The Saskatchewan Roughriders are off to the best start in history during head coach Corey Chamblin’s lifetime with a 7-1 record.
“I wasn’t born yet,” 36-year-old Chamblin said on the last time the Riders had this strong of a start back in 1970. “That’s awesome. It’s great for our fans.”
Kory Sheet’s two-touchdown, 139-yard performance helped leapfrog the Riders 30-27 over the Edmonton Eskimos on Saturday in Commonwealth Stadium.
Even though on paper the Riders were heavily favoured over the then 1-6 Eskimos, Chamblin felt the match was going to be very close on the field.
“The Eskimos are making a good push. They are very close to becoming a good football team,” he said. “So we knew we would be facing a tough opponent and got out of here with a win.”
The Riders head coach was right. The Eskimos kept the Riders on their toes the entire game and for the most part held the lead.
In the seesaw game, it seemed the Eskimos were going to grab a five-point lead late in the fourth quarter with them marching down the field. However, on a first and short, quarterback Kerry Joseph fumbled and recovered the ball three yards back of the line of scrimmage. Then on second and five, Dwight Anderson intercepted Mike Reilly’s pass to Fred Stamps. This ultimately led to Saskatchewan taking the ball down the field and punting it into Edmonton’s end zone to put them a full field goal ahead. Following getting the ball back with the clock up against them, the Eskimos couldn’t generate a drive and gave it back to the Riders with a couple minutes left.
Despite throwing two interceptions, Reilly shinned for Edmonton with 303-yard, three-touchdown performance. But his running game turned more heads than his impressive passing. On numerous occasions, he would sacrifice his body by going for the run without sliding to grab the couple extra yards. He ended the night with 76 yards on eight rushes.
The Eskimos’ triple threat – Fred Stamps, Cary Koch and Marcus Henry – couldn’t be contained by the Riders’ defensive backs. They accumulated 270 yards and three touchdowns.
The Riders’ wide receiver core also had three receivers’ performances of at least 80 yards apiece standout: Chris Getzlaf, Weston Dressler and Taj Smith.
Durant was somewhat overshadowed by Rielly’s explosive plays, but he had strong game himself, and arguably was the better of the two quarterbacks. He racked up 334 yards on a 24-for-40 competition rate without an interception.
Chris Milo was perfect for the Riders. He went out on the field five times for a field goal and connected all of them for 15 points.
The Riders’ previous two victories, this week over the Eskimos and last week over the Montreal Allouettes, haven’t been pretty. They have just squeaked by their opponents with crucial plays late in the games. This, however, isn’t a concern for Chamblin because he feels competition is always close in the latter half of the season.
“We started so fast in the first six that everyone thought all of our games would look like that,” said the head coach. “But in the second six of the season all things level out and all teams win in the second six.”
Next week the Riders start their annual back-to-back contests against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who hold a 1-7 record. In the first match of the pair on Friday in Mosaic Stadium, Chamblin is hoping Riderville’s enthusiasm gives his club a major home field advantage.
“The last couple of weeks we’ve had enormous output from our fans and I’m really proud of our fans and I know this will be a standout game for them and I’m looking forward to playing this game,” he said.