Bridge rallies Riders to exciting road victory over Argos

Canadian Brandon Bridge put the Toronto Argonauts’ playoff party on hold while moving the Saskatchewan Roughriders up the West Division standings.

Bridge came off the bench to pass for 292 yards and two TDs and rally Saskatchewan to a hard-fought 27-24 win over Toronto on Saturday night. After Ricky Ray’s 19-yard TD pass to S.J. Green tied the score 24-24, Bridge marched the Riders 64 yards on 11 plays, setting up Tyler Crapigna’s game-winning 18-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining.

Saskatchewan (8-6) took sole possession of third in the West Division, four points behind second-place Winnipeg (10-4). Toronto (7-8) could’ve clinched a home playoff date with a victory.

The six-foot-five, 230-pound Bridge completed 20-of-28 passes after relieving starter Kevin Glenn in the second quarter. Glenn was pulled after completing just three-of-eight passes for 29 yards.

Bridge came in with Saskatchewan trailing 16-3. The 25-year-old native of Mississauga, Ont., capped a smart nine-play, 75-yard drive with an eight-yard TD pass to Namaan Roosevelt to cut Toronto’s halftime lead to 16-10.

Then after Lirim Hajrullahu’s 74-yard single put Toronto ahead 17-16, Bridge found Caleb Holley on a 75-yard scoring strike on the final play of the third. He followed that up by hitting Bakari Grant for the two-point convert to give the Riders a 24-17 advantage before a BMO Field gathering of 15,102 that not only featured plenty of green jerseys but members of Bridge’s family.

The mobile Bridge was able to effectively elude Toronto’s pass rush and buy his receivers time downfield.

“That’s what Brandon has, the ability to extend plays,” said Riders head coach/GM Chris Jones. “When you only have to cover for 2 1/2 seconds, 2.7 seconds it’s a little easier to scheme up things coverage-wise.

“But when that play extends to four, five and six seconds then all of a sudden your (defensive backs) have to be even better.”

Toronto defensive back Alden Darby said Bridge’s mobility was a factor.

“He did a good job with his feet,” he said. “He’s a little younger, more agile and a little bit bigger quarterback.

“We have to key in on both quarterbacks because both might see action.”

Bridge led Saskatchewan to a 27-19 win over Hamilton as the starter on Sept. 15. But Jones said despite Glenn’s struggles, he remains the Riders’ No. 1 quarterback.

“In professional baseball, when somebody has a bit of a slow time in an inning, what do they do, they bring in the guy that they call in relief and that’s all we did,” Jones said.

“He (Glenn) wasn’t feeling it tonight, wasn’t seeing it. He’s a great leader and he will still be our starting quarterback. You (media) can debate about that all you want to but that’s what it’s going to be.”

Bridge said he prepares each week as if he’s the starter and added when he gets into games his primary goal is to prove Canadians can play quarterback in theCFL.

“I’m really trying to open up doors for the Canadian players who want to play quarterback,” he said. “That’s my main goal . . . and that comes from winning.”

Trent Richardson, the former Alabama star, had five carries for 20 yards in his CFL debut with Saskatchewan. But it was veteran Kienan LaFrance who contributed 38 yards rushing on six carries down the stretch.

Toronto had to finish the game without running back James Wilder Jr. He left following a 12-yard completion after taking an incidental helmet-to-helmet hit from Saskatchewan’s Henoc Muamba on the game-tying drive.

Wilder had 72 yards rushing on 13 carries and seven receptions for 90 yards. Ray finished 30-of-37 passing for 341 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

“We didn’t play well offensively, we could’ve scored more points and didn’t,” Argos head coach Marc Trestman said. “We didn’t play well enough defensively to stop them when we needed to stop them.”

Toronto’s defence was minus starting linebackers Marcus Ball (foot) and Bear Woods (upper body) and defensive lineman Cleyon Laing (undisclosed). Ball went on the six-game injured list after being hurt in last weekend’s 43-35 overtime win over Hamilton, but Woods was deactivated Saturday after being tested for an unspecified ailment Friday.

Akeem Jordan, who played eight NFL seasons with Philadelphia, Kansas City and Washington, replaced Woods while Ken Bishop took Laing’s spot.

For the third straight game, the Riders linked arms during O Canada. It’s a show of unity following U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial remarks about NFL players kneeling during the American anthem.

Crapigna finished with four field goals and a convert.

Martese Jackson scored Toronto’s touchdown. Hajrullahu added three field goals, a single and two converts.