The 5-1 Hamilton Tiger-Cats are in Regina this week, to take on the 3-3 Roughriders, in a game that’s littered with headlines.
Dane Evans is making his second career start, and first of the season, after starter Jeremiah Masoli went down with a torn ACL early in last week’s game against Winnipeg.
These two teams met in the first game of the season with the Ticats picking up the 23-17 victory. These are the 3 keys to the game, as Hamilton looks to improve to 6-1 on the season, and sweep the season series against the Riders.
The 25 year old Evans is in his third season in the CFL after spending part of 2017 and all of last season in Hamilton. This will be his second career start, after making his first start in Week 21 last year.
Evans looked good in that game, completing 59% of his passes and throwing for 315 yards. He also threw for two touchdowns, but was picked off twice. For what it’s worth, his two favourite targets in that game are still with the team. Mike Jones caught five balls for 114 yards and added a touchdown. Bralon Addison was targeted 12 times, making seven catches for 103 yards and a touchdown.
“He’s got good arm strength he can make all the throws on the field. He’s mobile enough where he can keep you off guard.” Said Coach Steinauer. “He doesn’t have any problem stepping up in the pocket and delivering a throw. I’ve seen him stand in there and take a hit. He’s a tough guy and he’s competitive. He’ll keep coming at you.”
For those who might be worried about a backup stepping in, just take a look around the league. Calgary is 4-1 since Nick Arbuckle took over for reigning MOP Bo Levi Mitchell (including the game where he went down). Cody Fajardo has also looked good since taking over for Zach Collaros in the first game of the season. Coach Steinauer echoed these sentiments, noting that almost no one is a day one starter in the CFL.
“This league’s made up of guys who were backups. Very few guys come in and are starters, so Dane’s going to get every opportunity to achieve.”
2.Keep the Crowd out of the Game
While this isn’t Evans’ first career start, it’s his first as the guy, and what a place to do it. There will be 33,000 screaming Rider fans, decked out in green with watermelons galore. Evans says he’s looking forward to the atmosphere.
“It’s going to be awesome. It’s just another element to the game. We had good crowds at Tulsa at home and on the road and then with Texas high school football, I’ve been playing in front of those kind of crowds for a while. I’m really excited, it’s going to be a good environment.”
Getting on the board early will be key for the Ticats, in more ways than one. Getting Evans comfortable will go a long way towards their success, but also taking the crowd out of the game early would be huge. Head Coach Orlondo Steinauer says, while he’d always like to get off to a good start, it’s more about how you finish.
“Absolutely we’d like to get off to a good start. Anytime you get their crowd involved, it’s their advantage of playing at home. But I think it’s better than we finish strong but we’d always like to get off to a good start.”
The Tiger-Cats’ defence did a good job of limiting the Riders’ passing offence last game. Isaac Harker and Cody Fajardo combined for 184 yards passing, and Saskatchewan didn’t score a touchdown through the air.
On the ground, Saskatchewan had a little bit more success. William Powell ran for 104 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown. Fajardo added seven for 34 yards and also found the end zone. On the season, Powell sits third in the league in rushing yards. He also leads the league with six rushing touchdowns, while Fajardo is right behind him with five. With Simoni Lawrence serving the second of his two game suspension, stopping the run will be an even bigger emphasis for Coach Steinauer and his staff.