Riders tuning out ‘noise’ after loss to Alouettes
The Saskatchewan Roughriders are in a hole.
That’s what happens when a CFL team loses two of its opening three games. The Riders’ record fell to 1-2 after Saturday’s 23-17 loss to the previously winless Montreal Alouettes at Mosaic Stadium.
The Riders were outplayed in all facets of the game by the Alouettes, who snapped a 13-game losing streak.
Saskatchewan’s two-game losing skid has led to Rider Nation offering its take on what the team needs to do to get on track before playing host to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Thursday.
“I couldn’t give a crap about what anybody has to say about it,” veteran guard Brendon LaBatte said Monday after the Riders resumed practice. “People can say what they want, but we know what we’re about in here and what we have to do.
“Right now, it’s Week 3 and we have a long climb ahead of us. If you start listening to any of that noise in Week 3, you aren’t making it to Week 9, let alone Week 18. To think that any of that gets through in here is not even close.”
The Riders’ offensive line is a concern, despite a solid showing in a 27-19 win over the Toronto Argonauts on June 15 at Mosaic Stadium.
One game later, Saskatchewan’s offensive line couldn’t handle the Ottawa Redblack’s pressure as the Riders were thumped 40-17. The Riders also lost starting quarterback Zach Collaros, who was placed on the six-game injured list with a concussion.
The head injury meant Brandon Bridge was promoted from backup to starter against the Alouettes, but he struggled in just his third CFL start.
On Saturday, Bridge completed eight of 18 passes for 111 yards and was intercepted twice before he was pulled at halftime. David Watford, who completed 10 of 22 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown, replaced Bridge. Watford also threw two interceptions in his first CFL action.
Chris Jones, the Riders’ head coach and general manager, said Monday that Bridge would start against the Tiger-Cats. Jones added that if Bridge struggles, he would bring Watford in as relief.
“I put myself in my own deficit and I wish the coach had left me in to get myself out of the deficit and let me rock,” Bridge said. “That’s above my pay grade and that was his decision to take me out. Now it’s a new opportunity and I have to make the best of it.”
Jones dressed three running backs Saturday — internationals Marcus Thigpen and Tre Mason and national Jerome Messam. Thigpen and Mason combined for 12 carries and 35 yards while Messam didn’t have a carry.
Jones said he rested the 33-year-old Messam with an eye toward keeping him fresh later in the season.
“My job is to make sure we have the best team every week and not just one week,” Jones said. “We have to make sure that we’re smart with his reps, just like (defensive end) Charleston Hughes last week. He got about 15 less reps, but no one knew that because we rotated him. That’s part of trying to play our best football at the end of the year.”
Messam said he’s not fatigued and is ready to play.
“It’s frustrating because I’m not used to this situation,” Messam said. “I’ve been playing a lot for the past few years of my career and I want to continue to do that. They know what I can do and they know why I’m here. I’m going to continue to be positive and to be a pro.”
The Riders announced the signing of safety Matt Elam, a first-round selection (32nd overall) by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2013 NFL draft. He spent four injury-plagued seasons with the Ravens before encountering legal issues involving drug possession, grand theft and battery charges. The charges were dropped.
Jones said he checked with the CFL regarding Elam’s status before signing the University of Florida Gators product.
“We put it in (the CFL’s) hands and they went through everything that they needed to do and gave us the go-ahead,” Jones said. “Once we got the go-ahead, we brought him up.”