REGINA — New look, familiar results for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Darian Durant completed 19 of his 30 passes for 220 yards and one touchdown, while John Chick forced a fumble and registered his 10th and 11th sacks of the season, as the Roughriders earned a 16-11 win over the visiting Montreal Alouettes on Saturday night.
The game featured the first on-field appearance of the new CFL Signature Uniform series, with the Roughriders donning their new Rider Blitz Green uniforms.
Rob Bagg also had a solid game for the Riders, racking up 92 yards on six receptions, and the Riders’ lone touchdown.
The loss was the fifth-straight for the Alouettes, who entered today’s tilt with a lot of changes on the offensive side of the ball.
With Troy Smith on the six-game injured list, the Alouettes handed the ball to QB Alex Brink, who was making his first CFL start since Nov. 3, 2012, coincidentally against Montreal.
And despite having only taken 26 snaps since then, Brink appeared sharp in the early stages of Saturday’s matchup.
On his first two possessions, the 29-year-old completed his first five passes for 61 yards, and also carried the ball once for a gain of eight.
But even with Brink’s solid early production, the Als weren’t able to put any points on the board, as Sean Whyte missed a 41-yard field goal on their first drive, while Brandon Whitaker fumbled on their second.
Fortunately for the Als, the turnover wasn’t too costly, as they only allowed a punt single on Saskatchewan’s ensuing possession.
While Brink was showing promise leading the Als’ offence, the Riders defence was living up to its reputation as well.
Leading the charge on that front was John Chick, who raised his league-leading sack total to 10 after bringing Brink down to the turn in the first quarter.
Chick, along with the rest of the Riders defensive unit, were able to keep Montreal’s attack at bay long enough so that Darian Durant could take his time finding his rhythm.
With the scored tied at one thanks to a punt single by Whyte, Durant guided the Riders on a nine-play, 82-yard drive that was culminated by a 30-yard field goal by Chris Milo to give the Riders a 4-1 lead.
Saskatchewan’s lead was short-lived, however, as Whyte would equal the score at four on Montreal’s next drive thanks to a 45-yard field goal.
That was all the scoring the two teams would produce in the first 30 minutes.
At the break, the Alouettes had registered 182 yards of total offence, while the Riders managed to produce 95 of their own.
Defence was once again the theme once the second half got underway, as both Brink and Durant were unable to gain much traction offensively.
With the score now 5-4 in favour of Saskatchewan thanks to another punt single, the Riders appeared to have scored the game’s first touchdown by-way of a 62-yard pick-six by Macho Harris.
However, Alouettes head coach Tom Higgins challenged that Harris had committed defensive pass interference on SJ Green. After the CFL’s Command Centre had reviewed the call, it was deemed that Harris did indeed interfere with Green, negating the touchdown as well as the interception.
But on the very next play, the Riders defence avenged the penalty, as Tristan Jackson intercepted another pass thrown in Green’s direction.
Fortunately for Brink, the Riders weren’t able to translate the turnover into points, thanks in large to another strong showing by Montreal’s defence.
With the third quarter winding down, the Riders offence finally came to life and embarked on a drive that ultimately resulted in the game’s first touchdown.
First, Durant hooked up with Taj Smith for a gain of six yards, and followed that up with a completion to Bagg, who found some open field and ran for what turned out to be a gain of 22.
Then, with the fourth quarter now underway, Durant found Bagg again for a 30-yard major, sending a capacity crowd at Mosaic Stadium into a frenzy.
On the play, Durant absorbed a hard, unexpected hit from John Bowman just after he released his throw. He appeared to be labouring as he walked off the field, but he was back under centre for the Riders’ next offensive possession.
With less than five minutes remaining, the Riders set up for a field goal on Montreal’s 30-yard line, looking to put the game seemingly out of reach for the Als.
However, Milo’s attempt sailed wide, allowing Duron Carter to field the kick and return it 122 yards untouched for a touchdown.
But that would be as close as the Als would get, as the offence wasn’t able to overcome Chick and the Riders defence, who stopped any chance of a comeback thanks to some timely stops with just over a minute remaining.
Next week, the Als will travel to Winnipeg to take on the Blue Bombers on Friday night, while the Roughriders will head to BC to take on the Lions in Vancouver.