Brian Simmons isn't looking to provide the Saskatchewan Roughriders with bulletin board material. There's no disrespect intended.
But having lost four straight games to the Riders — including last year's Grey Cup and this season's opening day matchup — the Tiger-Cats' guard has had it up to here with Saskatchewan Ws.
"I'm so tired," he says, "of losing to that team."
Simmons and his mates will get another shot at redemption this Sunday when the Riders become the second visiting team to grace the new — though still unfinished — Tim Hortons Field. Saskatchewan is 8-2 and looking for a franchise-record seventh straight win. Hamilton is 2-7 and trying to stay competitive in the woeful East Division.
As lopsided as the matchup would appear, not everything is trending in Saskatchewan's favour. The team will be without starting quarterback Darian Durant for the reminder of the season and backup Tino Sunseri will be making his first career CFL start.
But while Durant has certainly been effective this season, it's been the running game that has served as the Riders' primary offensive catalyst. They lead the league in virtually every rushing statistic and have had three running backs — Anthony Allen, Will Ford and Jerome Messam — named CFL player of the week this season.
Ticats defensive end Eric Norwood, who will likely return to the lineup in place of the injured Antonio Coleman, says the Riders have essentially flip-flopped his standard priority list.
"Stop the run, then get pressure on the quarterback. They'd be crazy not to run the ball with the guys they have," Norwood said. "If you ain't got no pride, then you ain't going to stop it at all."
Speaking of pride, Simmons says his was bruised during the week one match up that saw the offensive line surrender 10 sacks, including two by CFL leader John Chick, who now has 13 on the season.
"I'm still pretty upset about that game. I know it's been a rough season for us, but when I look at all the games I feel like that's the one where their truly was no chance for us to win it," Simmons said.
The team has made a number of changes since that rain-soaked day in late June, and just two of the five starters on the line remain. Quarterback Zach Collaros — who took responsibility for a number of the sacks in the opener — says the entire offensive unit is better.
"I think we feel a lot more comfortable coming into this one and have a better idea as to what they are going to do," said the quarterback who has thrown for more than 300 yards in his last two contests since returning from a concussion that forced him to miss seven games. "We're going to have to protect, be on time in routes and I'm going to have to get the ball out of my hands."
Ticats head coach Kent Austin says the real trouble starts when the Riders get both things going at once.
"It's not just their offence running the football effectively, it's their defence getting offences off the field," Austin said. "Your defence gets worn out and it starts to show up later in the game."
While Collaros downplayed the revenge angle — he wasn't part of the Grey Cup-losing squad and said the team needs wins of any stripe at the moment — Simmons may be developing something of a Saskatchewan complex. Again, he's inclined to be circumspect but ...
"I'm just really looking forward to the opportunity to compete," said Simmons. "That's all I can really say about it."