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July 11, 2017

Tyler Crapigna proves his point(s)

The Saskatchewan Roughriders take on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in CFL action on July 8th, 2017 at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, SK. Derek Mortensen/Electric Umbrella

Tyler Crapigna never doubted himself.

Neither did his Saskatchewan Roughriders teammates and coaches.

But others had their doubts. The 24-year-old kicker had missed key field-goal attempts in each of the Roughriders’ first two games of the 2017 CFL regular season, prompting some to call for Crapigna’s ouster as Saskatchewan’s placement specialist.

The critics were noticeably mute Saturday, after Crapigna kicked two field goals and four converts in Saskatchewan’s 37-20 CFL victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Mosaic Stadium.

“I just wanted to keep doing what I was doing,” Crapigna said following the contest. “The past couple of weeks, I thought I kicked well. Coming into (Saturday’s game), I wanted to do that again — just have another good night.

“I had a complete game (Saturday) and that’s what I was hoping for.”

On June 22, Crapigna kicked 34-, 41- and 18-yard field goals and a 32-yard convert in Saskatchewan’s 17-16 loss to the host Montreal Alouettes.

But he missed a fourth field-goal attempt, a 45-yarder on the game’s final play that would have given the Roughriders the victory.

On July 1, he connected on his first eight placements against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, kicking field goals of 48, 32, 35 and 30 yards as well as four 32-yard converts.

But his 33-yard field-goal try at the end of the Roughriders’ second overtime possession hit the left upright, opening the door for Winnipeg’s Justin Medlock to win the game with a 28-yard field goal. Medlock’s kick was true and the Bombers won 43-40.

Some fans put the two losses on Crapigna’s shoulders. Other patrons threw their support behind the kicker.

Roughriders players leapt to Crapigna’s defence. Head coach-GM Chris Jones said Crapigna would be the Roughriders’ kicker and reiterated that statement over and over again in the days leading up to Saturday’s home date against the Tiger-Cats.

Asked Friday by a Hamilton reporter why he so adamantly supported Crapigna, Jones replied: “He’s an 86-per-cent kicker (in his career). You’re probably not even 86-per-cent successful putting your keys in your car.”

“He’s a guy that can go out there and perform his job at an 86-per-cent level,” Jones added. “It just so happens that he missed at inopportune times.”

Crapigna didn’t miss Saturday. He was good on field-goal tries from 45 and 32 yards and hoofed four converts. His only misstep was a kickoff from Hamilton’s 40-yard line that, instead of being popped up in the air, went into the end zone for a single.

“I’m happy for him that he can come back out and have a really solid game,” Jones said after the contest. “With the exception of the two (field-goal attempts) that we have missed, he has kicked solid.

“It’s good for him to be able to go to the break, be able to exhale a little bit, come back next week and go to work.”

Crapigna planned to head home to the Ottawa area during the Roughriders’ bye week. Saskatchewan’s next game is July 22 in Calgary, where Crapigna began his CFL career with the Stampeders in 2015.

He went into the Roughriders’ week off with nine field goals (the second-highest such number in the CFL, behind Lirim Hajrullahu of the Toronto Argonauts), 11 field-goal attempts (second to Hajrullahu’s 14), the most yards on successful field-goal tries (315) and the most converts (nine).

Crapigna has said multiple times that his confidence didn’t waver after his travails in Saskatchewan’s first two regular-season games. He stressed that those comments weren’t just false bravado.

“It does seem a little bit weird for me to say that, but I honestly don’t feel like it has been shaken,” he said. “Every field goal I hit (Saturday) was right down the middle. That’s what I was doing in practice and, apart from the two misses, everything else was basically the same in the past couple of games.

“I feel like I’ve been kicking well and I feel like I’m in a groove right now.”

Crapigna, who kicked game-winning field goals in three of the Roughriders’ five wins in 2016, entered the 2017 CFL season with 40 three-pointers in 46 tries in his career for a success rate of 86.9 per cent. He’s now 49-for-57 — an 86.0-per-cent clip.

The biggest kick he hit Saturday may have been a 32-yard field goal five minutes into the fourth quarter. Hamilton had cut the Roughriders’ lead to 27-20, but Crapigna stretched the advantage to 10 points with his successful attempt.

After receiving votes of confidence from his teammates and from Jones following the Roughriders’ first two games, Crapigna felt his showing Saturday proved his supporters were right.

“That’s ultimately what I want to do,” he said. “These guys have got my back, so I want to have their backs when it matters. The game was looking in the third quarter like it was going to come down to another one of those (late-game kicks) so that field goal in the fourth was pretty important.

“The guys are working their butts off all game, so the times I do get to go out there, I want to make sure that I capitalize on them.”