REGINA – Weston Dressler spearheaded a remarkable comeback at Mosaic as the Saskatchewan Roughriders outlasted the Ottawa REDBLACKS in a 35-32 overtime win.
Dressler had a pair of touchdowns — one punt return and one receiving — and also hauled in a two-point conversion to send the game to overtime with just over 40 seconds left.
A frantic overtime frame saw just about everything you could in a CFL game, including a kick-out play, blocked field goal and heroic boot by Chris Milo to salt away the vicotory for Saskatchewan.
Looking for some traction and get back into the playoff picture in the East, the REDBLACKS generated a solid opening drive with two first down pass completions to Marcus Henry and a 25-yard run up the gut by new starting running back DJ Harper. However a sack by John Chick – his 13th of the season – put Ottawa out of field goal range.
They would make no mistake on their next drive though, as QB Henry Burris would get a stop from his defence and good field position. He then ran an unusual play that saw him fake a swing pass to the right of the formation and crossover to the other side of the field to find offensive lineman Alexander Krausnick who was lined up at tight end. The 290-pound big-man lumbered 31 yards, running over Tyron Brackenridge in the process for a REDBLACKS first down.
The rumble set up an 8-yard Burris touchdown run on the next play and gave Ottawa an early 7-0 first quarter lead.
On the other sideline, Tino Sunseri was making his second consecutive start as the new starting quarterback in Riderville following a season-ending injury planted Darian Durant.
Sunseri’s third possession saw him lead the Riders to a field goal from 40-yards off the foot of Chris Milo but couldn’t muster anything else in the opening frame.
As the second quarter got going, so did the REDBLACKS offence. Burris connected with Carleton Mitchell for a 30-yard gain before hitting Wallace Miles and DJ Harper for first downs. A fake field goal in the red zone gave Ottawa a fresh set of downs before Burris scrambled on second-and-long to find Miles on a 12-yard touchdown pass to expand the lead to 15-3 with just over six minutes left in the quarter.
The Roughriders got a pair of stops and with 2:47 got back into the game with one special teams play. Brett Maher punted the ball back to Saskatchewan, fielded by Dressler. Dressler split the wedge and bounced outside behind an army of blockers, racing 78 yards for the return touchdown.
The major, which pulled Saskatchewan to within five, was Dressler’s second punt return major in three weeks. He took a punt back 75 yards against the Blue Bombers in the Banjo Bowl.
Burris completed the drive by spotting Miles again in the end zone for 8 yards to take a 22-10 lead at halftime. As productive as the Burris and the ‘O’ was, the REDBLACKS defence was lights out in the first half, holding Sunseri to just 26 yards passing.
At halftime, Saskatchewan head coach Corey Chamblin challenged his football club, demanding they respond in the second half. They did just that right out of the gate.
First, the defence came up with a turnover when Tyron Brackenridge forced a fumble at the Ottawa 38-yard line giving Sunseri ideal field position to start the half. Sunderi made a pair of completions before hitting Will Ford on a misdirection – the Riders tailback was wide open on the weak side of the formation and walked into the end zone for the 18-yard touchdown.
Now only up by five, Burris was looked to as the veteran leader to answer the Riders score and he did just that. The gunslinger calmly led a 7-play, 66-yard drive, finished off by a 19-yard catch-and-run touchdown to running back Jeremiah Johnson to increase the lead to 29-17 with 7:28 remaining in the third.
Johnson was acquired earlier in the week to give Ottawa some depth at tailback after Chevon Walker went down with an injury. The former Argonaut, Johnson, came into the game to spell Harper who hobbled off the field a play before.
The Riders defence then hunkered down getting stops on consecutive series before Dressler struck again. The diminutive receiver took a short pass from Sunseri, broke a pair of tackles, spun off another and powered through one more would-be tackler for a 60-yard touchdown which could stand as the play of the year.
His second touchdown of the afternoon cut the Ottawa lead to 29-24 with just over 13 minutes remaining.
It seemed like after Dressler’s major, Sunseri started to settle in. Although most of the fourth quarter went without a major score, Sunseri sustained drives and put together first downs – something he wasn’t doing in the first quarter.
A drive with just over four minutes left stalled however, and the REDBLACKS looked to Johnson to set up their next score.
Johnson took a handoff and bounced outside for a 29-yard romp to put Maher in position to knock a 24-yard field goal through to extend the Ottawa lead to 32-24 with 1:53 remaining.
Sunseri was given one more shot to lead the comeback with 1:24 on the clock. On second-and-ten, Sunseri found Chris Getzlaf for 15 yards and then looked deep to Taj Smith. The pass fell incomplete but REDBLACKS DB Eddie Elder was called for pass interference, placing the ball at the Ottawa 1 yard line.
Running back Anthony Allen ran in a touchdown from there to the Riders to within two and then Sunseri found Dressler in the back of the endzone for the two-point conversion to tie the game up at 32 with 49 seconds remaining in the game.
Regulation solved nothing and the two teams headed to the first overtime of 2014 tied at 32.
As overtime began, Ottawa scrimmaged first in the mini-game format from the 35 yard line. Burris threw an errant pass on the first play and had it picked off by DB Marshay Green.
The Riders took over on the ensuing possession and had a chance to kick the game winning field goal. A pair of handoffs to Allen set up a 24-yard attempt by Milo. What would have been an easy make set up one of the more quirky plays you will see in the CFL.
The snap was bad and Dressler didn’t get the hold down – the kick sailed wide and the kick-out play was on. Smith fielded the wide kick and booted it out of the end zone. The Riders DB Weldon Brown hauled in the kick and sent it back but the play was blown dead inside the Ottawa five yard line.