REGINA – Andy Fantuz was back in Mosaic Stadium as a visitor but it was another former Saskatchewan Roughrider that stole the show in the second half as Henry Burris led a fourth quarter comeback for a 35-34 win.
Burris simply took over the game in the fourth quarter, engineering three straight touchdown drives to erase Saskatchewan’s late lead. It was the second straight week that the Riders gave up a late lead but also the second week that Burris played lights out when he needed to.
After a near-perfect performance versus Montreal last week, Burris finished with 355 yards and 4 touchdowns on 28 of 38 passing.
The former Saskatchewan superstar wideout, Fantuz, made his first appearance in Regina since signing with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as a free agent in the off-season.
The Riders wasted little time getting the sold-out Mosaic crowd fired up, opening the scoring on their first possession as Darian Durant engineered an impressive 9-play, 60-yard drive, completed by a Kory Sheets 1-yard lunge to take an early 7-0 lead.
Aiding Durant’s cause was a 36-yard return by CB Tristan Jackson on the game’s opening kickoff.
Hamilton would help simmer down the raucous crowd early however, as they led a 10-play drive that set up a 32-yard Luca Congi field goal.
Successful opening possessions for both teams led to points but the defences began to tighten up midway through the first quarter with Hamilton DB Bo Smith making the first move, picking off a Durant pass at his own 36 yardline. It was only the Rider pivot’s second turnover of the season.
Following a punt single by rookie K Josh Bartel, Durant would lead a 65-yard drive ending in a 47-yard Chris Milo field goal to extend the home team’s lead to 10-4.
Congi would counter with a 27-yarder on the next drive to pull the ‘Cats back to within three.
Right back the Riders would come as Milo hit a chip-shot field goal to put his team up 13-7.
Fantuz finished the first half with 2 receptions for 39 yards including a 23-yard gain.
On the other side of the ball, Jackson, who left in the first quarter with an injury, did not return when the second half kicked off. Sophomore SB Jock Sanders took over punt and kickoff return duty.
Spreading the ball around
Sam Giguere was one of eight Ticats receivers that made receptions off the arm of Henry Burris who finished with 355 yards and 4 touchdowns on 28 of 38 passing.
After the Riders gained a single point off a missed 39-yard Milo field goal attempt, Henry Burris and the Ticats offence recorded their first major when the veteran pivot found speedster Chris Williams in the flat who made one defender miss and bolted to the endzone for a 21-yard touchdown to notch the game at 14.
The tie would last only one play from scrimmage however, as rookie WR Taj Smith recorded his first career reception in style, hauling in a Durant pass and racing 74 yards down the sidelines for a touchdown to re-gain the seven-point lead.
The Riders would force a single point on the ensuing kickoff and take a 22-14 lead with five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
With momentum in their favour and not willing to take any chances, the Riders would forgo a 3rd and 1 gamble on the next drive inside the Hamilton 30 yard line and kick a 33-yard field goal to go up by 11.
The Saskatchewan defence would force Henry Burris to a two-and-out and the second-half pile up of points would continue as Durant found Sanders for a 20-yard major to go up 32-14.
Last week, the Riders let one slip away from them in the fourth quarter against the Calgary Stampeders and as the final frame began, their habits from a week ago started to creep back in as the Ticats made a late surge, scoring two touchdowns in a span of 2:33.
First, Burris found WR Onrea Jones open for a 10-yard major, set up by a big 52-yard Sam Giguere reception.
The ‘Cats would force a turnover shortly there after when veteran LB Rey Williams pounced on a Durant fumble. Two plays later, Burris found SB Dave Stala in the endzone for a 10-yard touchdown to cut the Riders’ lead to 33-28.
Along with seizing momentum, Burris also passed Hall of Fame quarterback Doug Flutie on the CFL’s all-time touchdowns list with 270 to place him in sixth place.
He wasn’t done there – one more possession, one more touchdown as he led an impressive drive resulting in Jones’ second score of the game and giving the Ticats their first lead of the game, 35-33.
The Riders would have one more shot to re-take the lead with just over a minute left but Milo sailed a field goal attempt wide and a single point would be all he could muster as Burris and the ‘Cats hung onto the 35-34 win.