Saskatchewan’s Marcus Thigpen didn’t need much space to change the game.
Thigpen found a hole and went 34 yards for the touchdown with 1:29 to play as the Roughriders downed the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 18-13 on Thursday.
Lirim Hajrullahu’s fourth field goal of the night – a 39-yarder – gave Hamilton a 13-12 lead with 6:27 to go in the fourth quarter, but Saskatchewan quarterback Brandon Bridge engineered a four-play drive starting on the Roughriders 33 that was capped by Thigpen.
“It just kind of opened up front side, so I took it and the rest history,” said Thigpen.
Bridge finished 11-of-13 passing for 101 yards, while backup David Watford was 3-for-6 for 47 yards. Thigpen had 50 yards on seven carries.
Roughriders (2-2) head coach Chris Jones wasn’t afraid to change his quarterback throughout the evening as Watford made his first appearance on the Riders’ third drive of the game.
“I’m hard on (the quarterbacks),” said Jones. “We’re going to keep grinding until we figure it out.”
The Ticats (2-2) dominated the scoresheet in most of the offensive categories with 429 yards of offence compared to the Riders 298. Despite the lopsided numbers, they were unable to cross the goal line all night.
“We knew that they were a great defensive team,” said Ticats defensive lineman Ted Laurent. “Kudos to them, they had a great game plan.”
Tiger-Cats quarterback Jeremiah Masoli produced his ninth straight game with 300 or more yards passing to tie a long-standing CFL record shared by Sam Etcheverry and Kent Austin. He finished the game with 333 yards, but no touchdowns and one interception.
Brandon Banks was Masoli’s top target with seven receptions for 113 yards.
The visitors opened the scoring with an 11-yard field goal from Hajrullahu on Hamilton’s first drive of the game. Hajrullahu would attempt another field goal later in the quarter but missed leading to a rouge.
The Riders appeared to have taken the lead in the second quarter after a mad scramble by Bridge, but after another look by the command centre it was concluded that Bridge fumbled right before crossing the goal line.
Later in the quarter, defensive end Charleston Hughes forced a fumble and 57-yard recovery for a touchdown to give the Riders a 6-4 lead. The Ticats responded with another Hajrullahu field goal for a 7-6 edge at the half.
Brett Lauther added a field goal midway through the third quarter for a 9-7 lead only for Hajrullahu to respond with another field goal of his own.
The see-saw battle continued early in the fourth quarter with Lauther hitting a 41-yard field goal for a 12-10 lead.
Thigpen’s game-winning touchdown was the seventh lead change of the game.
“We did what we had to do to win the game,” said Jones. “I thought our guys did an outstanding job.”
Both teams are now on their first bye-week of the season and meet again on July 19 in Hamilton.