Two big streaks were on the line coming into this game. The Ottawa Redblacks had yet to lose a game this season while the Saskatchewan Roughriders were still looking for their first win of the 2016 campaign. Something had to give on this day and give it did, in the most unbelievable of ways.
The first points of the game went to Saskatchewan on their opening drive. They came off of the foot of Tyler Crapigna who nailed a 24-yard field goal for an early 3-0 lead.
Then a moment that all Redblacks fans would soon come to dread happened. On only Ottawa’s fourth play of their opening drive, and tenth overall in the game, Corvey Irvin sacked Trevor Harris. On the play, Trevor Harris’ right leg twisted awkwardly underneath the Saskatchewan defender which left Harris clutching his right knee. He looked to be in significant pain and was unable to continue.
Lost in the fray of all this was that Mitchell Gale was making his first career start in the league, and with the sudden injury to Harris, Brock Jensen was thrust into the game in what was now a battle of the back-ups.
Back in the game, Crapigna nailed a 42-yarder later in the first quarter for a 6-0 lead.
Brock Jensen didn’t waste any time finding his rhythm on offense as he made a solid completion to Brad Sinopoli at about midfield; Sinpoli did the rest and rumbled all the way to the end zone for a spectacular 65-yard touchdown play. After the Chris Milo convert the score was 7-6. On the ensuing kickoff, the Redblacks were able to get the ball through the end zone for yet another point, bringing the score to 8-6.
The Riders added a punt single before the end of the first to make the score 8-7.
Another single point by Ottawa early in the second gave them a 9-7 lead.
Saskatchewan responded with a 28-yard field goal by Crapigna to make it 10-7 to the Riders.
The Roughriders defense was able to come up with a huge play on Ottawa’s next possession. Otha Foster blocked a punt attempt that they were able to return 14 yards to the house, with Tevaughn Campbell giving the Riders a 16-9 lead. After the convert kick the score was 17-9.
Ottawa masterfully responded on their next possession. Brock Jensen found Sinopoli for his second touchdown of the night on a 47-yard pass. After that play the Redblacks went for two and were successful – Jensen found Patrick Lavoie for the two point conversion – which leveled the score at 17-17.
Ottawa added a late field goal in the second to take a 20-17 lead into halftime of what had become a highly entertaining battle of the back-ups in Regina.
The first points of the second half went to the Redblacks courtesy of a 35-yard field goal by Tyler Crapigna, which made the score 23-17 Ottawa. They later added yet another field goal for a 26-17 lead.
In what had been an entertaining first half for Saskatchewan, they looked to be entering a familiar lull later on in the game, one that had been synonymous with them having an 0-3 record up to this point. But quarterback Mitchell Gale was having none of that as he found Naaman Roosevelt for a spectacular 89-yard catch and run touchdown play. After the convert the score was now only 26-24, it was anybody’s game heading into the fourth quarter.
The two teams tensely traded defensive stops for a good portion of the fourth quarter, until the Roughriders finally broke through and got another field goal off the foot of the former McMaster Marauder Tyler Crapigna. This time it was a 25-yarder for a 27-26 lead.
Later on, a stalled Ottawa drive ended with an 11-yard field goal by Chris Milo to give Ottawa a slim 29-27 lead, which put the Riders’ fate in their own hands.
They were able to get Tyler Crapigna into field goal range once again and he didn’t disappoint. He nailed a 53-yard field goal with only 1:09 remaining to give the Riders back the lead in exciting fashion.
It was now up to Ottawa to respond, but they could not. Jensen was sacked twice on their final possession and after that it was victory formation time for the Roughriders, who finally picked up their first win of the 2016 CFL Season.
Ottawa now have to hope that Trevor Harris’ injury is not of the serious variety as now the team will be starting their quarterback who began the season in third on their depth chart. Should the injury be serious, look for Ottawa to make a move to grab another established CFL quarterback. It is only Ottawa’s first loss of the season so fret not Redblacks fans, their skilled receiving corps can be enough on some nights to keep them in games. In relief of Harris, Brock Jensen went 20/29 with 271 yards and two touchdowns.
For the Roughriders this win is a sweet one, they felt they should have won some of their earlier games in the season and can now use a big win like this, ending Ottawa’s undefeated bid, as a springboard to a big run in the standings. Mitchell Gale looked very good in his first start, going 21/36 with 354 yards and one touchdown. Also of note, head coach Chris Jones finally gets his first CFL head coaching win since leaving Edmonton to join the Riders this past off-season.
Saskatchewan heads to Montreal for a game on July 29 at 7:00pm. The Redblacks go back home to play the Argonauts on July 31 at 7:30pm.