"The main ingredient in our offence is the same as it always has been — running the ball," said running back Anthony Allen. "That's what gets everything going. It opens up everything else in our offence, so we have to stick to that moving forward."
The Riders will have Kerry Joseph under centre for the fourth consecutive game Sunday when they take on the Edmonton Eskimos in the West semifinal at Commonwealth Stadium.
Saskatchewan has used three different starters at quarterback since incumbent Darian Durant was lost to a torn tendon in his right elbow on Sept. 7. But no matter who has replaced him, the team's rushing game has been strong.
The Riders posted the third-best rushing offence in the CFL this season and averaged 132 yards per game. Allen led the club with 930 yards on the ground, second to league leader Jon Cornish of Calgary (1,082 yards).
The first-year tailback likely would have eclipsed the 1,000-yard milestone had he not missed two of the Riders' final three regular-season games.
With a healthy Allen running behind a solid offensive line, the Riders are poised to keep the pressure on against the host Eskimos. Saskatchewan tallied 194 rushing yards when these teams met a week ago in the regular-season finale at Mosaic Stadium, a game the Riders won 24-17.
Allen led the way with a game-high 81 yards on 13 carries and newcomer Steven Miller provided a boost with 71 yards on 11 rushes.
"I go in there and I wear them down, I break them down and make guys tired," Allen explained in a recent interview. "And then Steve can come in and slash through them and take off for 30 or 40 yards, maybe farther than that. It's definitely good for both of us having some fresh legs in there to change it up a bit."
However, the Riders' strength in running the ball could play into the hands of the two remaining teams in the West. The Eskimos and the Calgary Stampeders were among the top three run defences in the CFL, with the Eskimos ranked second with 96 yards allowed per contest.
Calgary was nearly as stingy with 99 rushing yards allowed.
"(Edmonton) has a great defence and because it'll be the fourth time playing them this year, both coaches are very defensive-minded guys, we're both very familiar with each other … it's going to be like fighting your brother," Allen said. "It's going to be a war out there."
The Eskimos are no slouches when it comes to pounding the ball on the ground. Just ask Riders linebacker Brian Peters, who had a first-hand look at Edmonton's running attack.
The last time the Riders visited Commonwealth (Sept. 26), the home team rushed for 300 yards, led by John White's 192-yard effort. Quarterback Mike Reilly also broke the 100-yard mark in that game.
"That's a shot to your pride," Peters said. "When you don't play to your expectation and your pride kicks in and that game left a sour taste in our mouths. We're more than ready to get rid of it and put in a better effort."
Edmonton ranked second overall in the league in rushing yards per game (137) and third overall in passing yards (246). Though Matt Nichols is expected to start at quarterback in place of a limping Reilly, Peters doesn't see a change at quarterback making much of a difference.
"Reilly might be a little more mobile back there than what Nichols has shown us, but they don't really change much when it comes to schemes," he said. "Obviously, the weather is a lot colder now and when that happens you can probably expect to see both teams run the ball a little more.
"But that all depends on the flow of the game and how the defences respond to the run."Suggest a correction