Saturday, July 11, 2009

30 point second quarter powers Riders past Toronto

The Saskatchewan Roughriders stepped out of a 10-point first quarter hole, exploding for 30 second quarter points, to defeat the Toronto Argonauts 46-36 in CFL action at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

The Argonauts scored on their opening possession, driving the ball 79 yards in 8 plays, aided by a pass interference call on the opening set of downs, and ending in a 30 yard scoring strike from Kerry Joseph to Reggie McNeal. Justin Medlock's convert put Toronto up 7-0 with 9:52 left in the opening quarter. The Riders attempted a 50-yard fieldgoal on their next possession, but Luca Congi's kick was blocked, and the Argos returned the ball to the Saskatchewan 38. Medlock, the rookie kicker from UCLA, thumped through a 23 yard fieldgoal with 6:29 left, "straighter than a preacher" as Rider radio voice Rod Pedersen put it, giving Toronto an early 10-0 lead. The Saskatchewan response was a 22 yard scoring strike from Darian Durant to Andy Fantuz on the next posession. Congi's convert cut the deficit to 10-7 with 4:07 left on the clock. The offenses continued to stretch the opposing defenses, as Medlock then kicked a 45 yard fieldgoal, putting the Argos up 13-7, with 26 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Stevie Baggs got two points back for the Riders, tackling Joseph in the endzone for his CFL-best third sack of the season. The safety touch with 9:22 left in the first half, narrowed the Toronto lead to 13-9. Saskatchewan later forced a turnover at the Argos 30 and quickly converted, with Hugh Charles taking a Durant shovel pass and scoring untouched from 8 yards out. Congi's convert put the Roughriders up 16-13 with 4:32 to go in the opening half. Moments later, Sean Lucas recovered a fumble at the 4 yard line and after a Toronto offsides penalty moved the ball to the 2, Charles punched it in from there, with Congi adding the convert for a 23-13 Saskatchewan lead with 2:59 remaining in the half. The Riders weren't done there though. Durant hit a wide-open Weston Dressler with a 33 yard bomb down the right side with 48 seconds remaining, then Jerrell Freeman blocked a punt and recovered the ball in the endzone himself for a major score with 17 seconds left in the half. Congi hit both converts, giving Saskatchewan a 37-13 halftime lead.

The Argos opened second half scoring 3:15 into the third quarter, as Medlock booted a 24-yard fieldgoal to cap a 7-play, 48 yard drive, cutting the deficit to 37-16. Toronto scored again with 2:28 remaining in the third on a one-yard scamper around right end by Jamal Robertson and a Medlock convert, trimming the Rider lead to 37-23 heading into the fourth quarter in front of 30,055 fans at the Rogers Centre.

Congi hit a 41 yard fieldgoal 33 seconds into the final frame, stunting the Argos momentum, then added a 38 yarder with 7:26 left, increasing the Saskatchewan lead to 43-23. Toronto responded with a Joseph to Tyler Scott 19 yard major score and Medlock convert with 2:49 remaining in regular time, bringing the Double Blue to within 13, at 43-30. Congi, who missed his first two fieldgoal attempts(one was blocked, the other hit an upright), hit another from 35 yards out with 1:03 remaining, putting the Riders up 46-30. The Argos scored on the last play of the game, as Joseph found Mike Bradwell over the middle with a 37 yard touchdown pass, but they failed on the two-point convert and Saskatchewan headed home with the 46-36 victory.

Darian Durant paced the Riders offense, going 18 of 28 passing for 205 yards passing, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. Weston Dressler, Hugh Charles and Andy Fantuz hauled in touchdown catches, while Charles scored once on the ground, to go along with his 78 yards rushing on 15 carries. Tad Kornegay led the defence with 6 tackles. For Toronto, Kerry Joseph was 27 of 45 passing for 348 yards, 3 scores and 1 interception. Reggie McNeal had 5 receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown, Tyler Scott and Mike Bradwell added touchdown catches, while Jamal Robertson carried the ball 10 times for 80 yards and a major score. The Argos outgained Saskatchewan on the day, 432 yards to 303, but turned the ball over 5 times to the Riders 2.

"We forced them into some errors," said Saskatchewan Head Coach Ken Miller following the game. "The thing that we don't always do is take advantage of those errors. But in that short span there of the second quarter, we forced the errors and were able to take advantage of them. That's a really agressive and I should say even a vicious sign of a really good football team." On his teams' ability to go on the road and beat a quality opponent, Miller said "I'm really proud of the guys and I'm really proud of that fact(that Saskatchewan was the only West Division team to win in week #2) that we were able to win on the road here in Toronto. You know, we haven't always played well here in the past, but we played well today."

The Riders take sole possession of the West lead with a 2-0 mark and return home for an early season battle for top of the CFL heap next Saturday with the Montreal Alouettes, also 2-0 and on top of the East. Kickoff at Taylor Field at Mosaic Stadium is set for 1:00p.m. EDT. The live broadcast on begins at 12:00p.m. EDT.

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