Durant, Cates lead Riders over Bombers
Saskatchewan back on track heading for rematch
Darian Durant showed himself to be one tough son of a gun on Sunday afternoon.
The Saskatchewan quarterback was officially sacked three times but spent all day bobbing and weaving and rolling out of trouble as he led the Roughriders to a 27-23 victory over the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Durant had been under a lot of pressure from the local press and fans for some subpar performances in recent weeks (seven interceptions in three games) but he came through this time as the Riders improved to 6-3, solidly second in the CFL's West division.
Overall, his 23-of-35 for 301 yards were enough, though many of those came with Blue Bomber defenders breathing down his green-and-white No. 4 sweater.
"It was just time for us to make plays," Durant said afterward. "We've been messing around for too long now. Starting this game is where we really need to pick up our play and get ready for the stretch run and, hopefully, we can build on that."
Running back Wes Cates scored twice for the Riders from close in, and Durant added the winner by hustling in from 11 yards after leading his club on a long drive in the late going.
Winnipeg's Fred Reid had scored for the battling Bombers, bringing them to within a point at 18-17 late in the third and suddenly it looked as though the now 2-7 visitors might pull off an upset.
But Durant had an answer a few possessions later — going 91 yards in eight plays, relying on his bevy of Canadian receivers for much of it and killing more than four minutes of precious time.
He would finish it himself by rolling to his right and racing for the corner flag.
A convert and then a long single by Eddie Johnson on the kickoff made the gap nine points, leaving the Bombers looking for two scores with six minutes left.
Winnipeg got one on a touchdown with 10 seconds to go (Steven Jyles to Adarius Bowman, who was terrific), blew the convert, picked up a penalty on the attempted onside kick and then watched the Riders regain possession by batting the next try out of bounds.
Buck Pierce made his sixth start of the season at quarterback for the Bombers and he has still only completed two of them.
This time, however, he almost got all the way through, going out in the closing seconds with what looked like an elbow or shoulder injury when knocked down in the end zone.
Pierce was 21-of-29 for 243 yards on the day, leading a number of drives that stalled and wound up as Justin Palardy field goals (he had three of them, missing another) rather than majors.
The two teams play again next week in the annual Banjo Bowl at Winnipeg.
What it means
Saskatchewan was upset by Edmonton last week but is back in the win column at 6-3, temporarily two points behind the West-leading Calgary Stampeders. The Stamps play Monday against the Eskimos.
Winnipeg falls to 2-7 and, with wins over the last two weeks by B.C. and Edmonton, now finds itself tied for a chance down the road at a crossover playoff spot by having a better record in the East than the third-place team in the West.
Saskatchewan was on the Winnipeg goal-line in the second quarter and sent in the big boys — three defensive linemen — as an added boost. On the snap, the beef went right and Cates countered left to walk into the end zone.
In the third quarter, the Riders were on the Winnipeg goal-line and again sent in the big boys. Apparently fearing some kind of trick, when the beef went right the Bombers went with them again and Cates countered left to score. Same play.
What they said
"We're much more comfortable with each other," said Saskatchewan defender Barrin Simpson. "We're much more comfortable executing our scheme and what it's like for us to do with multiple defence. We do a lot of things, so it took us a few games to get comfortable with it, but we're good to go now."
"I felt [the players'] effort was awesome and I don't want them walking out of that room saying they could have done more. I know they will but they played their tail off," said Winnipeg head coach Paul LaPolice.
Passing: Buck Pierce (Wpg) 21-of-29, 243 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception; Darian Durant (Sask) 23-of-35, 301 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception.
Receiving: Adarius Bowman (WPG) 8 catches, 133 yards, 1 TD; Weston Dressler (Sask) 5 catches, 77 yards, 0 TD. Barrin Simpson (Wpg) 9 tackles, 1 fumble recovery.
Luca Congi's first-quarter field goal for Saskatchewan moved him past Jack Abendschen and into third place on the Roughriders' all-time list with 160.
The Riders' James Patrick picked up his fourth interception in two games, this one in the first half, but he was injured shortly afterward. No immediate word on his condition.
With files from The Canadian Press