Friday, August 7, 2009

Lions overcome early turnover woes to beat Saskatchewan

The Saskatchewan Roughriders had momentum handed to them on an orange-and-black platter but were unable to build on a second quarter lead and lost to the BC Lions 35-20 Friday night in CFL action at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The game started porely for BC in front of their home crowd, as they turned the ball over on each of their first three possessions. The Riders capitalized after the third one, as Darian Durant threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Rob Bagg. Luca Congi's convert put Saskatchewan up 7-0 with 4:12 left in the opening quarter. BC would come back late in the first, intercepting a pass and scoring two plays later on a Buck Pierce to Martell Mallett 2-yard scoring toss. Sean Whyte converted with 9 seconds left in the first, tying the game 7-7.

Riders got the lead back as Durant hit Bagg again, this time from 33 yards out. Congi converted to put Saskatchewan up 14-7 with 9:04 left in the half, capping a 6-play, 94-yard drive. Riders Punter Jamie Boreham conceded a safety touch with 4:22 to go in the half, cutting the Saskatchewan lead to 14-9. The Lions drew within 2 with 2:44 left in the half, as Whyte booted a 44-yard field goal, making the score 14-12 in favor of the Riders. BC took the lead in the final minute of the half on an extremely weird play. Saskatchewan's Gerron Walker fumbled the ball on a punt return. BC's James Yurichuk kicked the ball forward, Walker (allegedly) got a hand on it, then O'Neill Wilson picked up the loose ball at the Rider 38 and ran it in for the major score. Whyte's convert with 36 seconds on the clock put the Leos up 19-14 at the half.

Whyte opened 2nd half scoring 4:30 into the third, by booting a 41-yard field goal, to increase BC's lead to 22-14. The Lions once again drove deep into Saskatchewan territory on their next possession, but had to settle for Whyte's third field goal of the game, this one from 18 yards out with 5:24 to go in the third, increasing BC's advantage to 25-14, a lead they would take into the final quarter.

Whyte's 33-yard field goal 48 seconds into the 4th put the Lions ahead by two majors, 28-14. The Riders found a seat on the bench for Durant, replacing him at quarterback with Steven Jyles. Saskatchewan continued to have trouble moving the ball, but finally advanced into scoring position late. Forced into a third-and-10 at the BC 17 with just under three minutes remaining, Jyles threw the ball away, turning it back to the Leos. The Riders got the ball back at the BC 47 with 89 seconds left. After a 35-yard completion from Jyles to Johnny Quinn to the Lions 1, Chris Czarka punched it in from there with 44 seconds remaining. Congi's convert was blocked, leaving the deficit at 28-20. Saskatchewan attempted an onside kick but failed when the kick didn't go the required 10 yards. Rider penalties on a skirmish after the kick set up the Leos for a 13-yard touchdown run by Mallett with 32 seconds left, with Whyte adding the convert for the 35-20 win.

For Saskatchewan, Darian Durant was 10 of 19 passing for 189 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, while Steven Jyles was 6 of 12 passing for 78 yards and an interception. Rob Bagg caught five passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns, while Chris Czarka had the only rushing touchdown and Luca Congi added 2 converts. BC was led by Buck Pierce, who was 26 of 34 for 215 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception, while Jarius Jackson threw two incompletions and an interception. Martell Mallett scored twice, once on the ground and once through the air. O'Neill Wilson had a defensive touchdown on the fumbled punt and Sean Whyte had 4 field goals and 3 converts for 15 points.

The Riders actually outdid the Lions in total offense, 348 yards to 345 and had 17 first downs to BC's 22. The difference came in sacks allowed, as Saskatchewan allowed 5 Lions sacks to the Riders 2, while BC, who turned the ball over in each of their first three possessions, coughed it up just once more for a total of 4, while Saskatchewan gave the ball away five times total. The Riders were flagged 6 times for 78 yards, while the officials dropped the laundry on the Leos 7 times for 61 yards.

Saskatchewan, now 3-3 on the year, doesn't play again until Sunday, August 16th, when they host the Hamilton Tiger Cats. Kickoff is set for 7:00pm EDT, with the live broadcast on is set for 6:00pm EDT. BC, now 2-4, plays at Toronto on Friday, August 14th, with kickoff set for 7:30pm EDT.

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