Vanstone: Bad weather was good news for Roughriders
Seldom in Saskatchewan Roughriders history has an incompletion been so rewarding.
Saskatchewan was leading the host Montreal Alouettes 17-10 with 2:41 remaining in Friday’s third quarter when the CFL game was delayed due to thunder and lightning.
After one hour, the league’s inclement-weather protocol went into effect and the game was called, with Saskatchewan being declared the victor.
Just like that, the Roughriders (5-3) were on a four-game winning streak.
A premature conclusion to the proceedings, while unusual, was not without precedent.
On Oct. 25, 1954, the Roughriders were leading the B.C. Lions 15-9 in Vancouver when fog rolled in.
Western Interprovincial Football Union commissioner G. Sydney Halter eventually called the game, which had been suspended with 6:11 left in the fourth quarter, and awarded the victory to Saskatchewan.
The Canadian Press reported that “the soupy British Columbia fog made play impossible.”
Back then, the league would ordinarily order a replay of the game under such circumstances, but the proximity to the playoffs was one of the factors taken into consideration.
“As it was the final game of the season, and as the standing of the league cannot be altered or affected, I see no purpose of the game being replayed either wholly or partially,” the Halter of the game told CP. “Accordingly, I’m going to rule that the game stand as a completed game.”
So there. Cue highlights …
Antiquated observers, such as this Precambrian pundit, were reminded of former Roughriders linebacker Eddie Lowe when Saskatchewan scored its first TD on Friday.
Rewind to Nov. 19, 1989, when Lowe (No. 42) flattened Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Tracy Ham and forced a fumble. Middle linebacker Dave Albright scooped up the ball and ran … very … slowly … for … a 62-yard, game-changing touchdown that helped the 9-9 Roughriders upset the 16-2 Eskimos, 32-21.
On Friday, another Roughriders linebacker wearing No. 42 — Derrick Moncrief — levelled Alouettes quarterback Antonio Pipkin and dislodged the football. Cue a 55-yard fumble-return TD by Earl Okine, who scored at 7:55 of the first quarter.
Not to be outdone, blitzing Riders linebacker Cameron Judge rocked Montreal quarterback Matt Shiltz midway through Friday’s second frame.
Shiltz’s fumble was retrieved by Roughriders defensive end Charleston Hughes, who scored on a 45-yard return.
Hughes, coincidentally, wears No. 39 — Albright’s old jersey number.
Saskatchewan scored its first two defensive TDs of the season Friday after leading the league with 11 majors of that description last year.
Hughes made amends for his roughing-the-passer penalty that negated a 44-yard interception return by L.J. McCray, who was tackled on Montreal’s 14-yard line.
The Roughriders’ kick coverage continues to be a sieve.
Montreal opened the scoring just 2:20 into the game when Shakeir Ryan returned a punt 101 yards for a major.
That was the 17th return TD in the CFL this season, and the fourth surrendered by Saskatchewan.
Montreal’s Greg Reid added a 45-yard punt return Friday.
The Roughriders have surrendered two punt-return TDs (by Ryan and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ Frankie Williams). The Lions’ Ryan Lankford scored against Saskatchewan on a kickoff return and a missed field goal return in a July 27 game.
Earlier in the season, as a member of the Ottawa Redblacks, Lankford had scorched Saskatchewan for non-scoring punt returns of 42 and 39 yards.
Roughriders quarterback Cody Fajardo grimaced while shaking his right (throwing) hand during the third quarter, after inadvertent contact with Montreal’s Henoc Muamba.
A crisis was averted, though, when Fajardo remained in the game and delivered his subsequent passes with authority.
Ever the competitor, Fajardo continues to sell out for extra yardage as opposed to sliding. Case in point: Fajardo gained 22 yards on one first-and-20 run, thanks in part to his willingness to absorb punishment.
But this is not done without considerable risk to his well-being and, well, the Roughriders’ fortunes.
• The Roughriders did not aim a pass toward their leading receiver, Shaq Evans, until 12 seconds remained in the first half. Evans started despite injuring an ankle during Monday’s practice.
• William Powell had only four carries for seven yards. The Roughriders’ other tailback, Marcus Thigpen, had rushed twice for zero yards. Entering the season, Powell and the speedy Thigpen were touted as a thunder-and-lightning combination. Ultimately, there was verifiable thunder and lightning, but …