Roughriders look to return to winning ways against Alouettes
REGINA – Saskatchewan Roughriders linebacker Solomon Elimimian hasn’t forgotten what happened last week.
Now, Elimimian wants to see how his team responds in the aftermath of a humbling loss.
The Riders (7-4), who are tied for second in the CFL’s West Division, host the Montreal Alouettes (6-4), who are in second in the East, on Saturday.
“I think that every game is a must win,” said Elimimian. “If you don’t have that mindset and you feel one game is more important than another, that could be a problem.
“We’re focused and we understand that we’re in the West with really good teams but it’s all about showing mental toughness and when I say mental toughness, I’m talking about us losing last week but coming back and refocusing, putting out a good performance, playing hard football and getting a win.”
The Riders are coming off a 35-10 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Sept. 7 that ended Saskatchewan’s winning streak at six games. The Riders didn’t play well in the defeat and for that reason, quarterback Cody Fajardo believes it’s vital that Saskatchewan beats the Alouettes.
“We’re obviously focused on Montreal but we want to get a win because we’re coming off a loss so that’s what makes this game important is because we lost the week before,” said Fajardo.
Elimimian agrees with Fajardo that the Riders need to bounce back and return to their winning ways.
“I think it’s important to show that you can bounce back,” said Elimimian. “I think it’s important to show that when you lose one, with the game not going how you envisioned it, the question is how you respond in the next game against a good opponent like Montreal. Much of it might be about them but it’s more so about us and where we’re trying to go on our journey and building team chemistry, getting better as a team.
“It’s games like this where you have to respond and bounce back.”
The previous meeting between the teams on Aug. 9 in Montreal ended under unusual circumstances when a severe weather system resulted in the game being called in the third quarter with the Riders leading 17-10. When an hour had passed without the teams being able to return, the game was automatically over because of a new CFL rule.
The loss dropped Montreal to 3-4 and it was a bitter pill for the Als to swallow as they felt a victory was within its reach.
Fajardo understands that frustration.
“It was a one-possession game with a whole quarter left but that’s how the chips fell and we were fortunate to be winning. If I was on the opposite side of it, I’d be upset too,” said Fajardo.
Since that contest the Alouettes have gone on a three-game winning streak with quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. playing a major role in the turnaround. In those three games, Adams completed 71 of 102 passes for 974 yards and five touchdowns. He also rushed for five touchdowns, giving him a total of 10 rushing touchdowns this season – an Alouettes franchise record for a quarterback.
Adams didn’t play in the Aug. 9 game but the Riders have been paying attention to his recent exploits and they’re prepared to do whatever it takes to stop him and the Montreal offence.
“He’s a good quarterback,” Elimimian said.
“He can hurt you with his feet. He can hurt you with his arm. He provides them with confidence. They play different when he’s their quarterback. They play more confidently so you can tell that he’s earned their trust as a team. Like with any good quarterback, the team goes where the quarterback goes. For us, we obviously have to disrupt him and make it an uncomfortable day for him.”
MONTREAL ALOUETTES (6-4) AT SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (7-4)
Saturday, Mosaic Stadium
J-WILL WILL HAVE TO WAIT: Receiver Jordan Williams-Lambert re-signed with the Riders on Wednesday after being released by the NFL’s Chicago Bears. Williams-Lambert, the West Division most outstanding rookie last season, won’t be activated for Saturday’s game. With the Riders having a bye week in Week 15, he’s expected to return to the lineup on Sept. 28 against the Toronto Argonauts.
SACK MASTERS: Saturday’s game feature two of the CFL’s best defensive ends in Saskatchewan’s Charleston Hughes and Montreal’s John Bowman. Hughes leads the CFL this season with 13 sacks and has a career total of 127 sacks in 175 games. The 37-year-old Bowman has 130 career sacks in 224 games with four coming this season.
PICTON GETS HIS CHANCE: Rookie receive Mitch Picton will make his first CFL start Saturday for the Riders. A Regina product who played five seasons with the University of Regina Rams, Picton fills in for Justin McInnis, who is sidelined with a shoulder injury.
Jeff DeDekker, The Canadian Press