Friday, July 19, 2024

CFL Preview: Hamilton Tiger-Cats (0-2-0) vs Saskatchewan Roughriders (2-0-0)

REGINA — If Week 2 was any indication, the Week 3 finale shouldn’t be short on excitement.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Saskatchewan Roughriders renew acquaintances on Sunday night at Mosaic Stadium, one week after the Riders went on the road and took a 33-30 victory from the Ticats at Tim Hortons Field.

Riders quarterback Trevor Harris hopes to keep the good times rolling after putting up 390 passing yards and pair of touchdowns in the teams’ first matchup. Harris leads all CFL pivots with 695 yards and five touchdowns through two weeks.

The three-headed receiving corps of Jarreth Sterns, Shawn Bane Jr. and Kian Schaffer-Baker are Harris’ primary targets and have stepped up when called upon. Of Harris’ 695 yards, the trio have combined to be on the receiving end of 529 of them.

So, the Ticats’ secondary knows what and who to focus on. Stopping them, however, is another issue.

It may start up front as defensive lineman Brandon Barlow sacked Harris three times a week ago. He’ll be supported by the talented Casey Sayles and David Menard as they hope to disrupt the timing and flow of the Riders’ play calling.

If they can sustain that pressure, it’ll be up to Kenneth George Jr. and Stavros Katsantonis to do the rest downfield.

Despite having running backs with game breaking ability, neither AJ Ouellette nor James Butler had much success the first time around.

As the Ticats are likely to focus much of their game planning on slowing the pass, Ouellette is tasked with finding holes on the ground.

It’s been a tough start defensively for Hamilton as they’ve given up 65 points in two games, the most of any team after two weeks. Edmonton and BC had surrendered the second most in that time with 52.

Needless to say, better play is needed if they hope to give their offence a chance.

Speaking of that Ticats’ offence, it’s not to be outdone. Bo Levi Mitchell threw for three touchdowns himself and has 680 yards on the year.

Receivers Kiondré Smith, Steven Dunbar Jr., Shemar Bridges and Tim White all had at least 50 receiving yards a week ago, led by Smith’s 119, so the focus of the Riders’ defence won’t be much different from that of the Ticats.

Despite a tough loss a week ago, White isn’t about to let one disappointing game dictate how his team responds.

“That’s part of the game,” White told reporters.

“We’re professional football players. If you go through a season without adversity, you probably weren’t playing. I look forward to the challenge. I embrace it, I’m highly motivated, I’m inspired and ready to get out there on the field.”

Linebacker C.J. Avery has shown he can make an impact in head coach Corey Mace’s pass defence and DaMarcus Field, Rolan Milligan Jr. and Deontai Williams do a good job of covering the field.

On the ground, facing a team for the second time could be a benefit for Butler.

While he struggled in Week 2, Butler had 25 carries for 107 yards in the Ticats lone game against the Riders late last season.

Trying to slow him for a second week in a row is a tough ask that falls on former Ticats defensive lineman Malik Carney and linebacker Jameer Thurman.

Through two wins, the Riders are allowing a minuscule 34.5 rush yards against per game.

While his team is 2-0, Mace says his group has significant work to do to get to where they want to be.

“We’re 2-0, it doesn’t feel in my heart just because again as a coach we want to find ways to be better,” Mace told reporters.

“The silver lining, again, is if we can clean that up, what do we look like?”

A third straight win to open the season for the Riders would be an accomplishment that sets them up well in a tough West Division.

The Ticats are trying to avoid falling to 0-3 as they attempt to climb out of fourth place in the East Division.

Kickoff from Mosaic Stadium is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. ET. Fans can tune in on TSN, while American viewers can catch the game on CBS Sports Network. International viewers can find the game here on CFL+.

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