Eskimos to duke it out with Roughriders
Regina, SK (Sports Network) - Making the most noise in the opening week of the 2012 CFL season were the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who this time around are poised to begin the home portion of their schedule on Sunday evening versus the Edmonton Eskimos at Mosaic Stadium.
Saskatchewan, which won a total of five games all of 2011 and scored more than 30 points only twice, began this year with a bang as it rewarded new head coach Corey Chamblin with a resounding 43-16 triumph over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last Friday night.
The only quarterback in the league to throw for more than 300 yards, Saskatchewan signal-caller Darian Durant finished the night 25-of-34 for 390 yards and four touchdowns, all without a single interception as he was named the CFL's Offensive Player of the Week. By far, the favorite target for Durant was Weston Dressler who, with the addition of a 52-yard catch and run that could have easily been reversed on review, led the league with 13 receptions for 180 yards and three majors.
Chris Getzlaf tacked on three catches which he stretched into 96 yards and a score for the Riders. Running back Kory Sheets erupted for 80 yards and a touchdown on 12 rushing attempts for the victors as well.
For the Eskimos, their first week of action wasn't nearly as successful on offense, but still the team was able to rattle off a 19-15 home win against Toronto as former QB Ricky Ray returned to his old stomping grounds. New starting quarterback Steven Jyles was unable to log an aerial score for Edmonton, but he did convert 21-of-36 passes attempts for 236 yards nonetheless.
Running back Hugh Charles carried the ball 12 times for the hosts and gained no more than six yards on any one attempt, yet he still factored heavily into the win thanks to his four-yard TD run in the second quarter. Not to be overlooked was kicker Grant Shaw who knocked through all four of his field goal tries and finished with 13 points overall. For his efforts Shaw, who spent the previous two seasons with Toronto, was named the CFL Special Teams Player of the Week.
If there was one area that remained suspect for the Eskimos it was the level of attention they paid to Toronto's Chad Owens who generated at least 100 yards in three different areas (receiving, kickoff returns and punt returns).
However, there was some good news on the defensive side of the ball for Edmonton as linebacker J.C. Sherritt was named the Defensive Player of the Week in the league after posting 11 tackles and forcing a fumble. Considering the Eskimos had the added pressure of playing against their former quarterback in Ray, they seemed to put all the pieces together in the opening week.
Defense should be one of the strong suits for the Eskimos again this season, given that the team ranked second in the league in interceptions (24) and total takeaways (45) in 2011. Because the offense played well enough to turn the ball over just 29 times, fewest in the CFL, the team easily led the league in overall turnovers with a plus-16.
Unfortunately, for the Roughriders, if recent history is any indication, turnovers might be their undoing at some point this year. If there is any lingering issues from a season ago, Saskatchewan has to be careful not to fall into bad habits that saw the group tie Toronto for the worst turnover margin at minus-17. The biggest problem was turning the ball over on downs, which the program did a total of 19 times, something Durant will have to take ownership of moving forward.
Edmonton had taken three straight and five of the last six meetings between these two squads. The most recent triumph for the Eskimos was a narrow 23-20 final at home on November 4 of last season. Dating back to 1949 and taking into consideration only regular-season bouts, the Esks are ahead of Saskatchewan by a count of 111-81-2.
The Roughriders and Eskimos are slated to meet up at least two more times during the regular season, the squads meeting in Edmonton the second week of August and then playing on the home field of the Esks again on October 13.
07/04 11:37:24 ET