Saskatchewan Roughriders stun Hamilton Tiger-Cats with last-second victory

Saskatchewan Roughriders

Taylor Shire

Regina Leader-Post

For a second straight week, the Saskatchewan Roughriders overcame a slow start and put together a big second half.

After scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter to beat the Edmonton Elks last week, the Riders put up 26 points in the second half on Sunday against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to come away with a 33-30 victory in Week 2 of the CFL season.

“We’ve got a lot of things we’ve got to handle,” Riders’ head coach Corey Mace said after the game. “Penalty problems, we had some busts on defence that were costly, the injuries …. but at the end of it, I just try to keep reminding myself that we finished 1-0 this week.

“In an adverse situation on the road yet again, we found a way to find a way.”

Trevor Harris threw for 390 yards and two touchdowns — both caught by Kian Schaffer-Baker — and linebacker C.J. Avery snagged an interception in the final minute to set up a game-winning field goal by Brett Lauther, stunning the Ti-Cats in the process.

“We’re just a group that believes in one another,” said Harris, who completed 32-of-45 passes. “We’ve got wristbands that say ‘Build it’ on one side and the other side says ‘Don’t flinch’ and we’re building something special here and we’ve got a group that flat out just won’t flinch.”

Scoring summary

On the opening series of the game, the Tiger-Cats put together an 11-play, 57-yard drive but only came away with a field goal after receiver Tim White dropped a short touchdown pass from Bo Levi Mitchell.

After a two-and-out by each team, the Riders responded with a touchdown drive as Harris connected with Jerreth Sterns for a 29-yard gain before hitting Schaffer-Baker for a 24-yard score to put the Riders up 7-3 with the convert.

Early in the second quarter, Hamilton went on top 10-7 as Mitchell found a wide-open Steven Dunbar Jr. for a 60-yard touchdown after blown coverage by the Riders.

After a pair of punts by each team, the Ti-Cats increased their lead as Mitchell found Kiondre Smith over the middle for a 38-yard touchdown to make it 17-7 Hamilton with the convert.

The Tiger-Cats added a field goal on their next series to make it 20-7 Hamilton at the half.

After Lauther made a 49-yard field goal for the Riders on their first drive of the second half to make it a 10-point game, Harris marched Saskatchewan 62 yards down the field on their next possession, before short-yardage quarterback Shea Patterson plunged into the end zone for the touchdown to make it 20-17.

In the third quarter, after defensive lineman Anthony Lanier II knocked the ball loose from Hamilton running back James Butler, linebacker C.J. Reavis recovered the loose ball to give Saskatchewan the ball at the Ti-Cats’ 35-yard line.

However, Reavis’ helmet fell off seconds before the recovery and he was called for illegal participation, meaning Hamilton retained the ball.

And the Ti-Cats made the most of the fortunate call as Mitchell hit Smith on a 58-yard flea flicker before connecting with Shemar Bridges in the end zone for the 16-yard touchdown to put Hamilton up 27-17.

Saskatchewan responded with a 46-yard field goal by Lauther to make it 27-20 before Hamilton scored a 41-yard field goal to make it 30-20 with five minutes left.

Lauther connected on a 34-yard field goal to make it 30-23 before Saskatchewan’s defence forced a two-and-out, giving Harris and the offence the ball at their own 22-yard line with 2:11 to go.

Harris connected on big plays to Sterns and Schaffer-Baker, who had 109 yards on the day, to get the Riders inside the red zone before going back to Schaffer-Baker for a 10-yard touchdown strike with 43 seconds on the clock. With the convert, the game was tied 30-30.

On Hamilton’s first offensive play after that, Mitchell — who threw for 380 yards in the game — was intercepted by Avery after the ball bounced off the hands of White and into the hands of Avery, giving the Riders the ball at the Ti-Cats’ 37-yard line.

After two quick runs by Saskatchewan, Lauther came in to make a game-winning 43-yard field goal to give the Riders the 33-30 victory.

“Keeping them out of field goal range was the biggest thing,” Avery said of the defensive mindset prior to the interception. “Once we got out there it was just all about going to execute.

“Through the game, we were having some mishaps in execution but it was time to buckle down and do your job and that’s all guys did and we came up victorious.”

Penalty problems

Saskatchewan’s Mario Alford had a 52-yard punt return taken off the board after a holding call in the first quarter. The Riders were also called for holding on Alford’s second punt return.

In Week 1, Alford had a touchdown called back due to a holding penalty.

In the second quarter, defensive lineman Christian Albright took a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on punt return coverage, while linebacker Melique Straker was issued the same infraction minutes later also on punt coverage.

In the fourth quarter, Saskatchewan had a first down taken off the board due to an illegal block penalty.

In total, the Riders took 11 penalties for 115 yards.

“We’re going to have a look at them and see how many of them were preventable,” said Mace. “Some are going to happen just speed of the game.

“Consequences last week were guys having to do specific things in the gym or some people might have their rotation moved on them. We’re going to have to look close at what those were and we’re going to have to attack it.

“It’s no hard feelings, it’s just hard work and there’s only one way to figure it out.”

Running nowhere

Saskatchewan couldn’t get the run game going on Sunday as A.J. Ouellette gained just three yards on four carries in the first half.

On Saskatchewan’s first drive of the game, left tackle Trevor Reid missed a big block on the drive that led to a two-and-out.

In the second half, Ouellette had seven carries for 29 yards to give him 32 on the night. He finished with four receptions for 27 yards.

Meanwhile on the other side of the ball, the Riders held Butler to just 27 yards on 12 carries.

“That was the biggest thing all week preparing for the game, our emphasis was to stop the run,” said Avery. “And I think as linebackers we did a good job of that.”

Injury troubles

If the penalties and the lack of run game weren’t enough, the Riders also dealt with injury problems as receiver Shawn Bane Jr. didn’t play in the second half after taking a hit late in the first half.

Bane — who had 125 receiving yards and three touchdowns in Week 1 — led the team with four catches and 50 yards in the first half before his departure. Rookie Ajou Ajou — who was making his CFL debut — entered the game for Saskatchewan and finished with five catches for 41 yards.

In the second half, left guard Philip Blake went down with an injury to his right leg/knee and had to be helped off the field. Ryan Sceviour played the remainder of the game for Blake.

Late in the fourth quarter, Sterns went up to make a first-down catch before he was hit in the left knee by a Ti-Cats defender. Sterns — who led the Riders with 112 receiving yards in the game — limped off the field under his own power before returning a few plays later.

After the game, Mace said he doesn’t expect Bane’s injury to be long-term based on how he looked at the end of the game. Mace also said Blake’s injury appeared to be more serious but didn’t have an update after the game.

Next up

Week 3 in the CFL season features a rematch as these two teams will meet again in the second half of a home-and-home series with the Ti-Cats will make the trip to Mosaic Stadium in Regina on Sunday (5 p.m., TSN).