Riders head into hostile environment in Winnipeg

After opening the season within the friendly confines of Mosaic Stadium, running back William Powell and the Saskatchewan Roughriders are heading into a very hostile environment.

The Riders (3-1) visit Winnipeg (4-1) on Saturday afternoon to complete their Labour Day home-and-home series with the Banjo Bowl. And IG Field will certainly be rocking with the Bombers announcing the contest will be a sellout.

Read more: Banjo Bowl sold out as Winnipeg Blue Bombers prepare for matchup with prairie rivals

“It’s the Banjo Bowl,” Powell told reporters this week. “I expect it to be a hostile environment, I expect it to be a dogfight, I expect it to be a hard-nosed football game from the opening kickoff.

“You’ve got to be ready to be physical from the opening whistle and you’ve got to be ready to play for four complete quarters.”

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It will be the first Banjo Bowl game since 2019. The CFL didn’t stage a 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and returned in 2021 with a condensed 14-game campaign.

Winnipeg defeated Saskatchewan 23-8 on Sunday, handing the Riders their first loss of the season. And after starting the year with four home contests, the Riders will play seven of their remaining 10 regular-season games on the road.

“We’re just taking it game by game,” Powell said. “We’ve got the same opponent this week so it’s a big opportunity for us to maybe try to turn the tables.”

Winnipeg’s defence registered three sacks and three interceptions versus Saskatchewan. The Bombers’ offence also had the ball for over 34 minutes and accumulated 370 nets yards, 94 more than the Riders.

“(Winnipeg’s defence) has a lot of versatile guys that have a lot of different skills,” Powell said. “They just throw a lot of different looks at you … you’ve to be ready anything.

“We’ve got to raise our game up a level and execute.”

Read more: Blue Bomber defence forces 3 interceptions in 23-8 LDC victory over Riders

Powell said the Riders’ offence had opportunities against Winnipeg’s defence Sunday, but couldn’t take advantage. If opportunity knocks in the rematch, Saskatchewan must be ready to take advantage, Powell added.

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“We feel like there’s opportunities whether they be in the pass game or the run game,” he said. “We felt like we left some opportunities out there and we feel like there’s more opportunities if we game plan and execute properly.

“I wouldn’t say it’s just focus on the run game or (be) focused on the pass game. We just got to go out there and execute and when we have those opportunities come up we’ve got to hit them.”

Pick: Winnipeg.

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Hamilton Tiger-Cats versus Toronto Argonauts (Friday night)

At Toronto, Hamilton (2-2) chases a third straight win with Dane Evans under centre. Evans threw two TD strikes while Frankie Williams returned a punt for a touchdown and Simoni Lawrence scored on an interception return in the Ticats’ 32-19 home victory Monday. It’s the second of four meetings this season between the two teams. Nick Arbuckle makes a third consecutive start for the Argos (2-2), who return to BMO Field for the first time since beating Winnipeg 30-23 in their home opener Aug. 21.

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Pick: Hamilton.

Calgary Stampeders versus Edmonton Elks (Saturday night)

At Edmonton, quarterback Trevor Harris earned his first victory in 12 career matchups against Calgary on Monday, throwing four TD strikes in a 32-20 victory at McMahon Stadium. That also snapped the Elks’ eight-game Labour Day losing streak. Rookie Jake Maier had a third-straight 300-yard passing effort for the Stampeders (1-4), who’ve dropped three games in a row. Veteran Bo Levi Mitchell (fractured fibula) resumed practising last week but didn’t dress for Monday’s contest.

Pick: Edmonton.

Ottawa Redblacks versus B.C. Lions (Saturday night)

At Vancouver, the Lions (2-2) are coming off the bye. Their last contest was 24-12 road win over Ottawa (1-4) on Aug. 28. The time off should benefit veteran starter Michael Reilly, who has battled an elbow ailment all season. Reilly threw for 301 yards and a touchdown in the victory at TD Place. The Redblacks dropped a 51-29 home loss to Montreal on Friday night and are ranked last overall in offensive points scored (14.8 per game) and offensive points allowed (26.0).

Pick: B.C.

Last week: 2-2.

Overall: 8-11.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2021.


© 2021 The Canadian Press

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