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Stampeders hope to use bye week rest to their advantage against Roughriders

CALGARY — Craig Dickenson solicited some help from the CFL head office in order to prepare for his team’s road game against the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday.

CALGARY — Craig Dickenson solicited some help from the CFL head office in order to prepare for his team’s road game against the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday.

The head coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders (5-2) wanted to find out just how good the Stampeders (2-5) have been over the last 10 years when coming off a bye week, so he asked CFL statistician Steve Daniel to crunch the numbers.

“They’ll be extremely motivated,” said Dickenson of the Stamps. “They’re a proud organization.

“Calgary is 14-2 over the last 10 years coming off a bye, so they’ll be ready to play. They’ll have a good plan. They’ll have their guys motivated and ready to play and it’ll be our toughest game to date. We’ll have to play our best game to beat them.”

While the Stamps were on a bye week, the Riders pulled off a come-from-behind 31-24 victory over the B.C. Lions in Vancouver for their second straight win.

Calgary hasn’t played since suffering a disappointing 23-17 setback to the Tiger-Cats in Hamilton on Sept. 17.

Dave Dickenson said he’s confident that his players can bounce back with a win over their West Division rivals.

“We like our chances after a bye, we do,” said the Calgary coach. “I think, as a coaching staff, you should be at your best after a bye.

“I do feel good about our energy. I do think we’re refreshed and I’d like to think that we’ll come out and play a great game and can get the win.”

The younger of the two Dickenson brothers said he and his staff have been able to spend two weeks preparing to face the Riders, while the Saskatchewan coaches had to turn their attentions to the Stamps following a hard-fought win over the Lions.

“If you’re a good communicator and you’ve done a good job, you should be able to have a good plan,” Dave Dickenson said. “Sometimes the plan just gets thrown out and you get punched in the face. The game is so physical that you can have your ideas and you can try to make sure that you’ll have this play that will work, but a lot of times it’s just that physical play, the one-on-one battles and who’s on top of their game that week.”

In a scheduling quirk, the Riders will play three straight games over 21 days in October against the Stamps.

“Obviously they know that they’ve got to win games in a hurry and we know that we’ve got to continue to win games,” said Saskatchewan quarterback Cody Fajardo. “We have to be able to fight off every last fighting effort that they have and we play them three times. It’s going to be tough.

“I would love to win every game, but I don’t know if that’s quite possible, so we’re going to go out and we’re going to give it our best and hopefully we have a chance to win in the fourth quarter. It’s extremely hard to win at McMahon Stadium and so I think our guys are up for the challenge and we’re excited about the opportunity to keep our winning streak going.”

Unlike past years, Calgary has struggled at home this season with a 1-3 record. The Stamps need to win their remaining three home games – two of them against the Riders – to avoid compiling a losing record at McMahon for the first time since 2004.

In his fourth CFL season, Fajardo would like nothing more than to lead his team to a regular-season victory in Calgary.

“I think there was one pre-season game when I was with the B.C. Lions that we ended up winning at McMahon Stadium, but other than that I don’t have very many wins, if any, under my belt (in Calgary),” said Fajardo, who played his first two seasons with the Toronto Argonauts before signing with the Riders in 2019 after a year with the Lions. 

“We have to be able to go in there and execute our game plan, not turn the ball over and don’t give (Calgary quarterback) Bo (Levi Mitchell) any extra possessions, play a clean football game and execute in the red zone.”

Stamps linebacker Jameer Thurman stressed that he and his teammates understand the gravity of what’s at stake with a home-and-home series on tap against Saskatchewan over the next two weekends, followed by a road game versus the Lions on Oct. 16 and yet another rematch with the Riders at McMahon a week later.

 “Great opportunity for us to start out fast and strong on Saturday, so set the tone early and let them know these next three games what they’re going to be into,” Thurman said. “It’s definitely weird, but it’s the position we’re in right now and we’ve got to make the most of it.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 1, 2021.

Laurence Heinen, The Canadian Press