The Saskatchewan Roughriders are the reigning West Division champions, won last week’s season opener and host an 0-1 team on Saturday.
Sounds like a piece of cake, right?
Head coach Craig Dickenson is determined not to let his Roughriders be lulled into a false sense of security entering Saturday night’s game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who played for the Grey Cup in 2019.
“I think they’re going to be a wounded animal this weekend,” Dickenson said of the Ticats. “I think they’re going to come out hard and they’re going to come out fighting. Our guys need to play fast and we need to be good from the start because Hamilton has got, I think, something to prove.
“We need to make sure we match that intensity.”
The Roughriders jumped out to a 31-0 lead in last Friday’s game against the BC Lions, holding on for a 33-29 victory in their first game at Mosaic Stadium in more than 600 days.
Cody Fajardo looked just as efficient as he was in 2019, completing his first 15 pass attempts and finishing 28 of 35 for 230 yards while tossing two touchdowns.
After the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, players were eager to get back on the field, and Dickenson is hoping to keep his team’s energy up as the season moves into its weekly routine.
“I think the challenge is to just stay in the moment,” Dickenson said. “Week One was such a big deal in a lot of ways. I think there’s a little bit of a let-down.
“The challenge is to get them to get hyped to come out of that tunnel and start fast.”
Hamilton, meanwhile, suffered a 19-6 opening-week loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in a 2019 Grey Cup rematch and will look to avoid an 0-2 start in front of a notoriously raucous Saskatchewan crowd.
Ticats wide receiver and 2019 CFL Most Outstanding Player Brandon Banks said his squad plans to feed off the energy of a hostile stadium, despite losing their last four games in Regina.
“It’s going to be a good atmosphere,” Banks said. “We’re going to embrace it, that’s part of the football game, that’s what gets us going.”
While Banks and Hamilton quarterback Jeremiah Masoli look to reignite their offensive spark from 2019, Dickenson has his Roughriders focused on the trenches.
Saskatchewan is tasked with blocking a deep Ticats defensive front that had three sacks last week and gets veteran defensive tackle Ted Laurent back from a knee injury.
“It’s just another week in the CFL. … You see good lines in this league,” Dickenson said. “I think Hamilton’s front – if you look at the last two and a half years, the last 20 games – they’re as good as any front you’re going to see.
“Our guys know they have a big challenge ahead of them. A big guy like (Ted) Laurent coming back really adds some juice to that D-line.”
Hamilton and Saskatchewan split a pair of games in 2019, but the Roughriders have won six of the last seven matchups between the teams.