REGINA — The Saskatchewan Roughriders put together a late game-winning drive to beat the Ottawa REDBLACKS 26-24 on Sunday at Mosaic Stadium.
After seeing the REDBLACKS take a late 24-23 lead late in the fourth quarter, the Roughriders got a long return from Mario Alford and quarterback Mason Fine moved the ball within Ottawa’s territory for the game-winning field goal by kicker Brett Lauther.
Fine was solid all evening and completed 23 of 37 passes for 296 yards and a touchdown, including a 42-yard major to wide receiver Shawn Bane Jr. Coming off back-to-back 10-reception performances, the receiver finished with six catches for 88 yards and a score in the winning effort for the 4-4 Roughriders.
Running back Jamal Morrow also added a major of his own for the only touchdown of the first half.
Saskatchewan’s defence also delivered another stellar performance for the home team, finishing with six sacks on quarterback Dustin Crum, including three by defensive lineman Anthony Lanier.
Crum finished 16-of-20 for 170 yards as Ottawa dropped their second straight to move to 3-5.
Kicker Lewis Ward came into the game with a streak of 16-consecutive field goals made but ended up missing his first one before making five other kicks.
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The game started with Ward missing his first kick in 17 tries and the REDBLACKS opening the score with the rouge.
Fine’s first drive of the afternoon was a successful one. Saskatchewan’s pivot moved the chains through the air with Jerreth Sterns and Jake Wieneke. It appeared as it would end in a field goal attempt though as the Riders lined up in position to kick it on third-and-two, but a pre-snap motion to a run formation with backup Jake Dolegala drew Ottawa offside and renewed the set of downs. That was the final jolt the Green and White needed as in the very next play Morrow forced his way into the end zone for the first touchdown of the game, 7-1.
Ward redeemed himself in the next drive for Ottawa, splitting the uprights for a 51-yard field goal to make it 7-4.
Returner Mario Alford fumbled on a return at his own 18-yard line and the REDBLACKS started a drive in the second quarter in position to take the lead. Saskatchewan’s defence raised the wall though and kept Ottawa to a field goal attempt once more, highlighted by a sack by Anthony Lanier II on Crum that galvanized the fans at Mosaic Stadium. Ward knocked it in for a 7-7 tie.
Lauther added his first field goal of the game to retake a 10-7 lead for the Riders with 10:13 to go in the second quarter.
Rookie Lake Korte-Moore got to Crum with under three minutes left in the first half for a sack that ended a promising drive for the visitors. Punter Richie Leone added a single to make it 10-8.
The Riders put together another scoring drive late in the second quarter, but couldn’t quite get into the end zone and had to settle for another make by Lauther to go up 13-8 just before half.
Saskatchewan started the second half by adding points to the board again. Bane Jr. caught a hard one in traffic to move the ball across midfield before catching another one in stride to score the game’s second touchdown on a perfectly placed pass from Fine that made it 20-8.
A fumbled exchange between Fine and Morrow gave Ottawa life in the third quarter but once more the defence in green did not allow a single first down. Ward made it 20-11 with his third field goal of the game.
Saskatchewan’s pivot bounced back from the turnover with another well-placed pass to the outside, this time to receiver Samuel Emilus for a 37-yard gain to set up first-and-10 from Ottawa’s 11. The drive stalled after that and the Riders had to settle for a field goal to push the lead to 23-11.
The visitors got a nice return from Tobias Harris all the way to the 27-yard line but once more had to settle for three points from Ward after being denied by an inspired Roughriders’ defence.
Speaking of defence, the REDBLACKS also got a boost from theirs when Austrian defender Thomas Schaffer forced a fumble on a short-yardage attempt by Dolegala and Douglas Coleman II returned it for a touchdown to cut into the lead and make it 23-21 in fourth quarter.
Crum and the REDBLACKS were marching to take the lead later in the quarter when the defence saved the day once more for the hosts. On third-and-one backup Tyrrell Pigrome attempted to jump for a first down and was met with a wall of green for a crucial turnover on downs.
Another turnover on downs – this time by Ottawa – turned the tide of the game once more. The Riders tried sneaking up over the middle on third and inches but were stopped by the visitors’ defence who turned it into a go-ahead field goal with a little more than a minute left.
That was enough time for the home team, who got a long return from Alford and parlayed it into a game-winning 54-yard field goal by Lauther.
The Riders now travel to Montreal to face the Alouettes on Friday, Aug. 11, while the REDBLACKS stay on the road to face the Argonauts in Toronto on Aug. 13 in Week 10 action.