted, Toronto was without several key players, but still it was a dominating performance by Saskatchewan nonetheless.
Darian Durant, who completed 9-of-17 passes for 155 yards and scored once on the ground, may be the most obvious figure for the Riders right now, but making a name for himself in his very first game of the campaign was running back Will Ford.
Ford, who was picked up by Saskatchewan earlier in the week after spending the last two seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, ran for 113 yards and three touchdowns on 17 attempts. An import from South Carolina State, Ford scored just two rushing totals all of last season. Ford also caught three passes for another 24 yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Riders picked off a pair of Ricky Ray passes and recovered three fumbles, two of those from the Toronto signal caller as well. John Chick forced one fumble and registered half of his team's four sacks. For his efforts, Chick was named the CFL Defensive Player of the Week.
Not to be forgotten during the one-sided affair was linebacker Samuel Hurl, who claimed Canadian Player of the Week honors for the Riders as he tallied seven tackles and recovered a fumble.
With the victory, Saskatchewan snapped a brief two-game slide, but still the team is fourth in the Western Division standings with a mere four points.
While the Western Division by far is the more dominant group this season in the CFL, the Eastern Division is the perfect landing spot for the RedBlacks as they try to generate interest. Despite having only one win in four chances, Ottawa is tied with Hamilton and Montreal for first place in the standings.
Against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last weekend, the RedBlacks actually owned a 17-14 lead in the second quarter, but after that could manage just a pair of Brett Maher field goals the rest of the way, en route to the 33-23 road loss. The visitors rolled up close to 400 yards of total offense but could not capitalize enough on a solid effort by quarterback Henry Burris, who threw for 290 yards and two touchdowns.
Marcus Henry was a steady supply of offense, as he caught 10 passes for 138 yards and a major in the first half. However, the rushing attack was non- existent, as Chevon Walker posted only 37 yards on eight carries versus his former teammates.
Maher, who knocked through all three of his field-goal tries and finished with 11 points, also completed a pass for 25 yards as part of a fake punt. Maher is now fourth in the league in kicking points with 44.
Because of the efforts of Maher, Ottawa has managed to stay out of the basement in scoring offense to this point, although there is still room to improve on the squad's 20.0 ppg. The bigger problem for the RedBlacks in the early going is a defense that is surrendering 28.3 ppg, second-most in the league behind only Toronto (29.8 ppg).
The pass defense has been especially suspect for the RedBlacks, permitting a hefty 305.5 ypg, which is by far the most in the CFL after five weeks. It also doesn't help that Ottawa has yet to stop an opponent on downs, the only team in the league without such an effort.
Burris, who threw his first and only interception of the season in the most recent game, could stand to pick his targets a bit more carefully since he has completed just 57.4 percent of his attempts and has just four TDs through as many games. Walker is trying to lend a hand as best he can, placing fourth in the CFL with 342 yards from scrimmage, but there are still holes to be filled for the RedBlacks.
Saskatchewan hasn't exactly been burning up the scoreboard in the early going, averaging 24.0 ppg, and that has a lot to do with Durant, who has an efficiency rating of only 75.5 and has just as many INTs (five) as TDs.
Against teams representing Ottawa over the years, the Roughriders have won 38 of 61 regular-season matchups dating back to 1961. The most recent clash took place back in 2005 with Saskatchewan bowing by a score of 22-17 on the road.
The regular-season schedule has these teams playing just once more this season during Week 13.
The RedBlacks will pick up wins this season for sure, but against a team that is coming off a title run a year ago, it won't be easy by any stretch this weekend for the hosts.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saskatchewan 31, Ottawa 25
07/30 10:31:30 ET
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