Since becoming the Roughriders starting quarterback in 2009, there’s been no shortage of opinions when it comes to Darian Durant. Even though his current team now sits at 1-8 following a 33-25 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos, it’s hard to lay too much blame at the feet of number four.
Coming off his worst game – possibly ever – in a Riders uniform, Durant sent a message late in the first quarter that he wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. Needing nine yards for a first down, Durant took off running when no receiver was able to get open. At 34-years-old, no one would blame Durant for sliding when Eskimos defenders started to converge on him. Instead, Durant lowered his shoulder to fight for the extra yards needed to move the sticks. Over the course of a season, it might not seem like much, but when you consider the offence had been held out of the end zone for over 100 minutes at the time and their only first down of the game of the game at that point came via penalty, it was time for Durant to lead by example and he did.
That moment didn’t instantly turn around the game for the Riders, nor will it lead to a miraculous second half run to make the playoffs but it sends a message to his teammates. Durant isn’t giving up on this season and neither should you. It would be easy for Durant, a free agent to be, to fold his tent, do what he can to stay healthy, and wait for a new deal from the Riders or someone else in February. As we all know, that’s not in Durant’s DNA.
Like Durant, his team did show signs of life on Friday night against the Eskimos. They trailed 22-3 at the half, when it looked like we were set for a repeat of last week’s beat down in Hamilton, the Riders put 16 points in the third to trail by three as the fourth quarter began.
As has been the case most times the Riders have been in games, they just didn’t have enough to close it out and complete the comeback. Edmonton added 11 more points in the fourth to secure victory.
Durant finished the night 27-for-38 for 314 yards passing with no touchdowns but also no interceptions.
If the Riders can match Durant’s heart through the rest of the season, at the very least, they might be worth watching.
The Riders finally scored their first touchdown in 129:29 seconds in the third quarter when Durant rushed for the first of his two touchdowns on the night. Durant seemed more relieved to finally find the end zone based on the low key celebration.
We finally saw glimpses of what made Chris Jones’ defences some of the best in the league over the last number of years. Jones finally mixed in a lot more blitzes, rarely sending three or even two all night. There was even a nine man blitz that led to Mike Reilly being sacked in the end zone for a safety.
The secondary finally got an interception from someone not named Justin Cox when Ed Gainey picked off Reilly in the end zone in the second quarter. The Riders followed that up with the ever popular two and out. The Eskimos definitely exposed the Riders front-seven when it comes to run defence as Shakir Bell went off for 138 yards on the ground. Running hasn’t been that popular in the CFL this year, but this performance might lead to more teams trying against the Riders.
Naaman Roosevelt continues his bid to be the Riders nominee for Most Outstanding Player. The Buffalo native added another 11 catches for 175 on Friday night. Roosevelt is now on the pace for more than 1,600 yards. However, as TSN’s Glen Suitor pointed out nicely during the team’s last play of the game on offence, someone else needs to step up so Roosevelt can avoid double and even triple teams in key situations.
Brandon Bridge got tongues wagging in Saskatchewan in the third quarter when he completed a long 43 yard pass to Roosevelt, helping set up the team’s first touchdown of the game. While it’s the smallest of sample sizes, so there’s nothing to get excited about, it’s always good to see a young pivot step up and make a big play.
Hard to claim there’s a conspiracy against the Riders after this game as the Green and White did get a couple of cheap calls go their way, most notably a roughing the passer call on linebacker J.C. Sherritt and a facemask call late in the game on Bell. Hopefully this chatter (at least those taking it seriously, the jokes are fine) goes away sooner rather than later.