“Just a matter of time.” Riders Mario Alford thinks more big plays are on the way



It feels like the question is not if, but when the Saskatchewan Roughriders returner Mario Alford runs a kick back for a touchdown.

Last week against the Edmonton Elks, Alford had a punt return for a touchdown called back due to a penalty.

Even though he doesn’t have a return for a touchdown in 2023, the 32-year-old has been with his start of the season, especially winning the field position battle.

“Every play can’t be a touchdown, unfortunately.”

He continued, “I feel good about what I’m doing me and Dickie (Craig Dickenson) talk, we know my touchdown is going to come, most important right now is the ball and field position.”

Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson noted Alford’s time is coming.

“I know Mario (Alford) is chomping at the bit, he feels like he’s close to getting one.”

About a year ago, Alford arrived in Saskatchewan and would go on to have an instant impact with the green and white with four returns for touchdowns. For his efforts, the Greenville, Georgia, product was named the 2022 Most Outstanding Player of the Year. With the extra hardware in the trophy case, Alford believes opposing teams have been cautious kicking to him this season.

“Even on kickoff return they do short kicks, I’ve had opportunities but not too many, but we’ll take the field position.”

On Saturday night, the Calgary Stampeders (1-3) will meet the Roughriders for the second time this season. So far in 2023, the Stamps have allowed the most big plays. (The CFL has defined a big play on special teams as a return that exceeds 30 yards). Head Dickenson thinks the statistics don’t reflect the talent on the Stampeder’s special teams. He adds special teams will be a key aspect of tomorrow’s game.

“Our challenge with our guys every week, is to win our individual matchup, play better this week than did the week before, and with the idea if we do the little things right, hopefully a big play hits.”

Besides having the top returner from the 2022 season, the Roughriders have plenty of depth at returner. Shawn Bane Jr., Jamal Morrow and Frankie Hickson are all capable of big play for the green and white. Alford believes Saskatchewan may have the best group of returners in the league.

“I can’t wait to see where this season takes us.” Alford said, “They’re all explosive players, I’m just happy to share the room with them.”

Offensively, Alford remains the weapon in waiting for the Roughriders. This year, he has only received only one target as a receiver. Despite the lack of targets, he remains patient, waiting for his chances.

“If I get my name called, I’m going to bust one.”

Alford added it’s not a question of if, but when.

“Just a matter of time.”


Practice Notebook

  • Friday’s practice was moved indoors due to the poor air quality outside. The expectation the smoke will begin to dissipate later Friday evening and isn’t expected to be an issue for Saturday night’s game.
  • Frankie Hickson will be a gametime decision on Saturday. Hickson was at practice on Friday.
  • For the second straight week, Saskatchewan can clinch the season series against a divisional opponent after their win last week against Edmonton.


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