Jonathon Jennings wasn’t interested in being a spectator for the second straight game.
Relatively ineffective and eventually pulled in the second half last week in a home loss to the Toronto Argonauts, Jennings exploded for one his best CFL showings in a 40-27 comeback victory on Saturday over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Jennings threw three second-half touchdowns and rallied the Lions from a 13-point halftime deficit, finishing the game 25-of-40 passing for 429 yards.
“Things were clicking for us, finally,” Jennings said. “It was good to see the offence get on the same page. We came out in the second half and did some good things.”
The second-year player also had 30 rushing yards and one touchdown on the ground in a game that saw B.C. improve to 3-1 and grab a share of first place in the West Division.
The Riders, meanwhile, are winless at 0-3. And with the Ottawa Redblacks coming to town on Friday, numerous questions remain as to who will be in the lineup for that contest.
Franchise quarterback Darian Durant suffered what appeared to be a leg injury early in the second quarter on Saturday and didn’t return in the second half. Durant was hit low and late by Lions defensive lineman Mic’hael Brooks earlier in the quarter. Durant was seen on crutches on the sideline late in the third quarter and it was later revealed that X-rays on his left foot were negative.
“We don’t know exactly what it is, so I’m hoping (Sunday) morning that the prognosis is good,” Riders coach and general manager Chris Jones said.
It’s the third time in as many years that Durant has suffered an injury that has forced him to leave a game. He suffered a torn ligament in his right elbow midway through the 2014 campaign and ruptured his Achilles tendon on his left foot in the first game of the 2015 season.
Durant’s last play on Saturday was a 31-yard touchdown pass to Rob Bagg that gave the Riders a 10-7 lead. Mitchell Gale replaced Durant and played the remainder of the game.
Saskatchewan led 23-10 at the half thanks to touchdown receptions from Bagg and Nic Demski and three field goals from Tyler Crapigna.
But the Lions got rolling late in the third quarter when Jennings hooked up with left tackle Jovan Olafioye on an eight-yard touchdown pass and catch on a trick play. On the next B.C. possession, Jennings dropped in a pretty 30-yard pass to Nick Moore, a score that put the Lions ahead 26-23 early in the fourth quarter.
Crapigna tied it up with his fourth field goal, but the Lions again had an answer. Jennings found a wide-open Shawn Gore for a 59-yard touchdown strike to put B.C. ahead for good with eight minutes remaining in the game. Anthony Allen added a touchdown along the ground to put it out of reach.
“We just had to take a deep breath and just having to anchor down and make some plays,” said Lions receiver Manny Arceneaux, who had six catches for 83 yards. “It took every guy to look one another in the eye _ quarterback, running back, receivers, linemen, everyone _ and say to each other that we have to get the job done.
“The coaches just sat back and let us play. That’s the trust that we have to earn. Let us be men, and they let us play tonight. They let us sort it out.”
In addition to Durant going down, the Riders also lost all-star left guard Brandon LaBatte with an undisclosed injury, as well as receiver Shamawd Chambers and cornerback Justin Cox. It is unknown whether any of those players will suit up next week.
“Injuries weren’t why we lost the football game,” Jones said. “It was a tough night? but we lost because we took too many penalties on special teams in the second half and then we had two coverage busts for touchdowns. Those were just the glaring mistakes.”
Gale, in relief of Durant, completed 17-of-30 pass attempts for 247 yards and one touchdown. Naaman Roosevelt was his favourite target, hauling in eight passes for 132 yards.