July 18th, 2024

Roughriders look for better execution against Argos as they try to end six-game skid

By Jeff DeDekker, The Canadian Press on October 20, 2023.

Saskatchewan Roughriders wide receiver Jerreth Sterns, right, is brought down by Calgary Stampeders defensive back Nick Taylor during first half CFL football action in Calgary, Friday, Oct. 13, 2023. Regardless of where they are in the CFL playoff picture, the Roughriders know they need their execution to be better on Saturday to get out of their current funk.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

REGINA – Regardless of where they are in the CFL playoff picture, the Saskatchewan Roughriders know they need their execution to be better on Saturday to get out of their current funk.

The Roughriders carried a six-game losing streak into a home game against the Toronto Argonauts, who have clinched first place in the East Division with a 14-2-0 record.

Head coach Craig Dickenson feels the Riders have played well during the losing skid but need to execute effectively for 60 minutes to beat the Argos.

Quarterback Jake Dolegala was asked if improved focus or more determined practice could solve the execution issues.

“It’s just a combination. Execution is we know what to run, we know how to run it and I’ve just got to do it, right?,” he said. “I feel like we’ve done a really good job of that for the most part, but we just got to clean up those three or four plays in a game that make the difference. If we do that there shouldn’t be an issue,” he said.

While the Riders are struggling to keep their heads above water, the Argos have an opportunity to leave a legacy by posting the best regular season record in franchise history. The Argos posted 15-3-0 records in both 1996 and 1997. If they can win out against the Riders on Saturday and the Ottawa Redblacks on Oct. 28, the Argos will finish with a 16-2-0 record.

Despite being heavy favourites over the Riders, Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie reminded his charges not to take the Riders lightly. They are still a threat with Dolegala, who has completed 186 of 288 passes for 2,212 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions this season.

“I told the guys today to expect anything. They’ve got nothing to lose so they’ve got to go out guns with blazing and try to find a way to get in the playoffs,” said Dinwiddie.

The Argos were expected to rest some of their starters in preparation for the playoffs but with the exception of kicker Boris Bede, who will be replaced by rookie Alfredo Lozada, Dinwiddie is fielding a complete lineup.

Still, some of the starters will get limited or reduced playing time. Included in that group is quarterback Chad Kelly, a likely Most Outstanding Player candidate.

“I want to get Chad out there and get some good work. When I feel like he’s got enough work and he’s clicking, then we’ll get the other guys out there,” said Dinwiddie.

This is the second meeting of the season between the teams. The Argos beat the Riders 31-13 on July 29 in Halifax in the Touchdown Atlantic contest.

Saskatchewan’s playoff fate was yet to be determined as of Friday night, when the B.C. Lions hosted the Calgary Stampeders.

A Calgary victory would give the Stampeders the third and final playoff spot in the CFL West,
However, a Calgary loss and a Saskatchewan win would seal the playoff berth for the Riders.

Should both teams lose this weekend, the playoff spot would come down to Calgary’s game with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Oct. 27. Calgary, which has won the season series with the Riders, would move on with a win.

Although the Riders will watch the B.C.-Calgary contest, Dickenson stressed to his players this week to focus on what they can control Saturday.

“We’ll watch the game tonight and then we’ll have an idea of what we need to do on game day, but our focus is still the same. I think we’ve gotten into scoreboard watching too much lately so I want our guys to focus on ourselves, on winning the day, winning each play in the game and letting the score take care of itself. Let’s stop watching scoreboards and just worry about playing our best game,” said Dickenson.

PROTECTING THE ROCK: The Argos have gone two games straight without making a turnover. They have made 21 turnovers this season, 11 fewer than their franchise record of 32 set in 2017. The CFL record for fewest turnovers in a single season is 23, set by the 2012 Lions and matched by the 2022 Blue Bombers.

TACKLING MACHINE: Riders linebacker Larry Dean had two tackles in last week’s loss to the Stampeders to reach 100 solo tackles for the season. It’s the third time in Dean’s career that he’s hit the 100-tackle mark in a season. The 35-year-old had 101 tackles with the Riders in 2022 and 105 tackles with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2018. In 104 regular season games, Dean has made 566 tackles.

OFFENSIVE WALL: The Argos have only allowed 15 sacks in 16 games this season. They have held opponents without a sack in six of their last nine games. The franchise record is 18 which the Argos set in 1996.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published October 20, 2023.

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