Chad Owens and the Toronto Argonauts’ offence will have a little more to contend with Saturday than just the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ defence.
The weather forecast is calling for a high temperature of -3 C and low of -10 C with occasional snow flurries when the Riders host the Argos at Mosaic Stadium. But Owens, a native of Hawaii, isn’t the least bit fazed.
“I don’t think it’ll be a problem,” said the Argos receiver. “Mentally, if you let it be a problem, it’ll be a problem.
“I am actually excited to play in cold weather with no sleeves.”
Playing in cold weather will certainly be a change for Toronto, which practised Thursday in brilliant sunshine and an unseasonably high of 16.7 C. The Riders, though, worked out this week in conditions that will be closer to Saturday’s forecast.
That doesn’t worry Riders quarterback Darian Durant.
“Me, personally, I love it when it gets cold,” he said. “I can’t stand the heat because I sweat so much.”
When asked what the mood of his players was, Riders head coach Cory Chamblin smiled and stated the obvious: “They’re cold.”
But Durant said practising in cold temperatures was good for the Riders.
“I think it’s got us good and acclimated, especially when the wind is blowing like it has been this week, which makes it twice as cold,” he said. “I think the guys did a good job of just being mentally strong, especially the newer guys who haven’t been here and aren’t used to it.
“I think the guys adjusted, adapted, and we’ll be ready to go.”
Argos head coach Scott Milanovich said he’s more concerned about the wind than cold because of the impact it has on the passing game.
“It’s important to get a good, tight spiral on the ball,” he said.
What could heat things up for the Argos, though, is the memory of the lopsided 36-10 loss they suffered to Saskatchewan at Rogers Centre on Oct. 8. Milanovich certainly hasn’t forgotten.
“They played fast and physical,” Milanovich said. “We didn’t get off to a very good start.
“They took it to us early.”
But at least Toronto will have starter Ricky Ray under centre. Ray missed the previous meeting with a knee injury so backup Jarious Jackson got the start. Ray returned to the lineup last weekend, passing for 383 yards and four TDs in a 44-32 home loss to Winnipeg.
“The key for us, obviously, is playing our best game,” said Ray. “They’re a good, solid team.”
Ray is no stranger to cold, windy conditions, having played most of his career with the Edmonton Eskimos. But the Riders are very well aware of how important Ray’s passing ability is to the Argos’ offensive gameplan.
“He’s a vertical threat guy,” Chamblin said. “He’s always been that way.”
Cold conditions could put added emphasis on the ground game Saturday, which would appear to favour Saskatchewan. Halfback Kory Sheets is second overall in CFL rushing with 1,157 yards and is averaging a solid 5.4 yards per carry and has scored 10 TDs.
Last week, Winnipeg rolled up 260 yards rushing against a Toronto defence that’s ranked second-last against the run, allowing 117.2 yards per game.
Toronto (7-9) has lost five of its last six games but can clinch second spot in the East Division with a victory or Hamilton loss to Winnipeg on Saturday. Saskatchewan (8-8) has already secured a post-season berth but can cement third in the West with a win over the Argos and Edmonton loss to Montreal on Sunday.
“We understand what it means,” Milanovich said. “We’re trying not to put much pressure on the guys.
“We’re sharp and we’re ready to go. We’re not in any position to hold anything back.”
Expectations were high in Toronto this off-season with the hiring of Milanovich and acquisition of Ray from Edmonton. But despite the Argos’ struggles, Owens said the season can still be salvaged, ideally, with a Grey Cup victory at Rogers Centre on Nov. 25.
“That’s the goal,” he said. “At the end of the year, you want to have a chance to raise that Cup.
“That’s been our goal all year.”