Saturday, July 17, 2010

Riders stay unbeaten with comeback win against Edmonton

A rock-solid defense in the second half and a gutsy 4th quarter call deep in their own territory were the difference in Regina today, as the Saskatchewan Roughriders grabbed a 24-20 come-from-behind victory over the Edmonton Eskimos, in front of a sell-out crowd of 30,048 at Mosaic Stadium.

The Riders took the opening kickoff and moved to just across midfield, getting a 54 yard Luca Congi field goal 2:20 into the opening quarter. Edmonton took their opening possession and drove deep into Saskatchewan territory, before settling for a 16 yard Noel Prefontaine field goal with 6:25 to go in the first, tying the game 3-3.

The Riders regained the lead on their second possession of the second quarter. Wes Cates found an open seam between guard and tackle on the left side at his own 20, and was finally caught after a career best 83 yard run took the ball to the 7 yard line. On first-and-goal, Hugh Charles got the ball to the goal line, then ran it in on the next play. With the Congi convert, Saskatchewan was up 10-3, with 4:14 gone in the second. The Eskimos worked with a short field two possessions later, starting at the Rider 29, and scoring five plays after that on a 2 yard run by Arkee Whitlock. Perfontaine converted and the game was tied 10-10 with 5:19 left in the half. After a Prefontaine 56 yard punt single with 2:26 to go gave them their first lead of the day, Edmonton drove deep on their last possession of the half. A wide open Kelly Campbell dropped a sure touchdown pass with 3 seconds left and the Eskimos once again had to settle for a Prefontaine field goal, this one from 18 yards away, giving Edmonton a 14-10 lead at two-quarters time.

Working against a stiff wind on their first possession of the second half, Saskatchewan drove from their own 7 to the Eskimos' 14, a drive that featured the first catches of the game for Chris Getzlaf, Weston Dressler and Andy Fantuz. The Edmonton defense stiffened, and Congi came on to boot a 22 yard field goal, cutting the Rider deficit to 14-13, with 5:41 gone in quarter number 3. The Eskimo lead grew to 16-13 when, after downing a Prefontaine punt at the 2, Saskatchewan's Congi took a knee in the end zone, conceding a safety with 6:08 to go in the third. After taking the ensuing kick at the Rider 51, Edmonton got a 31 yard field goal from Prefontaine with 4:05 left, increasing the lead to 19-13. It was 20-13 Eskimos after three, thanks to a 66 yard punt single by Prefontaine with 14 seconds left on the clock.

Saskatchewan tied the game early in the fourth quarter, as Darian Durant found Fantuz, who made a nice over-the-shoulder catch, resulting in a 38 yard touchdown. Congi converted, tying the game 20-20, with 12:44 to go in regulation time. 17 seconds later, Louie Sakoda drilled the ensuing kickoff 80 yards into the end zone for a single, putting the Riders back on top 21-20. Edmonton took the ball deep into Saskatchewan territory, but turned the ball over, with the Riders' Brent Hawkins recovering a fumble at his own 5. On the first down play, Rob Bagg was nearly tackled in the end zone, but got out of trouble and ran around left end 50 yards to centre field. Two plays later, Durant rambled 29 yards to the Edmonton 21. The drive reached the 15 but stalled there and Congi was called upon to kick a 23 yard field goal with 4:08 remaining, putting Saskatchewan up by 4, 24-20. Fred Stamps, who finished the day with 12 catches for 213 yards for the Eskimos, caught a pass over the middle and headed down field, but was stripped of the ball by the Riders' Tad Kornegay. Sean Lucas recovered there, and another Edmonton drive screeched to a halt. The Eskimos, who have been outscored 29-0 in three fourth quarters so far this season, would get the ball back with time running down at their own 16, moving it out to the 35, but on 2nd down, Luc Mollinder sacked Ricky Ray and Edmonton coach Richie Hall elected to punt with just under two minutes remaining, hoping his defense could come up with a 2-and-out. However, the Saskatchewan offense would rise to the occasion. With a second-and-inches at the Edmonton 53, Durant pushed his way over left guard for a first down. The Riders would run out the clock from there, holding on for the 24-20 win.

For Saskatchewan, Darian Durant was 15-of-28 passing for 238 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Andy Fantuz caught a touchdown pass, Hugh Charles rushed for a touchdown, Wes Cates had 12 carries for 112 yards, Luca Congi kicked 3 field goals and 2 converts and Louie Sakoda added a kickoff single. The Riders had 457 total yards, 20 first downs, allowed 2 sacks, turned the ball over once and were penalized 3 times for just 25 yards. For the Eskimos, Ricky Ray was 22-of-31 passing for 319 yards, Fred Stamps caught 12 passes for 213 yards but had that costly 4th quarter fumble. Arkee Whitlock rushed for a touchdown and Noel Prefontaine kicked 3 field goals, 1 convert and 2 punt singles. Edmonton, which also scored when Congi conceded a safety touch in the third quarter, had 413 totals yards, 17 first downs, allowed 3 sacks, committed two costly second-half turnovers and were penalized 8 times for 75 yards.

Saskatchewan, who wore their red and black throwback jerseys today in honor of the team's 100th anniversary, remain the only unbeaten team in the CFL at 3-0. The Eskimos are the only winless team in the CFL, slipping to 0-3. The Riders are on the road next Saturday to meet the 2-1 Calgary Stampeders, with kickoff set for 9:30pm EDT. Edmonton travels to Winnipeg next Saturday, start time is 6:30pm EDT.

Cates hits the hole on the way to a career-high 83 yard run, setting up the Riders' second quarter touchdown.

Riders' President/CEO Jim Hopson was interviewed on the TSN telecast.

Sorry it's blurry, but that's Andy Fantuz hauling in a touchdown pass from Darian Durant.

Fantuz on the sidelines after his touchdown catch.

A happy Darian Durant talks to TSN after the game.

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