While the offence struggled against the Redblacks last week, the Roughriders’ special teams showed exactly what it was made of: touchdowns.
Lead by coach Craig Dickenson, the group of men who play special teams for the green and white have put together a solid season that includes four return touchdowns, the highest punt return average in the league at 13.6 yards and the second highest kick off return average at 23.8 yards.
According to fullback Spencer Moore, it’s because the special teamers have really embraced their role on the team, even though it may not come with the glory of a receiver or linebacker.
“Even myself, I’d love to be contributing in several different ways but you do what you can and you do what you’re told,” Moore said. “These guys are really buying in and it’s really showing. We have some dogs on special teams and it’s really fun to play with them.”
Players like Alexandre Gagne and Chad Geter each have 13 special teams tackles — good enough for second best in the league right now.
Of course, blocking for the return touchdown is one of the most exciting things you can do on special teams, but Moore said they take a lot of pride in stopping the other team deep in their own end as well.
“In this league, there’s so many dynamic returners. It feels good to shut ’em down and to continuously shut them down. Of course, you want to get points whenever you can but I think we specifically take pride in being a good cover team.”
The Roughriders have a few dynamic receivers of their own. Of the four special teams touchdowns that have been scored, they’ve had three different returners: Christion Jones – who is currently out with an injury – had one, Marcus Thigpen has one and rookie Kyran Moore has put up two.
“We feel like we can take it to the house every time,” said Thigpen, who made his name in the CFL and NFL as a big-time returner.
“I take a lot of pride in it,” he continued. “Special teams is what got me here in the first place and even when I played back in the NFL it was special teams for me so that’s always been one of my niches to be able to return a ball. I’m loving being back there full time right now while (Christion Jones) is out.”
But all of that special teams success comes from a lot of hard work. The Roughriders practice special teams every day. They study hard in the meetings rooms and figure out teams tendencies so it the game it just comes naturally.
“We know we have some special guys back there returning the ball it’s just all about everybody just making their block,” Thigpen said. “They know what we can do so that makes (the blockers) want to block a little harder for us as well because they know we can take it the distance.”
Which is pretty exciting for both the guy running it back and the 11 behind him making it possible.
“To be able to go out there and see it executed the way that we envisioned it is definitely rewarding,” Thigpen said.
Head coach Chris Jones ruled out defensive back Matt Elam (hamstring) for Saturday’s game.