It was tense, not always pretty and a great advert for Canadian football with plenty of big plays! This game always promised to be exciting. Fixtures between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Calgary Stampeders rarely disappoint and this was no different.
Calgary marched into this game with their season on the line, looking to their quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell to prove the doubters wrong and he wasted no time at all. On the game’s very first snap, Calgary ran the play action and Mitchell connected with Markeith Ambles for a 71-yard touchdown to open the game.
Saskatchewan, trailing much earlier than anticipated marched the ball down on a seven-yard drive that stalled at the Calgary 37-yard line leading to a Brett Lauther field goal to cut the deficit to four points. Mitchell who at this point must’ve been feeling good about himself continued to sling the ball finding Josh Huff for 16 yards and then made a crucial throw to Nick Holley to help set up a Rene Paredes field goal to make 10-3 Stampeders which was what the score come the end of the half.
Following two first quarter, punts including 2 and out, the Roughriders needed to generate some more offence to keep up. They needed a spark which was exactly what Brayden Lenius gave them, bulldozing his way through multiple Stempeders’ defenders to pick up 15-yards after the catch to give Cody Fajardo and the Riders offence a great platform to tie up the game.
Just five plays later, Fajardo connected with Ricardo Lewis who juked his way into the endzone for the touchdown, with the extra point levelling the game up at 10. After a pair of offensive drives that lead to punts from each offence, both quarterbacks leaned on their running backs. First Calgary’s Ka’Deem Carey accumulated 31-yards to set up a successful field goal for Paredes, which was then followed by Saskatchewan’s William Powell gaining 13-yards that help to put Lauther in position to tie the game for Saskatchewan at 13 as time expired on the first half.
Despite going into the half with momentum and receiving the ball to start the third quarter, the Riders couldn’t manage to score on their first two drives, and with another Calgary field goal preceding the second drive, Saskatchewan was needing some help from their special teams. On the ensuing punt, Jamal Morrow forced a fumble from Malik Henry to shock Saskatchewan back to life just when it seemed Calgary could be on course to give themselves an insurance score.
Faced up against the Saskatchewan offence lining up on their own 26, the Stamps defence managed to hold firm at their five-yard line, forcing Lauther back onto the field to tie the game at 16. The defences for both these teams were playing stout football the first three quarters, forcing both teams’ offences to punt on their ensuing drives in the quarter to set up a tense fourth quarter with playoff and seeding implications in the balance.
In a game that had been full of field goals and tough defence, it was almost a case of when and not if one of these quarterbacks would blink. It wouldn’t take long, in what you can almost call a reverse of the first quarter’s first play, the fourth quarter’s opening play by the Stampeders was an all too familiar tale for Mitchell.
Roughriders defensive back Nick Marshall read the play perfectly to intercept the pass for the game’s first offensive turnover, giving the riders great field position. After Fajardo failed to connect Powell in the endzone, the offence again settled for a field goal, which gave Saskatchewan the lead for the first time in the contest at 19-16.
Mitchell, who has thrown a pick in every game he’s played this year went back on the field looking to shake off the mistake. After setting his team up in scoring range, Mitchel threw an ill-advised pass towards the middle of the two-yard line where he was intercepted again, this time by Loucheiz Purifoy. This could’ve been a crushing blow, and many thought that their chances of winning the game were gone.
Calgary couldn’t afford another mistake-ridden game from their franchise quarterback. Fortunately for the struggling quarterback, his defence forced a two-and-out from the Roughriders, giving him an almost immediate opportunity to put the first two drives of the quarter behind him. Calgary’s best player on offence on the night Carrey had a monster carry off a Mitchell pass, ploughing his way through multiple defenders for 14-yards after the catch. With Calgary’s offence marching down the field, Pete Robertson came up with a crucial sack to hold Calgary to a field goal.
Tied at 19, the stage was set for a tense last three and a half minutes. Fajardo and the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ offence were first to have the chance to win the game, and after how their last game against Calgary ended, offensive coordinator Jason Maas must have been eager to put things right. The drive ultimately never recovered from a 10-yard holding penalty on the offensive line, however, and now it was Mitchell’s time to silence his doubters.
As the game was approaching its final two minutes, yet another mental mistake from Mitchell as he slid five yards short of first down when it seemingly appeared he had room to run for the yardage. It was once again Fajardo’s time to play the hero.
Not a lot went right for Saskatchewan as not only did they go two-and-out, but they could only pin Calgary to their own 41 as Mallik Henry ran the ball back 14 yards, going a long way to redeeming his earlier fumble. It was now or never for the Stamps to find a winner with only a minute left and Carrey ran for a clutch 11-yard run to set them up on the edge of field goal range, taking his rushing total for the night over 100 yards for the first time this season.
Now it was Mitchell’s turn, he found Nick Holley for an 11-yard pass, which along with two more short runs for Carrey, set the game up to be won on the foot of Paredes. The drama wasn’t quite over yet, as Calgary drew a five-yard flag on Peredes’s seemingly game-winning kick. From the 44 yard line, Paredes would line up for a second try and made no mistake. Coming up clutch in a 22-19 win for the Calgary Stampeders.
Calgary, who were almost dead and buried after their lacklustre defeat to Hamilton must now have serious aspirations of hosting a playoff game. They have all the momentum going into their next two games against BC and another bout with Saskatchewan at the end of the month. Dave Dickenson’s men have saved their season with these back-to-back victories against the Roughriders.
For Saskatchewan, there will be some soul searching. This game was theirs to be won. Twice in the last three and a half minutes of the game, they had the ball with a chance to get a go-ahead score and they only managed one first down. Teams who have a plus-three differential in the turnover battle are not supposed to lose football games. They could’ve ended the Stampeders season these last two weeks, instead ,they go to Mcmahon Stadium on October 23rd looking precariously over their shoulder, still waiting for their first win against Calgary in the Craig Dickenson and Cody Fajardo era.