The Saskatchewan Roughriders didn’t feel the need to roll out the welcome mat for a special guest.
With playoff implications at stake, the Riders avoided getting caught up in the emotional return of Darian Durant, who spent 11 seasons with Saskatchewan before he was traded to Montreal this past off-season.
The Riders forced two first-quarter turnovers, turned each one into a touchdown and handed the reeling Alouettes a 37-12 defeat for their 10th straight loss.
“We wanted to focus on ourselves because we knew there were a lot of distractions coming into this game,” said linebacker Henoc Muamba, his team improving to 10-7. “If we want to go where we really want to go, there’s going to be a lot of distractions along the way. This was a good dress rehearsal of where we’re headed. We focused on what we needed to do.”
The Riders led 7-0 after a Trent Richardson touchdown, his first of two on the night, in the first quarter. They then intercepted Durant on the ensuing possession and eventually added to their lead.
Ed Gainey’s CFL-leading 10th interception on the Montreal 35-yard line helped set up Saskatchewan’s second touchdown. Kevin Glenn tossed a two-yard touchdown strike to Chad Owens to put the home team up 14-0 after the opening quarter.
The Riders led 17-6 at the half.
“You have to win the games you’re supposed to win,” Muamba said. “Regardless the records and the stats, this is still professional football. You still have to come in and compete and we feel our defence is in a good place right now.”
The Riders can finish in third place in the West Division with a win next week over the visiting Edmonton Eskimos.
The Alouettes (3-14) have already been eliminated from playoff contention.
Durant started but he didn’t return after halftime with a suspected leg injury, which he said was “fine” after the game. Durant completed nine of 20 pass attempts for 126 yards and one interception.
Durant is one of two players in Roughriders history to throw for more than 5,000 yards. He ranks second in franchise history in passing yards and pass attempts. He ranks third in Riders history for passing touchdowns in a career. He also guided the Riders to a Grey Cup title in 2013.
The Riders paid tribute to Durant with a short pre-game video on the scoreboard.
“It was a little emotional. I can’t even lie about it,” said Durant, who was featured in a pre-game video tribute on the scoreboard. “I thought I would be able to just be able to tough it out, but just watching those highlights and hearing the reception from the crowd, I kind of got a little emotional. It was a great feeling and it made me realize what I meant to this province and what I meant to this organization.”
Durant is expecting the birth of his first child in January. He reiterated, though, his football career is far from over.
“I’ve got a lot of football left in me. You better believe it,” he said.
Nik Lewis, on the other hand, does not. The 35-year-old told reporters that Friday’s game would be his last in the CFL. He is a two-time Grey Cup champion and the league’s all-time leading receptions leader. He caught three passes for 30 yards on Friday.
Trent Richardson, playing in his fourth CFL game, rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns. Veteran receiver Chad Owens, playing in just his second game this season, caught a game-high nine passes for 114 yards and one touchdown.
“It has been a long time coming,” said Richardson, the former NFL first-round pick.
“It’s just getting back into the game, getting those legs under me. I’m having fun.”