Nathan Rourke was unable to finish Friday night’s game, but the Canadian QB provided more than enough offence to lead the Lions to a 28-10 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. There is definite concern about the status of the league’s leading candidate for the Most Outstanding Player following an injury to his foot in the fourth quarter.
Rourke got off to a strong on the opening drive of the game as he went 4 for 5 for 79 yards which included a 22 yard reception by Dominique Rhymes on a second and 15 situation. The next play, Bryan Burnham got in behind the Saskatchewan secondary for a 38 yard reception. Following a penalty to the Riders Jeremy Clark for pass interference in the endzone, Antonio Pipkin would give the Lions a 7-0 lead with a one yard touchdown run.
After a Riders punt on their opening possession, the green and white were able to force a turnover on the Lions second drive. Derrick Moncrief deflected Rourke’s pass into the hands of Larry Dean for his second interception of the season.
Saskatchewan was unable to take advantage of the turnover, Cody Fajardo overthrew Duke Williams and the Lions Marcus Sayles was able to pick up the interception leaving the Riders with no points off the turnover.
BC was poised to jump ahead by two possessions late in the first quarter, but Moncrief was able to jump in front of a pass intended for Burnham and turned it into his fourth interception of the season to keep the score 7-0.
Another opportunity following a BC turnover was squandered once again by the Riders in the second quarter as Fajardo’s pass was intercepted by former teammate Loucheiz Purifoy. The Lions blitz forced the pass targeted for Williams to fall short.
Frankie Hickson provided a short term spark for the Riders on special teams as he went untouched to block Stefan Flintoft’s punt as Saskatchewan was able to begin their next possession inside of the 33 yard line.
Saskatchewan was unable to find the endzone following the block punt, with the green and white settling for a 12 yard field goal by Brett Lauther to make the score 7-3.
The Lions were able to take advantage of Saskatchewan’s inability to score a touchdown as they proceeded to march the ball down the field on a drive that was capped off a Pipkin three yard touchdown with BC extending their lead to 14-3.
After a quick two and out by the Riders offence, the Lions wasted no time adding points to the scoreboard again with Lucky Whitehead managing to get behind the secondary and turned a catch into a 90 yard touchdown reception with BC jumping out to a 21-3 advantage.
Looking for a way to ignite the offence, the Riders sent Mason Fine in relief for Fajardo and the backup QB was able to deliver initially. Following a 14 yard for a touchdown, the Lions defence sent a blitz which allowed Fine to take advantage of the single coverage with a 38 yard reception by Williams. The possession ended with Justin McInnis hauling in his first touchdown catch as a Rider with the first half ending with a 21-10 BC lead.
Fine returned to the field to start the second half for Saskatchewan and was unable to generate any offence on the opening drive as the Riders punted after a two and out.
The feet of Rourke were the catalyst of the Lions opening points in the second half as he was able to accumulate 44 yards on the ground with a pair of rushes. Burnham was then able to gain some revenge on Moncrief with a one handed touchdown that turned the BC edge into a three score game with 10:18 remaining in the third quarter.
The opening play of the final quarter Saskatchewan was faced with a third and goal situation at Lions five yard line. Obum Gwacham sacked Fine to force the turnover.
On the ensuing drive, Rourke was sacked by the Riders Pete Robertson. The QB was unable to walk off and needed some assistance to walk off the field.
Michael O’Connor stepped in as QB for the Lions, as BC cruised to the win.
Rourke ended the game with 375 yards passing with a pair of touchdowns along with 63 yards rushing.
McInnis surpassed the 100 yard receiving mark for the first time.
Whitehead had 137 yards receiving for BC while Rhymes ended his night with 127 yards.
Fine ended his night with 210 yards passing with a touchdown and an interception after coming in relief for Fajardo.
Post Game Notes.
Riders Head Coach Craig Dickenson said after the game, the health of Fajardo was a factor for the switch at quarterback.
“I didn’t feel like he was moving around as well and looked liked he a little tentative out there so we went with Mason and I thought Mason did a decent job, we got to look at the film but I thought Mason brought a little bit of energy I though the guys rallied around him. ”
While Dickenson noted that Fine starting at QB next week is a very realistic possibility, he adds that he still has faith in number seven for the green and white.
“We still in believe in Cody, we still believe in our team, we do have to find a way to play better, that means we got to look at every position and we got to make the decision at every position.”
Fine says he found out about a minute before he headed out on to the field that he would be stepping in relief at quarterback.
He added that he was disappointed that the team wasn’t able to convert on their opportunities in the second half.
If his number is called next Friday in BC, the North Texas product is confident that he will be able to go once again versus the Lions.
“I think as a backup quarterback that’s your job to be ready in any certain situation in any given situation like tonight, we don’t know moving forward and again it going back to where you kind prepare that you are the starter where you prepare to be the starting quarterback , you’re ready for any opportunity at any given second. That’s my mentality moving forward which it has been all season.””
McInnis was happy that he got a chance to shine on Friday night.
“I’m grateful to be put on the spotlight like that to have the opportunity to shine, make some plays, have a career night, hopefully pile on some more on top of that.”
On the defence side of the ball, Moncrief believes the green and white have to be more consistent.
“We played two and a half of great football, football is a four quarter, just got to continue to press, I think the d-line played very well we got to continue to get better, continue to gel, it’s a beautiful thing that we get to play them again next week.”
The struggles on the Roughrider offence are the result of multiple breakdowns according Dickenson.
“It’s a combined, shared effort we’re still not playing good enough up front, our receivers are depleted, we don’t have explosiveness like we need in the receiver core, we got to get a lot better, it’s across the board, the whole darn team has to get better, we as coaches have to do better job of putting them in a position to be successful.”
Despite struggles on the offensive line, the Roughrider Head Coach still has faith in is o-lineman and admits it will be hard to find superior replacements.
“There’s nobody out there Canadian wise that you’re nor going to get and the American tackles are good enough.”
A 5-5 record is a good reflection of how the Riders season has gone says Dickenson.
“We’re a .500 team right now, we are what we are right now, we’ve had some moments we’ve looked pretty good, we don’t look as good, I mean we’re at .500, the world’s not over, I told the guys I still believe them but we got to get better and we’re running out of time, so we got to make some moves if we need to.”
The Lions and Riders will meet the third and final time next week at BC Place. Game be heard on 620 CKRM with an opening kickoff at 8:30.