Kory Sheets and the Riders are off to the Grey Cup thanks to excellent execution.CALGARY—While the Saskatchewan Roughriders wound up claiming a decisive 35-13 victory in Sunday's West Final, this also felt like a game that the hometown Stampeders lost. Saskatchewan did plenty well here, particularly with running back Kory Sheets picking up 177 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries (an average of 6.3 yards per carry) and quarterback Darian Durant completing 24 of 30 passes (80 per cent) for 280 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. It was also a game filled with Calgary mistakes, though; on the day, Stampeders' players committed five fumbles (losing four) and added two interceptions for good measure. However, that wasn't all merely bad play from Calgary; it was also about superb execution of the Riders' game plan on both offence and defence. On offence, Saskatchewan stuck with the run even when it wasn't working early on, and that paid big dividends late in the game. On defence, Riders' defensive back Dwight Anderson said those Stampeders' errors weren't merely chance, as his team went all-out to force turnovers in this one.
"It was a mindset," Anderson said after the game. "Coach [and defensive coordinator] Richie Hall, he was just preaching that we need to get back to getting the ball, getting our hands on the ball. We knew it was a cold-weather game, so the ball was going to be slippery, and the guys out there with sleeves out there, the ball won't sit well on their sleeves. You could see, like when, I think it was 31 out there, Joe West? [#31 is Jeff Fuller, not West, but he had a fumble.] When he caught the ball in his arms, it just slipped right out. We knew we had chances to get the ball, we just had to go after it."
That aggressive approach played dividends for the Riders, and it was about more than just targeting the ball. Often on defence, they went blitz-heavy and gambled to jump routes. It cost them some big plays, and often put the Stampeders into good field position, but Saskatchewan never was hurt by that too much, as they came up with plenty of big plays of their own afterwards to force two-and-outs and field-goal attempts. Granted, this wasn't all about what the Riders' defence did, as the cold conditions played a significant role (and several of the fumbles happened without a hit), but Saskatchewan defenders flew to the ball early and often and were always in position to recover. If not for that, this might have been a lot closer.Read More »from Riders win turnover-filled West Final thanks to superb game plans on both sides of the ball