CFL Pass

Big Play Chain gets a workout in Riders' win over Redblacks

Three early interceptions triggered quite a chain of events for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Veteran receiver Manny Arceneaux introduced the Big Play Chain leading up to Saturday’s 40-18 CFL victory over the visiting Ottawa Redblacks. The chain, recognizing touchdowns and forced turnovers, was repeatedly presented on the sideline as the Roughriders cruised toward their fifth consecutive win.

“That’s a great idea and hats off to Manny Arceneaux,” head coach Craig Dickenson said after the Riders improved their record to 6-3. “He brought in this chain idea and it really bonded our team this week. We were really excited to put it on some guys and the fact we were able to do that was really special.

“One of the keys to the game, honestly, was the excitement level that we played with as a group. Manny’s Big Play Chain had a lot to do with it.”

Arceneaux pioneered the Roughriders’ version of the University of Miami Hurricanes’ Turnover Chain. He decided to award the chain for touchdowns and turnovers because that way all players, and even coaches, could be included.

“You see it took off (Saturday),” Arceneaux said. “It’s keeping that vibe in the locker-room tight in that family atmosphere and playing for your brother out there.”

Safety Mike Edem had high praise for Arceneaux’s initiative.

“That’s just him being a leader and seeing the opportunity that we have in front of us,” Edem said. “He’s trying to push us to all see the bigger picture. That’s one of the things that he’s done from a leadership standpoint.”

The Riders had four touchdowns and five takeaways that were eligible for the Big Play Chain.

Saskatchewan opened with three consecutive interceptions off Redblacks starting quarterback Dominique Davis, who was benched in favour of Jonathon Jennings after the final pick.

Nick Marshall registered the first pick, which the Riders converted into a four-yard touchdown run by William Powell.

L.J. McCray had the next interception, which was followed by quarterback Cody Fajardo’s 14-yard touchdown run.

Derrick Moncrief snagged the third interception, which led to a 46-yard field goal by Brett Lauther and a commanding 17-0 first-quarter lead.

“It’s a great way to give guys the limelight, which is something that I’m not really into (as far as calling attention to himself),” said Fajardo, who completed 24 of 36 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown while improving his record as the Riders’ starter to 6-1.

“They threw the chain on me. It’s heavy and it’s pretty nice. I think we had (five) takeaways I don’t know if we credit that to the chain and guys wanting to have it. If that’s the reason behind those takeaways, let’s keep it rolling.”

The Riders are rolling. They have won six of seven of games since losing 44-41 to the Ottawa in Week 2 of the CFL season.

“Nothing has turned this team around,” Edem said. “We’re still the same team when we’re losing and when we’re winning. We’re executing at a high level and our standard of practice has gone up in the way we push each other. It’s all about what we do on the practice field and you’ve seen that carry over to game day.”

The Riders finished the first half of the CFL schedule with sole possession of second place in the West Division, behind the first-place Winnipeg Blue Bombers (8-2).

The traditional rivals are to meet Sunday in the Labour Day Classic (1 p.m., Mosaic Stadium) and Sept. 7 (2 p.m., Investors Group Field).

“Just being able to be the quarterback in the Labour Day game is a really special moment,” said Fajardo, who signed with the Roughriders as a free agent in February. “Like all games, I will be nervous. I just have to find a way to calm my nerves.”

There may be one play that will stand out for Fajardo from Saturday’s win.

Fajardo spun away from the onrushing J.R. Tavai before throwing a 15-yard, third-quarter touchdown pass to Naaman Roosevelt that staked the Riders to a 32-15 lead after Lauther’s convert.

“That was a play that really indicates what sort of athlete (Fajardo) is,” Dickenson said.

NOTES: Powell later added another touchdown on a 24-yard run. He leads the CFL with nine rushing touchdowns … Lauther, playing his first regular-season game since Week 3 after recovering from hip and groin injuries, connected on three of four field-goal attempts. He hit the three longest attempts — from 43, 46 and 49 yards — but missed from 32 … Saskatchewan’s Jon Ryan averaged 56.0 yards on nine punts and leads the CFL with a 50.9 average. As a member of the Blue Bombers, he set the enduring record for single-season average (50.6) in 2005. He spent the following 12 seasons in the NFL … Ottawa (3-7) has lost seven of its eight games since beating Saskatchewan in Week 2.