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PRINT EDITION
Riders will have to face off against history
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No crossover team has ever made it to the Grey Cup since the rule was adopted in 1996, but Saskatchewan is about to try
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By DAN RALPH
The Canadian Press
  
  

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Friday, November 10, 2017 – Page S3

The Saskatchewan Roughriders won't have history on their side as they chase a fifth Grey Cup title.

Saskatchewan (11-7), in the CFL playoffs for the first time since 2014, visits the defending-champion Ottawa Redblacks (8-9-1) in the East Division semi-final Sunday. The Riders secured a postseason berth as the crossover squad by finishing fourth in the West Division but accumulating more points than the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (6-12).

So the Riders will have to beat both Ottawa and the Toronto Argonauts (9-9) on the road to advance to the Grey Cup game later this month at TD Place. Now, that's possible, given Saskatchewan defeated both teams this season and was not only 5-4 on the road but also a solid 6-2 versus East rivals. But the trouble is, no crossover team has ever made it to the Grey Cup since the rule was adopted in 1996. Saskatchewan becomes the 10th crossover team in league history, but the visiting squad has just three wins in 12 playoff games.

Saskatchewan last won the Grey Cup in 2013. Edmonton beat Hamilton 27-24 in last year's East semifinal before losing 35-23 to Ottawa in the conference final at snowy TD Place.

Ottawa and Saskatchewan last met in the CFL playoffs in 1976, when Tony Gabriel's late 24-yard TD grab earned the then-Rough Riders a thrilling 23-20 victory at Toronto's Exhibition Stadium.

The season series was 1-1 with each game decided by a point.

Punter Josh Bartel's 55-yard single with less than three minutes remaining earned Saskatchewan an 18-17 road win Sept. 29. Riders starter Kevin Glenn registered his 100th career regular-season victory after completing 20 of 32 passes for 252 yards and an interception.

But Christion Jones registered the big play for Saskatchewan with a 97yard punt return TD. The loss tarnished a stellar performance by Ottawa's William Powell, who ran for a club-record 187 yards as backup Ryan Lindley finished 17-of-31 passing for 164 yards with a TD and interception.

Two weeks later, Lindley's oneyard TD run on the game's final play gave Ottawa a 33-32 victory in Regina. Glenn threw for 387 yards with two TDs and two interceptions while Duron Carter registered 11 catches for 231 yards.

Trevor Harris, who threw for 262 yards and two TDs in the win, will make his first CFL playoff start for the Redblacks, who finished their regular season with three straight victories.

Glenn will make his 11th career playoff start for Saskatchewan, but Ottawa must be wary of Brandon Bridge, a Mississauga native, who has played well this season both coming off the bench and as a starter.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Bridge is a multithreat who can run upfield or buy his receivers time downfield.

And with Carter (73 catches, 1,043 yards, eight TDs), Roosevelt Naaman (75 catches, 1,035 yards, eight TDs) and Bakari Grant (84 catches, 1,033 yards, five TDs), Saskatchewan has a solid receiving corps that also includes Chad Owens, Rob Bagg and Caleb Holley.

And there's also Carter's contributions on defence as a cornerback.

Saskatchewan kicker Tyler Crapigna made 36-of-42 field goal tries this year (85.7 per cent) and all 43 converts he attempted. He hit all seven field goals he tried in the two games against Ottawa.

Pick: Saskatchewan

Edmonton Eskimos versus Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Winnipeg (12-6) hosts its first playoff game since 2011 and won the season series 2-0. But Edmonton (12-6) finished the regular season with five straight wins, including a 28-13 decision over the Riders to cement third in the West Division.

Edmonton's last loss was a 28-19 decision to Winnipeg on Sept. 30.

The Bombers were 2-3 down the stretch.

The Eskimos are the first 12-win team in CFL history to open the playoffs on the road.

Matt Nichols (628 yards passing, three TDs) and Andrew Harris (159 rushing yards, 17 catches, 201 yards) both figured prominently in the wins for Winnipeg. Both will play Sunday, but Nichols is nursing a reported calf injury, hardly ideal for a Bombers offence that averaged a CFL-best 27.6 offensive points a game.

Then again, Harris is the central figure in Winnipeg's offence, leading the CFL in rushing (1,035 yards) and catches (105). A Bombers defence minus lineman Jamaal Westerman and defensive back Maurice Leggett finished No. 7 in points allowed (27.9 a game), second-last in offensive TDs allowed (50) and tied for last in most TD passes (33) despite registering a league-leading 24 interceptions and 42 turnovers (second most).

Edmonton counters with CFL passing leader Mike Reilly (5,536 yards, tied for league lead with 30 TDs) who's also a threat to run (leaguebest 12 rushing TDs). Brandon Zylstra (100 catches, 1,687 yards, five TDs) but veterans Derel Walker, Adarius Bowman and Vidal Hazelton are all solid options.

Pick: Edmonton Last week: 2-2 Over all: 53-27-1

Associated Graphic

The Saskatchewan Roughriders defeated both the Redblacks and the Argonauts this season, and were not only 5-4 on the road but also a solid 6-2 versus East rivals.

MARK TAYLOR/THE CANADIAN PRESS


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