Darian Durant hasn’t tasted victory in nearly two seasons. He felt he and his teammates were due.
Durant rallied the Saskatchewan Roughriders to a 26-23 win in overtime against the Edmonton Eskimos, a victory that snapped a seven-game losing skid.
“It was a long time coming,” said a smiling Durant after the game.
Durant marched the Riders 65 yards late in the fourth quarter for a game-tying touchdown. Newcomer Armanti Edwards, playing in his first game with the Riders, scored the touchdown on a five-yard end-around sweep to knot the game at 20-20.
In overtime, with the Riders (2-10) trailing 23-20, Durant completed his first two pass attempts before he held on to the ball and scampered six yards for the game-winning touchdown.
It was Durant’s first win as a starter since midway through the 2014 season. He tore a ligament in his right elbow in early September that year and missed the final month and a half.
Then last season he ruptured an Achilles tendon in the first half of the first regular season game and did not return.
Saskatchewan’s only victory this season came with Durant on the sideline nursing an injury and backup Mitchell Gale filling in under centre.
“In my heart and in my teammates’ eyes I’ll always be a winner,” Durant said after he passed for 174 yards and rushed for 61 more. “I’m not going to let tough times define me and who I am in my career.”
Sunday’s win also was the first against a divisional opponent this season.
“We’ve played this team close twice before on the road, the defending Grey Cup champs, and we were this close,” Durant said, alluding to two losses by a combined 11 points. “Just looking back at those games, I said to myself if I would have taken off in certain situations, could have extended drives or maybe even resulted in a touchdown, so I wasn’t going to let this one slip.
“I wasn’t going to let us lose this game.”
The loss stings the Eskimos (5-7), who have lost three straight and sit alone in fourth place in the West Division — six points behind both B.C., and Winnipeg and 11 points back of first-place Calgary.
“Any time you lose a game in overtime… if you make the plays offensively the worst that can happen is the game ends in a tie,” Edmonton QB Mike Reilly said after he passed for 306 yards and one touchdown.
“When you lose you didn’t do enough offensively and that was the case tonight.”
The Eskimos snapped a 9-9 halftime tie with their first possession in the second half.
Reilly hooked up with Nate Coehoorn on a short slant route over the middle. Coehoorn broke a tackle and raced 72 yards into the end zone for a touchdown to give his team a 16-9 advantage.
Naaman Roosevelt, who is on pace to break Saskatchewan team records for single-season receptions and receiving yards, missed Sunday’s game with a leg injury. His absence was especially felt in the first three quarters.
Saskatchewan’s defence produced the team’s only touchdown in the first half.
After a short completion from Reilly to Adarius Bowman, Riders halfback Ed Gainey stripped the ball from Bowman’s hands as he fought for additional yards. Gainey then raced 51 yards to the end zone for a score that pushed the Riders ahead 9-6 with less than two minutes to go in the half.
However, the two-point convert attempt failed on an incomplete pass attempt.
That allowed the Eskimos to pull even just before the half ended. Sean Whyte’s third field of the first half, a 41-yard successful try, knotted the score at 9-9.
Whyte booted four field goals on the day. Bowman led all receivers with nine catches and 152 yards.
For Saskatchewan, Curtis Steele returned to the lineup and led his team in rushing — 13 carries for 87 yards.