Holy smokes! This game was the exact reason why we love the CFL! It had the perfect balance of crazy things happening, great plays, and intensity, plus we were back in a sold-out Mosaic Stadium for the first time in over 600 days! Props to Riders fans here too. You guys were absolutely fantastic all night long!
In front of a sold-out crowd at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, it wouldn’t take Cody Fajardo and the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ offence to score their first touchdown of the season. They made the choice to receive the kickoff and they made right on it, marching right down the field and scoring a touchdown on a William Powell scamper.
As the game cut to commercial, we expected Michael Reilly to trot out with the offence, but when we came back from the break, it was Canadian rookie Nathan Rourke under centre for the B.C. Lions. He won the backup job in B.C. in training camp and there was speculation that he could see some playing time with Reilly banged up, but the Lions thought he would be good to go. It turns out that he wasn’t.
After a quick two and out from the Lions, the Roughriders got the ball back and went right back down the field looking to extend their lead. Fajardo found rookie Brayden Lenius in the endzone for his first career CFL touchdown.
A second drive from Rourke and Lions’ offence would come up empty with another two and out. They would punt the ball back to the Riders just before the end of the first quarter.
Second Quarter (BC: 0 @ SSK: 14)
The second quarter started with the Roughriders already driving. A couple of big gains on passes to Kyran Moore and Mitchell Picton brought the Riders into scoring range. Moore would find himself wide open in the front of the endzone after Fajardo scrambled out of the pocket.
But the hurt was only just starting for the Lions. On the very next drive, Rourke would throw his first career CFL interception into the hands of Nick Marshall. To compound things for the Lions, Marshall would take it to the house and score a touchdown himself, putting the Lions in a 28-point hole that would be nearly impossible for them to overcome.
The Roughriders would attempt and convert a field goal to make it a 31-point game before the Lions found some life. It came off of a beautiful strike from Rourke finding Lucky Whitehead who lived up to his Twitter handle (@Lucky2Fastt).
It was the ultimate quick strike for Rourke and Lions, but it was a big moment as well. It was Rourke’s first professional touchdown and really got the Lions moving in this game. Shortly after, there was more history being made by Takeru Yamasaki who became the first-ever Japanese-born player to score points in the CFL after he narrowly knocked in a kick from distance.
It looked like the second half would be academic for the Roughriders, but it turned out to be anything but that.
Third Quarter (BC: 9 @ SSK: 32)
The third quarter was rather quiet on the scoring front with neither team being able to muster a touchdown, but it was all Lions on both sides of the football. The most shocking storyline however was Reilly stepping back onto the field with seemingly half an elbow throwing up ducks, but the Lions’ receivers found a way to catch them.
Reilly seemed to calm the Lions, however. He came in and commanded the offence very nicely as you would expect from a quarterback of his calibre. The old ‘Michael Reilly is a warrior’ trope has been proven time and time again, but none like this. Two consecutive drives resulted in Yamasaki field goal attempts resulting in four points after he collected a rouge.
The third quarter would end with some controversy. The Lions thought they had stopped Fajardo in the endzone for a safety, while the Riders were convinced that he both got out and that there was roughing the passes on the play. In the end, they decided the hit was legal as Fajardo was deemed to be a runner on the play. Jon Ryan would concede the safety nonetheless.
Fourth Quarter (BC: 15 @ SSK: 32)
After an interception from T.J. Lee, Reilly led the Lions down the field with a couple of end-over-end throws to score a touchdown. Credit where credit is due for Reilly, there was no chance that he should have been throwing a football let alone throwing one in live game action. There was no zip to his ball all night long, but he was gutting this one out.
With it now a 10-point game, the Lions thought they had a chance. CFL fans around the country were starting to sit up in their seats, this game was getting interesting. The Lions got the stop they needed and got the ball back. They got into field goal range for Yamasaki, but he missed again, scoring a rouge in the process.
The Riders still couldn’t do anything offensively, however. There was still hope even with their young kicker letting them down. With Rourke now back in the huddle after Reilly decided he could no longer go, we saw a glimpse of why people think that he is going to be the next big Canadian superstar.
Yamasaki would again miss the extra point. It’s hard to be negative about a young player who is playing in his first career game, but if he would have made his kicks, the Lions would have won this football game. I expect that he will get another chance next week, but he needs to make his kicks.
The Lions would get the ball back once more after their defence came up with another stop, but this one would be cut short. Rourke threw his second interception of the game, this time to A.C. Leonard. The comeback was dead in the water and the Riders would come away with the win.
The final score: B.C. Lions: 29 @ Saskatchewan Roughriders: 33
Passing Yards: Trevor Harris (EDM): 333
Rushing Yards: James Wilder Jr. (EDM): 89
Receiving Yards: Derel Walker (EDM): 98
Touchdowns: Abdul Kanneh (OTT): 1
Tackles: Avery Williams (OTT): 14
Sacks: Kwaku Boateng (EDM) & Mike Moore (EDM): 2
Interceptions: Abdul Kanneh (OTT): 2
13th Man Sports Player of the Game
POTG: Michael Reilly (BC)
17/24 passing, 203 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 elbow