Ugly don’t matter when you’re 1-10: Riders get it done vs. Esks

It was hardly a work of art, but for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Rider Nation, that doesn’t matter right now.

For much of the game, the Riders dealt many of the same issues they’ve been dealing with all season. An offence that could barely string together a few first downs, let alone find the end zone. A defence, while improving, that was still giving up too many big plays. The penalties, oh boy the penalties, by the start of the fourth quarter the Riders had more penalty yards than passing yards. In the end though, it didn’t matter. As they say, they don’t ask how, just how many, and the Riders had more than the Eskimos when all was said and done as the Riders beat the Eskimos 26-23 in overtime.

It was ugly, but the fact is getting ugly might give the Riders their best chance to win football games right now. Last week against the Bombers the Riders didn’t let the Bombers get the offence going. It didn’t pay off but the blueprint seems to have been written for this team now. Keep it close, don’t take too many risks, don’t get into a shootout, and maybe you’ll be able to pull it off. On a sunny, but very windy afternoon at Mosaic Stadium, the home team played another ugly game and this time it worked.

The offence went over 60 minutes of game time, for the third time this year, without scoring touchdown before they finally found the end zone with around two and a half minutes to go in the game. Before that, the defence and special teams did enough to keep the Riders in this game and give them a chance. It looked like overtime wasn’t even going to be needed when Justin Cox, who had an ugly game himself, picked off Mike Reilly with a minute to go around mid-field. Even then, the Riders ugly side showed again as they ended up going backwards and had to punt rather than kicking a field goal for the win.

It seemed the Riders were destined to find another ugly way to lose. Instead, the defence forced a field goal in the first half of overtime and Durant walked it off himself in the second securing the win.

It was ugly, it was dramatic, it was a win and for a rebuilding team and a fan base craving some good news, that’s all that matters.

Other thoughts

That win had to feel good for Durant. The team’s franchise quarterback hasn’t finished a game in victory since the Labour Day Classic in 2014. Because of that, it’s fitting that Durant, still the team’s heart and soul, ran it in for the game winning score. It wasn’t Durant’s best game of the year, he didn’t even pass for 200 yards, but like his team, he scrapped and found a way to get it done when it mattered the most. Durant added another 61 yards on the ground himself.

Offensive coordinator Stephen MacAdoo must have finally found the running game section of his playbook. Curtis Steele returned from injury rushing 13 times for 87 yards. That’s a season high for any Rider running back. With the offence being as stagnant as it was for much of the day, Steele’s yards chewed up enough clock to give the defence enough of a rest.

Since the CFL did away with the offensive/defensive/special teams players of the week it will be tough for either guy to get a nod but veterans Ed Gainey and Josh Bartel were key players in the win. Gainey was glued to Derrel Walker most of the day and the Eskimos star receiver finished the day with only 44 yards. Gainey also stole the ball from Adarius Bowman in the second quarter, scoring a touchdown to give the Riders a 9-6 lead at the time. Bartel averaged nearly 49 yards a punt, including a wind-aided 86 yard bomb. Bartel’s foot also gave the Riders what turned out to be an important two points. However, the Aussie’s most important play won’t show up on any score-sheet. After Armanti Edwards scored a touchdown, Bartel did a masterful job picking up a bad snap from long snapper Daniel MacDonald on the point after attempt allowing Tyler Crapigna to tie the game.

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