Thursday November 20, 2014

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Rider Insider

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All is good in the 'hood.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders improved to 3-2 Saturday night with a 38-14 stomping of the expansion Ottawa RedBlacks at TD Place Stadium in the nation's capital.

After back-to-back double digit losses in Weeks 2 and 3, Canada's Team has responded with a pair of lopsided victories to keep pace in the tough CFL West Division.

It was a carnival-like atmosphere in Ottawa Saturday night with a pregame tailgate party hosted by the Roughriders at the adjacent Aberdeen Pavilion and the revelry carried over into the game.

Some Ottawa football types wondered if this Week 6 contest could be a "trap game" for the Riders, one which they may overlook against a rag-tag group and also with a huge divisional game in Winnipeg on the horizon in Week 7.

Nope.

Saskatchewan's 37-9 triumph over Toronto the week before was Exhibit A that the Green Machine is back on track. They carried the momentum over into TD Place and led 24-0 after the first quarter.

Quarterback Darian Durant was pretty much mistake-free and the offense had virtually no trouble moving the ball. A 111-yard missed field goal return touchdown by the indefatigable Tristan Jackson in the second quarter was the icing on the cake.

"The guys came out and played fast," explained Rider head coach Corey Chamblin after the match. "We adjusted to everything they did quickly. The guys just played fast.

"The defense is starting to understand what it will take to be a good football team. We'll have to be tougher than we have been in the past and they realize that."

Tristan Jackson was clearly the best Roughrider on Saturday. In addition to his return touchdown, the Central Arkansas product also contributed an interception and two knockdowns.

"Every guy has a role and when they step into it, they've gotta be a star," Chamblin continued. "Tristan Jackson's done a good job of doing that."

Jackson went down with minor injuries several times during the game but came right back out the next time his number was called. No doubt he slept well Saturday night.

"I'm just out having fun," Jackson smiled. "Coach gives me the opportunity to play football and I thank him by giving him everything I got."

Does he ever!

Not to be overlooked was the play of Rider slotback Chris Getzlaf who returned after a four game absence with a lower body injury. The Regina product had five catches for 57 yards but his presence seemed to be a calming influence for Durant.

"Let's be honest - Getz is one of the best receivers in the league," said Rider wide receiver Rob Bagg who led the team with 123 yards receiving. "He slows down the game for you. He makes it easier for everyone by just being on the field. When we get all five guys together and going, we're going to be deadly."

That's certainly a comforting notion. We can't get ahead of ourselves but the Roughriders certainly appear to be back to the juggernaut which has made them a threat each and every week over the past number of years.

Now a prairie showdown looms in Winnipeg on Thursday against the 5-1 Blue Bombers who are arguably the CFL's best team. The Riders are 0-1 against West Division opponents this year and this Week 7 clash certainly represents the biggest test of the season.

Are the Blue Bombers really for real? So far they've given us no reason to think otherwise but it's almost impossible to comprehend their remarkable turnaround from last season's 3-15 debacle.

But as the Rider Pride song goes, "We're really rollin', now we're on our way" and Thursday's game has all the makings of a West Division slobber-knocker.

"Feel real good," concluded Coach Chamblin."Now it's time to put this one to bed and move on."

Bring on the Bombers.

(For daily Rider news follow Rod on Twitter at @sportscage)


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