Pete Robertson screwed up and everyone knows it.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders’ defensive end nearly scuttled his team’s chances in the Labour Day Classic with his late-game headbutt on Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ quarterback Zach Collaros.
Robertson, who has since been suspended one game for the incident, has drawn comparisons to Zinedine Zidane, who famously headbutted an opponent in the final match of the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
The stakes weren’t nearly as high in Regina on Sunday (some fans in Regina might disagree with that statement) but the penalty turned what would have been a game-tying Winnipeg field goal into a first down deep in Saskatchewan territory. Brady Oliveira ran for a two-yard touchdown on the ensuing play to give his team a 24-20 lead with a little over four minutes remaining.
An eerie mood fell over Mosaic Stadium as those in attendance seemed ready to blame Robertson had the Riders, who hadn’t yet beaten the Zach Collaros-led Blue Bombers in eight tries, suffered yet another loss to Winnipeg.
Instead, Saskatchewan rallied on offence with some big sideline throws from quarterback Jake Dolegala and on special teams with a big return from Mario Alford, a badly-needed rouge from punter Adam Korsak, and a game-tying field goal by Brett Lauther.
The team also rallied on defence as they got the ball back from Collaros and company when they needed it the most and a game-winning knockdown from Jaxon Ford. In the end, the Riders won 32-30 in overtime.
Jake Dolegala said they all embraced the challenge of bailing out a wounded teammate.
“We’ve got to rally around (Robertson),” said Dolegala, who is now 2-0 as a starter this season. “He made a mistake. The game’s not over. Three minutes is a long time in this league. We rallied and made it happen.”
Head coach Craig Dickenson was careful not to overreact to the headbutt, though he hadn’t seen video of the incident before speaking to the media.
“I’m disappointed we got a penalty after we stopped them on second down,” Dickenson said. “That was an emotional game. I thought we lost our composure a couple of times. I thought I lost mine a little bit as well. And we definitely have to clean it up because we were not going to win a game when you double the other team’s penalties and we earned most of them.”
Robertson admitted that he got caught up on the moment as his emotions got the best of him.
“I’ve just got to learn how to control myself a little bit,” he said after the game. “But it’s the game. You just can’t do extra with the quarterback, especially a guy like Zach.”
“There was jawing all night. When we’re playing against Winnipeg, it’s always a physical game so that happened all night from the first quarter.”
His position coach, defensive line coach Del Cowsette, could be seen talking to Robertson on the sideline shortly after the game-changing confrontation. However, Robertson said there really wasn’t much to it.
“They know that I’ve got to make up for it,” Robertson said. “I realized what I did. I’m a grown man, so I know when I make a mistake. It’s not a confusing thing. [Cowsette] didn’t really say too much besides, ‘Make it up.'”
Veteran pass-rusher Anthony Lanier II considered the penalty a chance for the entire defence to step up, not merely Robertson on his own.
“It’s more of a pressure to make sure that everybody knows that we have their back,” he said. “We are together, I saw twelve of us.”
With his 32 tackles, five sacks, and one forced fumbles this season, Robertson has pulled his share of the load for Saskatchewan pass rush that’s bounced back from a disastrous end to last season following the shenanigans of Garrett Marino.
It’s only fitting that for one night, it was his teammates who bailed Robertson out of a jam.