July 27, 2013

Willy up to task as Riders out-gun Ticats in Guelph


CFL.ca Staff

GUELPH — Drew Willy threw three touchdown passes, while Kory Sheets reached 100 yards for the fifth straight game to pace the Saskatchewan Roughriders to a 32-20 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Saturday night at a rainy Alumni Stadium in Guelph.

Replacing the injured Darian Durant to make just his third career start, Willy answered the bell in a big way with 269 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone.

Chris Getzlaf and Weston Dressler each caught second-quarter touchdown passes, while Geroy Simon had his first touchdown in a Riders uniform as Saskatchewan continues its perfect start to the season.

Seven days removed from being shutout for the first time in seven years last weekend against the Riders, the Ticats offence came out of the gate buzzing in front of the home faithful.

First, dynamic rookie running back Lindsey Lamar dashed for an 18-yard run on the first play from scrimmage, before Henry Burris made a splash on his first completion of the game with a 51-yard catch-and-run by Bakari Grant.

Related: Saskatchewan at Hamilton

» View Game Stats
» Images: SSK at HAM
» Willy ensures Riders don’t skip a beat
» Video: Simon snags his first as a Rider
» Video: Lamar gives Ticats early edge
» Video: Ellingson beats coverage for the score
» Video: Getzlaf makes ’em miss to put up six
» Video: Willy finds Dressler for third TD pass
» Preview: Saskatchewan vs. Hamilton

The Ticats’ opening drive stalled deep in Rider territory, but Luca Congi’s 16-yard field goal gave Hamilton an important 3-0 lead early in the first quarter.

Following a quick two-and-out on the Riders’ first possession, the Ticats went back to work promptly. After converting a second down play with his legs, Burris found Onrea Jones, back from injury this week, for a 30-yard gain to the Saskatchewan 17-yard-line.

This time the Ticat offence made sure to finish, as Burris hit Lamar in the middle of the field, and the running back fought through defenders at the goal line for the touchdown to put Hamilton in front 10-0.

The Roughriders capped off the first quarter on a 17-yard field goal from Chris Milo after their longest drive stalled deep in Ticat territory, making it 10-3 through 15 minutes.

Early in the second quarter the Green and White added two more points, as an accurate punt by Ricky Schmitt followed by a two-and-out forced Hamilton to concede a safety.

On the ensuing drive the Riders added more and in a big way. First, Willy found Dressler for a 24-yard completion into scoring range, before finishing the drive off on the very next play with a 30-yard over-the-shoulder touchdown pass to Simon.

It was Simon’s first score wearing Green and White, and it gave the Riders their first lead of the game, 12-10.

On the ensuing kickoff, the shifty Lamar was hit hard and stayed on the turf, forced to leave the game under the care of the medical staff.

The Ticats offence, meanwhile, hemmed deep in its own end, looked to rebound from a couple of two-and-outs with a big drive of its own. C.J. Gable, the replacement for Lamar, started it off with a key catch on second down to extend the drive.

An illegal block on Hamilton slowed progress, but wasn’t enough to stall the drive as Burris built on a 30-yard completion to Greg Ellingson with a 39-yard strike to the rookie receiver to put the ‘Cats back in the end zone, putting Hamilton back out in front 17-12.

Not to be out-done, however, was the kid making just his third CFL start on the other sideline. Willy opened the drive with consecutive completions to Simon and Getzlaf before Sheets rumbled off runs of 20 and 17 yards for his greatest burst of the game.

Model of Consistency

Kory Sheets took another positive step toward his goal of rushing for 2,000-plus yards this season, adding 140 on 25 carries against the Ticats on Saturday. Sheets now has 712 rushing yards through five games, and is on pace to rush for 2,563 yards this season.

Then Willy struck again, finding Getzlaf for an 18-yard catch-and-run, capping off a seven-play, 76-yard drive in just 2:52.

Just when you thought the 26-year-old was already having an outstanding first half, he added insult to injury for the Ticats after quickly getting the ball back in his hands.

On a second-and-long play, Willy found Simon for a 35-yard completion, before striking to Dressler for a 24-yard touchdown pass to add to the Riders’ lead. That stood to give the Roughriders a 26-17 lead at the half.

In the second half, the rainy conditions began to finally play a role as the offences slowed down and the turnovers began. Two Henry Burris fumbles led to Milo field goals, while a boot by Congi to start the third quarter cut the deficit for the Ticats to 32-20.

The Ticats would get a golden opportunity to make it a one-score game on their ensuing possession, marching all the way inside the Saskatchewan five-yard-line after Burris completed four of five passes on the drive. But a physical Rider front-seven rose to the occasion, stuffing Burris at the one-yard-line and forcing a turnover on downs.

Hamilton again threatened late, but fell short on a chance to cut into the deficit as the Riders buckled down and allowed just three points in the final 30 minutes of the game.

Sheets finished the game with 140 yards on 25 carries, asserting his dominance as the league’s leading rusher and leaving him on pace for more than 2,500 yards over the span of an 18-game season.

On the defensive side of the ball, Tearrius George deserves as much credit as anyone for the way he disrupted Burris, on the way to a three-sack performance.

Burris, meanwhile, enjoyed a bounce-back game in a losing effort for the Ticats, throwing for 395 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The Roughriders head into their bye week with a league-best 5-0 record, while the Ticats are set to travel to Edmonton in a duel with the Eskimos next weekend at Commonwealth Stadium.