The Saskatchewan Roughriders aren't exactly strangers to a good start judging by the past few years.

The green-and-white began the 2022 season at 4-1, and then in 2023 put together a 3-1 mark to kick things off on the right note — but the vibe is certainly different in Riderville heading into their first bye week of 2024 undefeated at 3-0.

A brand-new attitude from head coach Corey Mace has been a big reason for the early turnaround. The offense has put up 28+ points each game, including a season-high 36 in last Sunday's home opener against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The defense has been solid, hitting their stride this past week as well with three interceptions and one forced fumble. Special teams have also been a major plus the first three weeks, from the constant threat of return man Mario Alford, to the kickoff team who also forced a turnover against Hamilton on the opening kickoff.

Another factor this year has been a new-look offensive line. Still entrenched at right guard is Logan Ferland, the Roughriders most outstanding lineman in both 2022 and 2023. The Roughriders added a pair of tackles in Trevor Reid, and former all-star with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Jermarcus Hardrick. The team also signed interior lineman Ryan Sceviour for some depth, alongside returning lineman Peter Godber and Philip Blake.

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Ferland was happy to speak with WestCentralOnline ahead of some Canada Day weekend fun. Speaking with the lone-Saskatchewan born player along the offensive line, Ferland shared what he feels has been the key to an undefeated start for the Roughriders.

"I think just our mentality this year. I think our team is extremely close, (and) you know that bond we have already created in the locker room is just going to grow more and more." said Ferland. "Going through the adversity we did in the first two games, I think it's extremely important to have that early in the season. I think that was honestly the key."

The Riders had a 21 point fourth quarter as the visitors in Week 1 to beat the Edmonton Elks 29-21, before another second half comeback on the road (and walk-off kick from Brett Lauther) in Week 2 helped them beat Hamilton 33-30. Finally going back to Mosaic Stadium, that momentum helped the Roughriders fly into their home opener and leave with a decisive 36-20 win over the Ti-Cats.

"When we did get to the home opener, we were firing on all cylinders. We still have a lot to work on – a ton to work on – but there is nothing better than winning a game and then realizing how much more you have to work on. Because you can really be that much better."

Another big addition to the team this year has been running back AJ Ouellette. The bruising runner has 49 carries for 162 yards through the first three games, a slow start by his standards as a recent 1000 yard rusher, though Ouellette had his best game of the season in Week 3 with 98 yards on 20 rushes, adding another 47 yards receiving on four receptions.

Ferland would be the first to admit the run-game was a focus headed into the home-opener, and despite the nearly 100-yard performance, Ferland knows that even more production is on the table if the line can lead the way for their feature back.

"We definitely trended up, but you know there is still a lot to work on," said Ferland. "Communication, the physicality is there, so it's a matter of communicating and understanding what we are doing on a play when movement does occur. I think we definitely did improve, but there is lots more to improve on.

AJ is a back that should be getting at least 150 a game, he's that type of player, so we have to put him in the right place to do so."

Ferland via social media.jpg 2024 marks the fourth year in the trenches for Ferland (Photo via Roughriders/Logan Ferland on social media)

Another reason the offense has been so consistent to start 2024 is quarterback Trevor Harris. After his first season with the Roughriders ended with an injury, Harris has responded with a 72 per cent completion percentage, 872 yards, and 7 touchdowns.

Two of those touchdowns came early against Hamilton in Sunday's home opener, before Harris went down with an injury that kept the Riders starting pivot out the rest of the game.

"He's an amazing leader on-and-off the field, and we need a guy like him. It hurt when he went down there, and we will obviously see what the outcome of that is, but we also know we have guys that will step up in the room." commented Ferland, backup Shea Patterson showing just that with a nice relief appearance. "I think Shea proved that in the game, when Trevor went down. Shea was right there, Jack (Coan) is gonna be behind Shea."

"Next-man-up" is a mentality any successful team needs to have. The team hasn't exactly lacked talent over the past few lackluster seasons, leadership perhaps being the thing most left behind.

"We have the right guys to do the right things, and we are prepared for whatever happens." 

With a new coach, a new school of thought, and those leaders now in the room; anything seems possible for the Roughriders as they prepare to continue their regular season after the bye week. Saskatchewan will resume their season next week, Thursday, July 4 at home against the Toronto Argonauts.