Nathan Rourke and the high-flying B.C. Lions can take care of two objectives with one win Friday night.
B.C. (7-1) visits the Saskatchewan Roughriders (5-4) to open a home-and-home series riding a four-game win streak. Included was a 32-17 decision at Mosaic Stadium on July 29, a game that saw Rourke, of Victoria, throw for 336 yards and two TDs and rush eight times for 20 yards and a touchdown.
The Lions would clinch the season series against Saskatchewan with a victory and also move to within two points of idle Winnipeg (9-1) atop the West Division standings. The Riders enter this week's action tied with Calgary (5-3) for third in the conference, although the Stampeders have a game in hand.
The Riders will visit B.C. Place Stadium on Aug. 26.
Defensive reinforcements could be on the way for the Riders with defensive linemen Pete Robertson and Garrett Marino both expected to return.
Robertson has been out since suffering a foot injury in Saskatchewan's 28-13 win over Ottawa on July 8. At the time, he'd registered a CFL-high seven sacks in just five games and a testament to Robertson's dominance is that he remains tied for the league lead in that category despite his absence.
Marino has finished serving a four-game suspension -- the longest in league history -- he received July 11 for delivering a low hit on Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and making comments about Masoli’s heritage.
CFL defences have had trouble containing Rourke and Co. B.C. ranks first in offensive points (36.4 per game), offensive TDs (35), net offence (456 yards per game), passing (366.8 yards), time of possession (32 minutes 51 seconds), completion percentage (79.7), most 30-plus yard completions (20) and passing TDs (23).
Rourke was named the CFL's top performer Tuesday for the third straight week and fifth time this season. He threw for 488 yards -- breaking his own Canadian single-game record -- with two TDs and also ran for two scored in rallying B.C. to a 41-40 road win over Calgary.
Rourke leads the CFL in passing yards (2,906), passing TDs (23) and completion percentage (80.1 per cent).
Lions receiver Bryan Burnham was the CFL's No. 2 performer last week after posting season nights in catches (eight) and receiving yards 165 yards (20.6-yard average) and a touchdown versus Calgary.
But Saskatchewan counters with a defence that's ranked first overall in sacks (32) and forced turnovers (29), second in fewest offensive TDs allowed (14) and third on average offensive points (20.2).
The Riders are also coming off a 34-23 road win over Edmonton, their first victory in four games. Saskatchewan is 3-2 at home and 2-1 within the West Division.
B.C., though, is 3-0 on the road and 4-1 within the conference.
Edmonton Elks versus Ottawa Redblacks (Friday night)
At Ottawa, the Redblacks (1-7) come off the bye with ground to make up, having fallen four points behind Hamilton and Montreal for third in the East Division. What's more, they're is a dismal 0-4 at TD Place. Edmonton (2-7) can sympathize. It's coming off an 11-point loss to Saskatchewan, its 12th straight at Commonwealth Stadium. However, not only are the Elks 2-3 on the road, both of their wins have come against Eastern clubs. And they're 2-0 within the East.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats versus Montreal Alouettes (Saturday afternoon)
At Montreal, the Alouettes (3-6) are coming off a 20-17 overtime win over previously unbeaten Winnipeg. This is an important game for the home team, which lost the series opener 24-17 at Tim Hortons Field on July 28. Hamilton (3-6) can clinch the season series with a win but it's unclear who'll start at quarterback. Matt Schiltz started, was injured but then finished last week's win over Toronto with Dane Evans (shoulder) on the one-game injured list and day to day.
Calgary Stampeders versus Toronto Argonauts (Saturday night)
At Toronto, the Argonauts (4-4) will be minus Canadian running back Andrew Harris (torn pectoral muscle) and receiver Cam Phillips (groin) against what should be a motivated Calgary squad. B.C. outscored the Stampeders (5-3) by a 20-7 margin in the fourth quarter to secure it's one-point win at McMahon Stadium. Both teams are banged up but the Argos were outscored 20-6 in the second half of last weekend's loss to Hamilton.
Last week: 3-1. CP's overall record: 32-7.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2022.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press