Regina, SK (Sports Network) - Expected to be a leading contender again this season after winning the 99th Grey Cup on their home turf in November, the British Columbia Lions find themselves fighting to remain undefeated against the only other perfect program after two weeks of action.
Saskatchewan has somehow managed to stay out of the loss column thus far, but the Roughriders will be seriously tested by the Lions at Mosaic Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
By no means a fashionable pick to dominate the league in 2012, the Riders did impose their will on visiting Edmonton on Sunday as they limited the Eskimos to a scant one point in a 16-point triumph.
The Saskatchewan defense suffocated an Edmonton offense which is still trying to figure out how to put all the piece together. The Esks registered just 11 first downs and generated a meager 188 yards of total offense which is generally what teams have by halftime in a league that is predicated so much on spreading the field and stretching defenses on every play.
Based on the scores produced by the other six teams in the league during the second week of action, the Riders would have easily lost to every other competitor because they were not all that impressive themselves. Quarterback Darian Durant converted a modest 20-of-32 for 203 yards, but he failed to record a major and was sacked four times.
Kory Sheets scored the lone major of the contest, a 34-yard run to the end zone in the fourth quarter. Other than that, the Roughriders counted on kicker Chris Milo to carry the load, which he did by knocking through a couple of field goals and singles.
Making slightly more sense was the 39-36 win posted by British Columbia at home versus Hamilton during the second week. The Lions took control of the meeting between the second and third quarters when they outscored the Tiger- Cats 26-0 and then held on in the final period to move to 2-0.
Travis Lulay converted 17-of-31 for 178 yards and a couple of scoring strikes to Shawn Gore, but it was the running game that controlled the action for the Lions and led them onto victory. After becoming the league's all-time leader in receiving yards in the first game of the season, Geroy Simon took a backseat from all the attention and tallied three catches for 33 yards.
Andrew Harris registered a one-yard TD run late in the second frame and finished the meeting with a game-high 147 yards on 13 attempts. Also not to be overlooked was kicker Paul McCallum who booted through three of his four field goal attempts and finished with 13 points for the home team.
During the third period Tim Brown earned some recognition for the BC special teams as he returned a punt 81 yards to the end zone.
Linebacker Adam Bighill played big for the Lions defense, racking up nine total tackles, one sack and one forced fumble as he earned CFL Defensive Player of the Week honors.
With 194 yards on the ground to this point, Harris leads the league in rushing which is rather important since Lulay hasn't exactly lit up the sky with a dominating passing attack. Granted, running the ball has never been a huge indicator for winning in the CFL, but as long as Harris and the Lions can force opponents like Saskatchewan to have to plan for such an attack, Lulay may find some holes in the defense further down the field.
The same could be said for Sheets of the Riders, seeing as how he is tied for third in the league with 149 rushing yards. Durant can swing to the extremes as much as any player, so getting an extra moment in the pocket because of the presence of Sheets could be the difference between completed passes to teammates like Weston Dressler and lost opportunities
In a relationship that dates back to 1954, the Roughriders own a 90-80-4 advantage in regular-season matchups with BC. However, the Lions not only won the most recent meeting, 29-18, here in Regina last October, the squad has also captured four straight over Saskatchewan and six of the last nine battles.
There are three more dates remaining on the schedule between the teams following this week's encounter, with BC entertaining on August 19 and November 3 (the regular-season finale) and the Riders hosting a September 29 date.