The Saskatchewan Roughriders rode the foot of Luca Congi and the arm and legs of Kerry Joseph to a 26-24 victory over the Calgary Stampeders in Sunday's Canadian Football League West semifinal.
Congi matched a season high and tied a league playoff record with six field goals, while Joseph passed for 395 yards and added another 108 on the ground in the first playoff game in Regina in 19 years.
"It was a big win for us. It's never easy in the playoffs," Joseph told the CFL on CBCfollowing Saskatchewan's first home playoff win in 31 years."We played hard as a team. We thank the fans for the noise."
The Roughriders will meet the hometown B.C. Lions in the division final on Nov. 18 (CBC, 4:30 p.m. ET) for the third time in four years.
In Sunday's East semifinal, Troy Westwood kicked a game-winning 20-yard field-gold with time expiring to lift Winnipeg over Montreal 24-22. The Blue Bombers will face the Argonauts in Toronto next Sunday (CBC, 12:30 p.m. ET) to determine the East representativefor the 95th Grey Cup on Nov. 25 in Toronto.
The Stampeders made a late charge in Saskatchewan as quarterback Henry Burris found wide receiver Ken-Yon Rambo in the end zone on a 16-yard pass with 53 seconds left in the fourth quarter to make it a two-point game.
"Hats off to Calgary. Calgary showed up to play today," said Roughriders running back Corey Holmes, whohauled in nine passes for 88 yards while battling a sore shoulder.
"I couldn't come out of the game. I couldn't let my teammates down. This is what I prepared for all last off-season, to give us a chance at the Grey Cup."
Penalties prove costly
On the ensuing kickoff, the Stampeders recovered the ball near midfield, but the CFL's most penalized team this season was offside on the play and Sandro DeAngelis was forced to kick a second time.
Riders wide receiver Kahlil Hill made no mistake and smothered the ball to allow Joseph to run out the clock and send Calgary to its third straight West semifinal loss.
Saskatchewan's pass rush came up huge early in the fourth quarter,pressuring Burris and keeping the Calgary offence out of scoring range.
Prior to its late comeback attempt, Calgary kept the game close on three big plays: Trey Young's 113-yard interception return for a touchdown, Rambo's 39-yard TD reception and Marc Calixte's blocked punt that set up a DeAngelis field goal.
"We gotta make more touchdowns. We have to find a way to get the ball in the end zone," said Joseph, the West's nominee for league most outstanding player. "We could have opened this game a lot earlier but we didn't. But as long as we have one point more than them we'll take it."
The Stampeders closed to within 19-14 in the third quarter and had momentum until they failed to convert on third-and-one from their own 37-yard line. Calgary's third turnover of the game turned into a 37-yard Congi field goal.
Saskatchewan never looked back and got a huge defensive stand later in the quarter after Calixte's punt block gave the Stampeders the ball inside the Riders' 20.
On second and inches, linebacker Reggie Hunt sacked Burris for a loss of six yards, forcing DeAngelis to boot an 18-yard field goal to make it 22-17.
Burris, who bombed miserably in his two previous West semifinal appearances, completed 20 of 36 passes for 323 yards, but had just 95 yards through the air in the first half.
"It was about us coming out and getting a good start," Burris said. "We didn't do it."
Fast start for Flick
The Roughriders jumped on Calgary's defence on the first play of the game, with Joseph hooking up with wide receiver D.J. Flick on a 62-yard pass-and-run play for a touchdown at the 29-second mark.
Flick was a favourite target of Joseph's against Calgary during the season, racking up 347 reception yards and two touchdowns on 18 catches in three games. He had four catches for 108 yards on Sunday.
The Roughriders made it 13-0 on a pair of Congi field goals from 47 and 49 yards, the first coming off a Burris fumble.
Losing the battles in territorial play and time of possession, Calgary silenced a sold out crowd of 28,800 at Mosaic Stadium when slotback Andy Fantuz couldn't handle a Joseph pass in the end zone and watched the ball deflect into the hands of Dwaine Carpenter.
The defensive back ran to the Riders 40-yard line before he lateralled the ball to Young, who ran untouched to the end zone for a 113-yard interception return — the third-longest in CFL playoff history — to make it 13-7.
Congi also kicked six field goals the last time these teams met on Oct. 8, a 33-21 Saskatchewan victory.
"I've got to perform my role on the teamto help us win and Kerry [Joseph]did a great job putting us in position to put points on the board," said Congi.
Now it's off to B.C. Place Stadium, where the Lions won seven of nine games this season en route to a first-place finish in the West with a franchise-best 14-3-1 record.
"We're going to be ready. We know what happened last year," said Joseph.
In the 2006 West final, B.C. quarterback Dave Dickenson shredded Saskatchewan's defence for 274 yards and the Lions defence sacked Joseph five times on the way to a 45-18 rout.