Apparently they could still get better.
After the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ 43-16 victory in Hamilton in Week 1, head coach Corey Chamblin said he was looking for improvement from his defence in their Week 2 game at home to Edmonton Sunday afternoon. After all, they gave up a touchdown against the Tiger-Cats!
Chamblin made three defensive changes for the Edmonton game, including replacing their starting cornerbacks, and boy did they ever improve. The Riders almost pitched a shutout against Kavis Reed’s Eskimos on a steamy prairie day, squeaking out a 17-1 victory before the largest crowd to ever witness a Rider home-opener at 31,459. No, this time they did not allow a touchdown.
“I told the guys it was gonna be a 42-man effort and it was,” Chamblin explained after the match. ”It was a defensive battle. I said they were gonna do ball control and they did. On offence, Kory Sheets, I told him to keep grinding, and he did.”
Sheets scored the only touchdown of the day, a 34-yard run with just over two minutes remaining to seal the deal. It was part of his 92 yards rushing against a nearly-impossible Edmonton defensive front.
Let’s be honest; the game was an eyesore. That is if you don’t appreciate a defensive chess match. And quite frankly, I don’t. Both offences looked like they were running in quicksand with shackles on. Ugh. But the position which created the most excitement was the Rider defensive end spots as Brent Hawkins and Odell Willis had a field day. They each had a sack while Hawkins recovered a fumble and Willis knocked down a pass.
“I told Hawkins after the fumble recovery that I’d have been happier if he’d scored,” Chamblin laughed. ”He said ‘Coach you always want more!’. But I’m real happy with the production on defence.”
It’s becoming evident to anyone who watches this team on a daily basis that Chamblin is a relentless taskmaster. He sat down a player this week because he didn’t care for his effort level in practice! Under normal circumstances you’d think players would be getting fed up with the level of commitment that Chamblin demands but just the opposite is happening.
The results speak for themselves. After two weeks the Riders are 2-0 and tied for first in the CFL West with the B.C. Lions. For anyone who watched the game, it’s pretty clear how excited these Rider players are becoming with the new attitude. The frowns of 2011 on the sidelines have been replaced by grins and high-fives in 2012.
Now the Riders face their toughest challenge to date; a match-up with the CFL’s best team, the B.C. Lions Saturday at 1:00 in Regina.
“BC got after us pretty good in the preseason (a 44-10 Rider loss) but they’re a good football team,” Chamblin maintained. ”They’re the Cup champs. They’re gonna bring a good game and we’ll have our hands full.”
So far it doesn’t look like anything the Riders can’t handle.