Roughriders open the season with a knock-down-drag-out 17-13 win in Edmonton


It was a back and forth battle between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Edmonton Elks, but in the end, the Roughriders were able to survive and hang on for a 17-13 win at Commonwealth Stadium.

Trevor Harris had  179 passing yards, a touchdown pass and a pair of interceptions in his Saskatchewan debut.

Rolan Milligan led the defence with an interception, five tackles and a tackle for a loss that proved to be the decisive blow in Sunday’s game, as the Riders made a goal line stand in the fourth quarter, hanging on to a four-point win.

Milligan said the Roughriders fought their way to victory against a divisional opponent in Edmonton.

“It was a dogfight and I mean that’s what football is.”

He added that defence was anticipating the quarterback sneak during the Riders big stand.

“Everybody knows they’re going to run QB sneak, so everybody on the line, everybody got a guy, you just got to be physical and do your job and when the play comes, you just got to make a play, that’s all I did.”

Edmonton QB Taylor Cornelius had 202 passing yards with a touchdown and a pair of interceptions.

Early in the opening quarter, the Roughriders were able to capitalize on a pair of Edmonton penalties on back-to-back plays to set themselves in scoring position. After the Elks took an unnecessary roughness penalty for a late hit. Elks DB Kai Gray was called for pass interference inside of the Edmonton four-yard-line. Derel Walker first catch as a member of the green and white would come on the next play to give the Roughriders their first lead of the game.

Edmonton would score the first points of the game thanks to a 17-yard field goal from Dean Faithfull. Early in the second quarter, the Elks were able to take the lead for the first time of the game thanks to a 102-yard touchdown reception from Eugene Lewis, who was able to win a one-on-one battle against the Riders Jeremy Clark and scampered down to the endzone f0r the major.

Saskatchewan was able to tie the game with a time consuming 103-yard drive that would end with a Brett Lauther field goal. Harris was able to run for a first down before connecting with Walker for a pair of chain moving receptions during the drive to even the score before the end of the first half.

Mario Alford displayed the form that made him the 2022 Most Outstanding Special Teams Player to begin the second half as he returned the opening kickoff back to the Elks 33-yard-line. Unfortunately for Saskatchewan, they were unable to take of the field position this time around, as Lauther’s 33 yard attempt sailed right, leaving the Elks to concede the single point.

The Roughriders offence had to settle for three points once again after driving the ball inside of the Elks five-yard-line. Lauther’s second field goal put Saskatchewan ahead going into the final frame.

Milligan tried to steer the momentum in the Roughriders favour with his first interception after he stepped in front Cornelius pass that was intended for Lewis. The Roughriders once again had to settle for three points with Lauther connecting on a 46-yard field goal.

Ahead 17-13, a stumbling Harris led to interception by Nyles Morgan. A pass interference penalty called against Milligan moved the ball to the Roughriders one-yard line. Edmonton had three opportunities to take the lead but Elks QB Kai Locksley was denied three times, with Milligan making the stop on the third down play.

It was a dominating performance from the Roughriders pass rush, recording five sacks from five different players (Micah Johnson, Demarcus Christmas, Anthony Lanier II, Miles Brown and Charbel Dabire).

Jayden Dalke had three tackles and an interception for Saskatchewan.

Shawn Bane Jr. led the Roughriders receivers with six catches for 36 yards.

Lewis led the Elks with 148 yards receiving and a touchdown.

Edmonton’s home losing streak now extends to 18 games.

Jamal Morrow had 80 yards rushing with most of them coming in the fourth quarter.

After the game, Morrow called the Week 1 win, a great overall team win.

“Special teams, defence making that huge goal line stop and the offence in the fourth quarter  close out the game in the fourth quarter.”

He added, “It wasn’t pretty on offence, but as a team, playing team football, making stops, making timely stops, making plays when we need to, that’s a huge step for this team.”

The Roughriders running back noted the team had the right frame of mind during the game, especially in the late stages of the contest.

“It’s a testament to the guys in the locker room, we have a lot of veterans, this is a new team, but it’s a veteran team, I think it was a great job of everybody staying positive on the sideline.”

Riders Head Coach Craig Dickenson thought the win against the Elks wasn’t the prettiest, but felt his team earned the two points.

“Adversity hit us, you know we weren’t always in rhythm, but that’s a good team, I think Edmonton is much improved and we were able to find a way to win in the end.”

Dickenson said Defensive Coordinator Jason Shivers provided the team with a great defensive scheme against Edmonton, while the offence was able to make a key play when they needed to.

The Riders head coach pointed out Harris ability to extend some of the Roughriders drives with some big plays on second downs.

“The one thing he does well is that he keeps his eyes down the field and I thought he made some nice throws when he needed to.”

Despite being burned for a 102-yard touchdown, the Roughriders were able to limit Edmonton’s top receiver, Lewis afterwards, with Milligan helping out with the pass coverage. He enjoys going up against the league’s best.

“I like the challenge, I’m going to try and rise to the occasion to the best that I can and I’m expecting him to do the same.”

Speaking of the league’s best, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will roll into Regina on Friday as the Roughriders open up their home schedule with a matchup against their prairie rivals, Dickenson knows that it will be another tough matchup for his team.

“You saw that first game, they dominated, they’re going to be a tough out, but you know, we feel good about our team, and we’re excited to see how we measure up.”

Friday’s game between Roughriders and Blue Bombers can be heard on 620 CKRM, the opening kickoff is 7:00.

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