REGINA — Tristan Jackson returned a Paul McCallum missed field goal 129-yards for a touchdown, as the Roughriders took over sole possession of first place in the West Division, beating the BC Lions 23-20 at Mosaic Stadium.
Prior to today’s game, the Roughriders announced that they will begin construction on a new open-air stadium in 2013 that will open in time for the 2017 season.
Through two weeks this season, the Roughriders’ success has stemmed from the strong play of its defence. The unit showed its strength on their first appearance, limiting the Lions offence to a 38-yard field goal by Paul McCallum.
It was the 26th consecutive drive the Riders defence prevented the opposition from scoring a touchdown.
However, after the two teams exchanged field goals, thanks to 38 and 32 yard connections from Paul McCallum and Chris Milo respectively, the Riders’ tough defensive shell finally cracked.
Lulay completed his longest passing play of the season, finding Johnson for a 66-yard touchdown, giving the Lions a 10-3 lead.
The major was Johnson’s first since the 99th Grey Cup, when he hauled in a very similar 66-yard grab.
After Tim Brown returned a missed Milo field goal attempt to his own 10-yard line, the Lions went two-and-out, handing the Riders excellent field position for their next possession.
Milo would avenge his prior miss, connecting from 38 yards out to bring the Riders within four of BC’s lead.
With less than 10 minutes remaining in the first half, the Riders defence showed why it has been among the league’s best.
Sophomore safety Craig Butler would intercept Lulay, returning it 19 yards to the Lions’ 32-yard line.
Two plays later, it appeared as though the Riders had taken the lead, with Durant finding Weston Dressler for a touchdown.
However, Lions head coach Mike Benevides challenged the catch, prompting the CFL Command Centre to overrule the call.
Because of a forward pass interference penalty on the same play, the Riders would continue the drive from the BC one-yard line.
Two plays later, Sheets would dive above the line, giving the Roughriders a 13-10 lead.
However, the Lions would eventually tie the game up on a last-minute drive before the half would end. Lulay orchestrated an impressive eight-play, 77-yard drive that was capped off by a 30-yard McCallum field goal as time expired.
The second half kicked off with both teams unable to produce a first down, as the defences continued their strong play.
BC was primed to take the lead with 7:40 remaining in the third quarter, with McCallum facing a 44-yard field goal attempt. However, the 41-year old reigning Most Outstanding Canadian missed the try, allowing Jackson to return it 60 yards to the Lions 45-yard line.
While the Riders weren’t able to find the endzone, despite the favourable field position, they were able to jump out in front with the lead, thanks to a 38-yard field goal by Milo.
With the fourth quarter barely underway, McCallum was given the opportunity to redeem himself, facing a 40-yard field goal.
However, McCallum would miss for the second time in the game, paving the way for Jackson to once again bring it out of the endzone.
This time, McCallum’s miss would prove to be extremely costly, as Jackson returned it 129 yards for a touchdown, giving the Riders a 23-13 lead.
Jackson’s touchdown was the first kick return for a score at Mosaic Stadium in five years.
With just over six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Lions took over on their own 25-yard line, looking to close the gap on a 10-point Rider lead.
On the drive’s opening play, Lulay would help his own cause, taking off for a 43-yard run into Saskatchewan territory. After Andrew Harris got the Lions inside the 20-yard line with an 11-yard run, Lulay would find sophomore receiver Marco Iannuzzi for a touchdown, bringing the Lions within three.
After Milo missed a 40-yard attempt, the Lions would take over inside their own 10-yard line with less than one-minute remaining in the game thanks to a short return by Brown.
However, Lulay was unable to cross mid-field, handing both the ball and the victory over to the Roughriders.