Friday the Riders travel to Hamilton to take on the 8-5 Ti-Cats in a road game… or as they refer to it in Toronto, a home game. The last time these 2 teams played you may recall a certain interception that cost us the services of Kevin Glenn for an extended period of time and likely the game. Good times. The string of “unbeaten at home” is long gone is as the Ti-Cats have now lost 3 home games this season. The good news for them is that the Riders “winless on the road” streak may soon enter its 3rd calendar year (unless of course we miraculously pull out a win in one of our remaining 3 road games).
All signs point to Glenn getting the start which I have previously said I’m okay with… provided the last 2-3 games are devoted exclusively to Smith and Price… and provided Glenn gets pulled sooner if he plays like he did in BC. Unfortunately for Glenn, and the Riders in general, Dan Clark is out with a concussion meaning Corey Watman steps in a centre. Simply put our O-line has issues and Watman is definitely not an upgrade so things will likely get worse. Dan Clark has actually been one of our more consistent OL this season… certainly not all-star level but week in week out he’s consistently not bad (a statement not true of his counterparts). We get Getzlaf back this week. It’s been so long I actually had to look up when he last played (week 7 in Toronto for those curious). Hamilton is a formidable defensive opponent: third least points allowed and most takeaways. The one slight weakness that is developing in them is their run D. It started as suffocating but has slipped to #6 in the league. That’s where I would attack. Take pressure off the O-line is pass protection and use our biggest strength. Its not like we are saving Messam for a playoff run. We need to be smart with our passes because Hamilton can easily turn an errant pass into 6 the other way. Our offense has struggled on the road, averaging just 17 points per game (as opposed to 30 at home).
Hamilton does have the league’s top offense though that is largely due to one Zach Collaros who is no longer playing. Under Matthews they are not quite the same offensive juggernaut. He amassed 155 yards and two turnovers while producing just one offensive TD in his first start. He looked like he had potential but has a long way to go. A normal coach would help him out by running but Hamilton has an aversion to the run that would put Chapdelaine to shame. We can’t completely forget about it because they will on occasion run but the air is where they like to attack… and conveniently where anyone how has watched more than 5 minutes of Rider football this season would attack our defense. We need our D-line to step up and when the battle in the trenches. If Matthews has time I can see him having a huge game (like so many opposing QBs this season). But if we can force him to throw under duress he is prone to another lackluster outing like last week. Tough to key on one receiver as Hamilton has many who can make plays and like to spread it around. We will need to generate a couple turnovers if we hope to win this game. No one turns the ball over less than the Ti-Cats so that will not be easy. Though the odds do go up with Matthews in there.
When I look at this game I see a team that is winless on the road, has a struggling O-line with a back-up at centre and a secondary that honestly seems to go out of its way sometimes to avoid covering a receiver. Even with a back-up QB Hamilton is a tough place to play. I expect we will keep it close. I expect a low scoring game until later in the fourth when we start our usual nosedive. I just hope we do something to make Austin really mad… Angry Austin makes me laugh. That will provide a brief pause in my attempt to drink the end of this season pretty.
Ti-Cats by 10