Saturday, June 27, 2015

Riders lose Durant in opening home loss to Winnipeg

The Saskatchewan Roughriders opened the 2015 Canadian Football League season at home Saturday night against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, suffering three key injuries including quarterback Darian Durant, then gave up the lead late, in a 30-26 loss at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, in front of 32,228 fans.

Saskatchewan opened the game with a good mix of runs and short passes, plus a third down conversion just across centrefield. However, the drive stalled there and the Riders were forced to punt the ball away. Winnipeg would take the ball and quickly move upfield themselves, but a [penalty and a John Chick sack killed the drive, forcing the Blue Bombers to punt. Winnipeg would get the ball back late and score the game's first major, on a 6 yard Drew Willy pass to Paris Cotton, swinging over the middle out of the backfield. Lirim Hajrullahu kicked the convert and the Bombers were up 7-0, with just 47 seconds left in the opening quarter.

Saskatchewan would strike quickly in the second quarter, as Durant found Taj Smith over the middle. Smith, moving left to right, would take the ball and go 36 yards for the score. Chris Milo converted and with 1:38 gone in the second, the game was tied 7-7. An illegal block negated a 63 yard punt return major for Winnipeg, but the Bombers would regain the lead late in the half, as Cameron Marshall would blow it in from 2 yards out. Hajrullahu would add the convert to cap a 10 play, 75 yard, 4 minute 30 second drive. The score would give Winnipeg a 14-7 lead. Hajrullahu would add a single on the ensuing kickoff, nailing the coffin corner for a 15-7 lead with 2:06 to play in the half. Durant would respond for the Riders, as Durant would find a streaking Ryan Smith down the middle with a 53 yard bomb, thrown right on the money. Milo's convert with 1:28 to play in the second, cut the Winnipeg lead to one, at 15-14.

Saskatchewan would take take the lead as Jerome Messam would squeeze past right guard and rumble 53 yards for a touchdown. Kevin Glenn, in for an injured Durant, would toss a two-point conversion to Ryan Getzlaf and with 1:09 played in the second half, the Roughriders were up by 7, at 22-15. Saskatchewan's run game would continue to impress, as Anthony Allen would rumble 47 yards to midfield on the first play of their next possession. The drive would end with a 35 yard missed field goal single from Milo, putting the Riders up 23-15, with 6:21 to go in the third. The Blue Bombers would drive for the equalizing score on the next possession, with Willy hitting Marshall for a 14 yard score. Marshall would add the 2 point convert, tying the game 23-23, with 2:58 left in the third.

Saskatchewan would regain the lead 5:01 into the fourth, as Milo would kick a 19 yard field foal, putting the Riders back on top, 26-23. Winnipeg would quickly respond, driving into scoring territory. And they would take advantage, as Willy would find Nick Moore for an 18 yard major. Hajrullahu would add the point after, putting the Blue Bombers back on top 30-26, with 7:01 left in regulation time.  Saskatchewan wasn't able to answer and Winnipeg ran out the clock, holding on for the 30-26 win.

For the Roughriders, both Durant and Glenn were 13-for-18 passing, with Durant throwing for 165 yards and 2 scores, while Glenn threw for 120 yards and a pick. Anthony Allen ran 11 times for 102 yards, Jerome Messam had 4 carries for 75 yards and a major. On the receiving end, Ryan Smith had 3 catches for 77 yards and a touchdown, while Taj Smith had 2 catches for 44 yards and a major. Ryan Getzlaf caught a two-point convert. Chris Milo was 1 for 2 on field goals, 2 for 2 on converts and had a single. Ray Early punted 4 times for a 48 yard average and on defence, Telvion Clark had 10 tackles and 1 special teams tackle.

For the victorious Blue Bombers, Drew Willy was 22-of-25 passing for 325 yards and 3 touchdowns. Paris Cotton rushed 13 times for 108 yards. Cameron Marshall rushed for a major. Clarence Denmark caught 5 passes for 94 yards, while Nick Moore, Cotton and Marshall each caught a touchdown pass. In the kicking game, Lirim Hajrullahu kicked 3 converts and a kickoff single, while punting 5 times for a 41.8 yard average. Matt Bucknor, Khalil Bass, Demond Washington and Bruce Johnson each made 5 tackles on defence.

The Winnipeg victory was their first in Regina since September 5th, 2004 and snapped an 11 game losing streak at Mosaic Stadium. And after the game, the Riders confirmed that Darian Durant will be out for the season with a ruptured achilles.

Saskatchewan, 0-1 on the season, next plays on Sunday, July 5th at home against the 1-0 Toronto Argonauts. Kickoff at Mosaic Stadium is set for 12:30pm PDT, on 620 CKRM, the Rider Radio Network, TSN in Canada and in the U.S. 1-0 Winnipeg next plays on Thursday, July 2nd at home against the 0-1 Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

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