REGINA — Fresh off their bye week, the Ottawa REDBLACKS will travel to Mosaic Stadium to take on the undefeated Saskatchewan Roughriders.
In Week 1, it was the REDBLACKS secondary that stole the show, holding the Edmonton Elks touchdown-less. Abdul Kanneh was arguably the most impactful player in that secondary, picking off Trevor Harris twice and returning one back to the house for a pick-six.
In doing their best to replicate that performance against another strong-armed, accurate quarterback in Cody Fajardo, REDBLACKS defensive coordinator, Mike Benevides believes his guys have all the energy to do it again.
“That’s one thing that’s never failed,” said Benevides. “The energy is there, you take a look at Micah (Awe) and Avery (Williams), they’re the guys who continuously keep the pieces together, physical players with a tremendous amount of aggression and intensity and at the end of the day, they’re 12 guys playing like a bunch of bullies with attitude and a sense of purpose.”
In Riderville, the team is preparing for their first game of the season without former 2019 CFL All-Star wide receiver, Shaq Evans, who suffered an injury during Saturday’s game against Hamilton. In preaching the “next man up” mentality, Riders’ head coach, Craig Dickenson isn’t too worried about how his team will fare without him.
“I think we’ve got good players in house that will pick up the slack,” said Dickenson. “The rest of us on offence know what we need to do, maybe a touch extra, but if we just play within ourselves and within the system, I believe we’re going to be alright. Next man up and we wish Shaq a speedy recovery.”
With Evans sidelined, Brayden Lenius is looking to fill his shoes and contribute on the offensive side of the ball.
“Even when Shaq is here, I still take that initiative on myself to step up and be someone in that role that is there for Cody at all times,” said Lenius. “It sucks having Shaq down, that’s our boy, but we’re going to love him up and he’s going to be back soon. But, yes, now that he’s out, we all have to step up, not just myself.”
With only a single game played this season, the book has yet to be out on this 2021 Ottawa REDBLACKS offence. Being held to just field goals against the Edmonton Elks, their lethality has yet to be gauged. That being said, quarterback, Matt Nichols has the resume of someone who can bet teams vertically as he tallied 15 touchdown passes in 2019.
The question posed to Roughriders offensive coordinator, Jason Shivers, this week was just how he plans to defend that.
“LaPo is a great OC. He can hit you from all different angles,” said Shivers. “I’m expecting them to come in and throw the ball with Matt. he’s a good quarterback, he can get the ball out quick, he’s pretty accurate. I’m looking for the passing game, but I also think that they’re going to try and run the ball a lot more against us just to try and establish some sort of rhythm with their offence.”
Against Edmonton, Ottawa carried out a balanced game plan, utilizing both the pass and the run. While neither of them saw them get into the end zone, the 20 passing attempts by Nichols and the 16 rushing attempts by a variety of ball carries kept Edmonton on their toes.
Saskatchewan’s defence, who has allowed the second-least points (37), will have to do exactly that this weekend.
Catch kickoff at 7:00 p.m ET Saturday evening on TSN, ESPN+ and follow along on CFL.ca’s Game Tracker.