Mason Fine injured as Roughriders get blown out by Alouettes 41-12

Kayle Neis/Regina Leader-Post. Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson.

Quarterback Mason Fine left the game with an injury on Friday night, as the Roughriders lost to the Alouettes 41-12.

Taylor Shire, Regina Leader-Post

A game that was supposed to feature Cody Fajardo against Mason Fine at quarterback ended with Caleb Evans against Jake Dolegala as the Montreal Alouettes beat the visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders 41-12 in Week 10 of the CFL season on Friday night. 

The loss dropped the Riders record to 4-5, while the Alouettes improved to 5-3. 

The major storyline heading into the game was around Fajardo, who was set to play against his former team for the first time after signing in Montreal this off-season following three seasons in Saskatchewan. 

But minutes before kickoff, the Alouettes announced Evans would start in place of Fajardo, who was listed as a game-time decision with a left shoulder injury suffered the week prior. 

On the other side of the field, Fine made his fourth career start of the season after picking up his first CFL win last week against Ottawa. However, he left the game with a leg injury in the first half, as Dolegala finished the game for Saskatchewan. 

And before either quarterback stepped on the field for Saskatchewan, the Alouettes opened the scoring with an early touchdown drive.

After a 35-yard kickoff return by Tyson Philpot for the Alouettes to begin the game, Evans wasted no time in his first start of the season and 14th of his career. After completing a 15-yard pass to Tyler Snead, Evans kept it himself a few plays later, with a 27-yard gain along the ground. From there, the 25-year-old quarterback punched it in from two yards out to open the scoring, making it 7-0 Montreal with the convert just five minutes in. 

And that quick start seemed to really hurt the Riders, as they failed to bounce back from it.

“They got us right from the opening bell,” said Riders’ head coach Craig Dickenson. “We knew it was going to be a tough game and it was all of that are more.

“Right from the opening bell, I felt like they came out and really smashed us on that opening kickoff return and really just physically got after us the whole game.”

After a punt on their first drive, the Riders started with better field position on the second offensive series, starting from the Alouettes 41-yard line. But they couldn’t capitalize as Brett Lauther kicked a 32-yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-3 at the end of the first quarter. 

A few drives later, the Alouettes would add to their lead. On second down, Evans dumped it off Walter Fletcher — who was getting the start at running back for the injured William Stanback — for a short pass, before Fletcher scampered 68 yards, putting Montreal in the red zone. 

From there, Evans kept it himself on the quarterback sneak for his second touchdown of the game from one yard out to put Montreal on top 14-3 with the convert. 

Minutes later, as the Riders looked to respond, Fine scrambled out of the pocket for a short rush before sliding to the turf. However, he got up slow, favouring the back of his right leg/hamstring and was later ruled out of the game. After the game, Dickenson provided a brief update.

“I think Mason’s going to be OK,” the head coach told reporters. “We’re optimistic that it won’t be a long-term injury so that’s good news.”

With Fine out, Dolegala entered the game for Saskatchewan for the first time since throwing a touchdown pass in Week 8 against the Toronto Argonauts. 

But on his second pass of the night, Dolegala was intercepted by Alouettes’ defensive back Kabion Ento, who returned it 13 yards to the Saskatchewan 26-yard line. 

On the next play, Evans gave it right back though, as he was intercepted in the end zone by Riders’ defensive back Amari Henderson, who returned it to the six-yard line. 

However, Dolegala couldn’t do much on his first full drive of the night, as a quick two-and-out forced another punt. 

The Alouettes would add a field goal before the end of the half to make it 17-3. 

And things got worse for Saskatchewan in the second half. On Montreal’s first offensive series, Evans wasted no time adding to their lead as he connected with receiver Austin Mack for a 56-yard touchdown to give the Als the 24-3 lead with the convert. 

The Alouettes then increased their lead a couple of drives later.

After a pass interference call against Riders’ defensive back Nic Marshall gave the Alouettes a first down, Montreal would punch it moments later, as Als’ backup running back Jeshrun Antwi took it 19 yards to the end zone, to make it a 31-3 lead with the convert at the end of the third quarter. 

The Riders would add a field goal early in the fourth quarter to make it a 31-6 game but then on the Saskatchewan’s next offensive series, Dolegala fumbled the ball as he was being sacked, and it was scooped up by Als’ linebacker Tyrice Beverette, who returned it 25 yards for the touchdown to make it a 38-6 game. 

On their next offensive series, Saskatchewan would put together its longest drive and only touchdown of the game —12 plays, 68 yards — which was capped off by a Dolegala one-yard TD sneak to make it 38-12 after a failed two-point convert. 

From there, the Alouettes added a field goal with just over a minute to go to make it 41-12, which concluded the scoring. 

“We just couldn’t get those stops and those turnovers that we needed,” said Riders’ linebacker Derrick Moncrief. “They just started off hot and they kept on rolling.

“It was just a momentum game. We just didn’t play our best ball tonight.”

In the game, the Riders generated 221 yards of net offence compared to 328 yards by Montreal, with 186 yards coming along the ground.

“Physically we just had to match their intensity and we didn’t do it,” said Dickenson. “They came out really fired up and you could tell they were really playing hard and physical and we just couldn’t match that physicality.”

Prior to his injury, Fine finished the night having completed five of nine passes for 20 yards, while Dolegala went 11-of-20 for 107 yards and an interception.

“We’ve got to do better as a unit, myself included,” Dolegala told reporters after the game. “There’s decisions that could be made quicker.

“Credit to Montreal too, they did a really good job scheme-wise, execution-wise, they kind of had our number but that’s no excuse for the way I played and the way we played as a unit.”

Riders’ running back Jamal Morrow led the way with 81 yards on 18 carries for Saskatchewan, while Jerreth Sterns led all receivers with 41 yards.

As for Montreal, Evans finished the game having competed just eight of 13 passes for 149 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but he did add 66 yards along the ground on 11 carries. Fletcher, meanwhile, had 73 yards on 15 carries. Fletcher also led all Montreal receivers with 68 yards, from his only catch of the night.

The Riders will now turn their focus to the B.C. Lions, who are set to visit Mosaic Stadium next Sunday, Aug. 20 (5 p.m., TSN). And for this game, Saskatchewan will get a full week of practice to prepare after coming into Friday’s game with just a single day of practice.

“It didn’t help us,” Dickenson said of the short week. “But let’s be honest, the way they played, it would be a reach to say that would be the reason we got beat.

“We’ve got to get a lot better in a lot of different ways and we’re going to work hard this next week to try to have a good bounce back game.”