The Saskatchewan Roughriders not only lost the game — a heartbreaking 33-31 final — on Saturday night against the visiting Calgary Stampeders, but the Green and White may have also lost their starting quarterback for an extended period of time.
With 9:19 left in the fourth quarter and the Stamps leading 20-17, Riders’ quarterback Trevor Harris scrambled out of the pocket and ran 17 yards towards a first down, before getting spun around on a big hit. His right leg was then rolled on as he went to the ground.
Harris went down clutching the injured leg as Mosaic Stadium fell silent.
Both teams gathered near midfield as Harris was carted off to the locker room. On the way, the 37-year-old — who started his 100th career game in the CFL last week — gave a brief wave to the crowd before looking visibly upset, with his head buried in a towel.
The diagnosis for Harris wasn’t immediately known after the game.
“Certainly did not look good on the field and I know he’s in a lot of pain,” Riders’ head coach Craig Dickenson said. “We’ll keep him in our thoughts and hopefully it’s not as bad as it looked.”
After the Harris injury turned Mosaic Stadium eerily quiet, Stamps’ quarterback Jake Maier marched his team down the field on a touchdown drive to put Calgary up 27-17.
Riders’ backup quarterback Mason Fine had to enter the game, just moments after seeing his teammate and close friend go down.
“I was sick to my stomach at first,” Fine said. “You hate to see it. Especially someone like Trevor.
“He’s helped me out a lot and that’s how you’ve got to look at it. Not really lose that compassion but say, ‘Hey, I’m going to do this for you and I’m going to go out there and play well for you.’”
And Fine did just that, engineering back-to-back touchdown drives.
First, the third-year pivot connected with running back Jamal Morrow on a six-yard touchdown pass with 2:38 to go to cut the lead to 27-24.
After a Stamps’ field goal made it 30-24, the Riders were faced with a third-and-24 after Fine was sacked on back-to-back plays.
But on the third-down play, after scrambling out of the pocket, Fine threw it up — with a hope and a prayer — to receiver Tevin Jones in double coverage. The ball was tipped by the Stamps’ defensive backs and ended up in the hands of Jones, who ran the rest of the way into the end zone. With the convert, the Riders led 31-30.
“We needed a play and I saw the ball get tipped up and I caught it and scored,” Jones said. “At the time, I thought we won.”
But with just over 30 seconds to go, Calgary was able to put together a five-play, 30-yard drive, and Rene Paredes kicked a 50-yard field goal to give the Stampeders the 33-31 victory as time expired.
“We made a big play but then also you’ve got to credit Calgary, the offence and Jake Maier going down there and making plays and putting themselves in a position to win,” said Fine.
With the win, the Stamps improve to 2-3, while the Riders drop to 3-2 in the West Division standings. The season series is now tied 1-1 between the two teams, who will face each other again in Week 19 on Friday, Oct. 13 in Calgary.
Subhead: Super Mario
Lost in the game story due to the Harris injury and the Stampeders’ walk-off win was the play of Riders’ returner Mario Alford, who had not one but two punt return touchdowns on Saturday night.
On Calgary’s second punt of the game, Alford brought it back 67 yards to the end zone to open the scoring for the fifth punt return touchdown in his career.
Then in the third quarter, Alford fielded a punt on his 16-yard line and brought it back 94 yards to the end zone.
“The ultimate goal is to win,” said Alford. “I’m still down because we lost even though I did score two touchdowns.”
With the second major, Alford surpassed Corey Holmes and for most regular season return touchdowns in Roughriders’ franchise history with six in just 18 games.
In 2022, the 31-year-old — who was acquired by the Riders in a trade from the Montreal Alouettes last July — was named the CFL’s most outstanding special teams player after scoring two touchdowns on kickoff returns, one touchdown on a missed field goal return, and one touchdown on a punt return.