Riders, Ticats cap off Week 2 on Saturday night

REGINA — Week 2 comes to a close with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats traveling to Regina to take on the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the final game of Saturday’s CFL doubleheader.

The Ticats will be looking to bounce back after a tough loss to the defending Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Week 1. Their situation doesn’t get any easier entering Week 2, playing in Saskatchewan’s Mosaic stadium which is notoriously one of the league’s most challenging environments for opposing teams.

However, Hamilton receiver Brandon Banks believes the Ticats will be able to feed off the energy of the hostile crowd.

“It’s going to be a good atmosphere,” said Banks on Mosaic Stadium.  “We’re going to embrace it, that’s part of the football game, that’s what gets us going.”

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Getting going won’t be the difficult part for the Ticats, who started the season opener with an impressive seven-play drive which saw Jeremiah Masoli complete all five of his pass attempts for 84 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown to Jaelon Acklin to place an exclamation point on the drive. The only problem was that it would stand as the lone score for Hamilton in the game.

Despite their challenges scoring points in Week 1, the Ticats receivers foreshadowed the explosive playmaking ability that opposing secondaries are going to have to game plan for.

Banks already looked to be in mid-season form as the reigning Most Outstanding Player caught eight of his 11 targets for 77 receiving yards. Second year receiver Acklin also saw 11 targets come his way, catching seven of them for 98 yards and a touchdown.

Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson doesn’t believe the loss to Winnipeg will phase Hamilton and expects the Tiger-Cats to come out strong in Week 2.

“I think Hamilton’s got something to prove,” said Dickenson. “I think they’re going to come out fast and we need to match that intensity ourselves.”

The Green and White will be looking to their secondary to help handle a Hamilton passing offence that threw the ball 41 times in Week 1.

The Riders secondary played fast and aggressive in their first game of the season and were rewarded with two interceptions against the Lions, including an interception return for a touchdown from Nick Marshall.

Marshall is certainty a player the Riders will be leaning on to create takeaways again against Hamilton on Saturday. Including his interception last week, Marshall has tallied nine interceptions since entering the league and was among league leaders with five in 2019. What’s more impressive is that he has returned four of those interceptions for touchdowns.

“They’re probably one of the best in the league,” said Banks of the Riders secondary. “They have some good aggressive defensive backs.”

After a 77-yard performance last week, Brandon Banks will be looking to be more of a factor this week for the Ticats (Jason Halstead/CFL.ca)

As impressive as the Saskatchewan secondary is, their offence looked equally as impressive in Week 1. Offensive efficiency and a combination of different personnel packages helped them edge a win to start the season.

The Cody Fajardo MOP campaign commenced against BC as Fajardo finished the week as the most efficient quarterback in the league, completing 80 per cent of his 35 passing attempts and adding two touchdowns in the performance. He also ran for 26 yards on five carries.

Fajardo’s ability to use his arm is undeniable, but his ability to be effective with his legs can’t be overlooked, especially when he’s in scoring range. In the red zone Fajardo was one of the Riders’ leading rushers in 2019, scoring 10 times on 23 carries.

The athleticism of the Riders pivot adds an extra element of preparation for Hamilton. However, the Black and Gold defensive unit is one of the best at creating high pressure situations that limit an opposing quarterback’s time to throw. The athletic Hamilton secondary combined with their ability to rush the quarterback makes them one of the most revered defensive units in the league.

Hamilton knocked down five passes and allowed a league lowest 217 passing yards in their season opener against the Bombers. Headlined by a six tackle, one sack showing from superstar linebacker Simoni Lawrence, the front seven recorded three sacks while forcing eight two and outs against the Bombers.

According to Dickenson, the best way to handle a defence as aggressive as Hamilton is to be creative with the offensive scheming and create fatigue in your opponent.

“The goal is to wear a defence down, make sure they’re not quite sure what they’re seeing,” said Dickenson. “You’ve got to have some variety and some different looks.”

In their home opener, the Roughriders passing game involved six different receivers who combined for 28 receptions, while the ground game was distributed between three different ball carriers for a total of 18 carries.

Expect the game planning to look much the same for the Green and White against a tough Hamilton defence. From a variety of different personnel packages to Fajardo carrying the ball, the Saskatchewan offence is focused on quick substitutions to create confusion for the Ticats play callers.

Entering the final game of Week 2 in CFL action, both Hamilton and Saskatchewan boast impressive rosters fueled by high powered offences and punishing defences. Saturday’s matchup at Mosaic is set to be a full four quarter fight between two of the CFL’s heavyweights.

Kickoff is slated for 10:00 p.m. ET on TSN and ESPNews or followed along on CFL.ca’s Game Tracker.

– With files from Riderville.com and Ticats.ca

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