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By Mitchell Blair
The Saskatchewan Roughriders still have a share of first place in the CFL’s Western Conference after a hard-fought 23-20 win over the Edmonton Eskimos in front of a record setting 62-thousand people at Commonwealth Stadium on a day where the elements were perhaps the true winner.
With a fierce wind howling, neither team could duplicate the offensive effort they treated fans to last week at Mosaic Stadium, but in the end, the Rider defence came through silencing Ricky Ray at just about every opportunity.
Quarterback Darian Durant has had better days as he threw three interceptions, but when he was needed the most, he came through on a seven play, 65 yard drive that was capped off when Steven Jyles plunged over from the one for the winning points with nine minutes to go in the football game.
Head coach Ken Miller was beaming after the football game because of the way his team fought through a tremendous amount of adversity to come through and get the much-needed two points.
“We made some mistakes in the first half that aren’t like us,” Miller said. “But the men kept rallying and playing. We were committed to playing with a tough attitude and doing whatever it takes to get a win and we got it. We played with an attitude that wasn’t always pretty or exact, but I’m really proud of that.”
Miller also felt it was a great way for the defence to redeem themselves after last week’s heartbreaking loss as they were able to hold the Edmonton offence in check several times after taking the lead in the 4th.
“Ricky had a few big plays, but we took away his continuity,” Miller told 620 CKRM’s Carm Carteri during the post-game show. “We did a great job against the run with the exception of one play, but overall it was a great effort not just by the defence, but our offence and special teams as well.”
One of those players who excelled on defence was middle linebacker Mike McCullough. He was well-aware as to how big this victory was and how it was key to prevent Ray from working his magic.
“Last week, Ricky had a game where we couldn’t stop him,” McCullough said. “We knew coming in that he couldn’t have a game like that again because it was one of those games that you have every five or six years, but we still had to account for what he can do. We managed to counterpunch very well and we managed to maintain him. We’re very happy.
Another player who was very aware of what this victory meant was running back Wes Cates.
“This is a huge victory,” Cates declared. “We owed it to the fans after letting Edmonton take two from us at home. We came in here with a purpose in our minds that we weren’t going to let them take another one from us and we did what we wanted. We’re still tied for first and we have the tiebreaker over Calgary right now, so we’re feeling good.
The victory does leave Saskatchewan tied with Calgary for first in the West with both teams sitting at 7-5. It’s a short week for the team as they will hit the road again with the destination being B.C Place and a game against the Lions on Friday.
• In what has been a weird stat this year, the Riders remain undefeated when they have the lead after three quarters as they are 7-0. On the flip side, they are winless when trailing after three as they are 0-5.
• Draft pick Tamon George got commendations from the coaching staff and fellow players after seeing his first significant taste of action. George filled in for Leron Mitchell who suffered a leg injury in the first half.
• Wes Cates had his 2nd 100 yard game of the season as he ran the ball 17 times for 107 yards.
• The Riders finish the second third of the season with a record of 4-2.