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July 1, 2018

Notebook: DC will remain a DB

Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach-GM Chris Jones made it pretty clear that Duron Carter will remain at cornerback for the foreseeable future.

Asked after Saturday’s 23-17 CFL loss to the Montreal Alouettes if he planned to shift Carter — a transplanted receiver — away from defence, Jones replied: “Nope.”

Carter made one start in the secondary in 2017 and appeared as a DB in some other games, but he was primarily a receiver. This season, he was moved to corner for Saskatchewan’s second regular-season game after Nick Marshall suffered a hand injury in the opener.

On Saturday, Carter surrendered 79- and 47-yard receptions to Montreal wideout Chris Williams. Carter also was assessed two penalties (one for unnecessary roughness and one for objectionable conduct) during the contest.

“Too many big plays, too many penalties …,” Jones said in assessing Carter’s showing. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got some technique work to do.”

The Roughriders believe Shaq Evans is a capable replacement for Carter on offence — and the CFL rookie turned in a solid effort Saturday. He had a team-high 77 yards on three receptions, one of which was a highlight-reel grab over Als corner Tommie Campbell.

Williams had three catches for 130 yards when matched up against Carter, who admitted he didn’t use his hands to keep the speedy receiver from getting into his routes.

“They took their fastest guy and ran ‘go’ balls — and he caught two of them,” Carter said. “They didn’t really do anything. They scored 23 points on (five) field goals.

“We’re close, but we didn’t pull it off.”

Carter was adamant that he didn’t have a tough night — when it was suggested it looked like he was struggling, he said: “I wasn’t. You want me to tell you what you look like?” — and he claimed the infractions for which he was penalized were minor in comparison to some of the other things that occurred on the field.

But Carter was Saskatchewan’s leading receiver in 2017 for a reason and he admitted he wouldn’t mind occasionally getting on the field with the offence.

“Anytime when you’re used to playing offence and you see the offence sort of stagnant at a certain time, you want to get out there and help,” Carter said. “I just want to go out and help.”

•••

Marcus Thigpen wanted a do-over.

On the Roughriders’ first offensive play Saturday, Thigpen ran a wheel route and quarterback Brandon Bridge put the football right on the money. But instead of completing what would have been a 76-yard pass-and-run scoring play, Thigpen dropped the ball.

“I wish we could have had that play,” Bridge said, “but it just doesn’t happen like that sometimes.”

That didn’t make Thigpen feel any better.

“I wish I could get that play back,” he said. “I saw the ball late trying to get around the defender and I couldn’t bring it in. I feel like the team fed off that energy and we went downhill from there.”

Thigpen was playing for the first time this season after missing the first two regular-season games while serving a league suspension. He was eager to contribute in his season debut, but he finished with just 16 yards rushing on five carries and two catches for one yard.

“Coming in, I wanted to give the team a spark and that (play) would have done just that, especially early in the game,” Thigpen said. “At that point, I feel like we went downhill and we just never recovered.”

•••

Bridge was pulled after two quarters Saturday and replaced by CFL rookie David Watford, who completed 10 of 22 pass attempts for 108 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

What likely would have been another completion (and another touchdown pass) ended up as an incompletion after Watford’s pass to a wide-open Caleb Holley in the Als’ end zone hit the left upright on its way to Holley’s hands.

Watford had a succinct answer when asked to evaluate his performance.

“Bad,” he said. “(There was) a lot to learn from (and) a lot to correct. But it’s a part of growing and part of learning, being up here. I’m just trying to find my way and trying to make plays and help the team the best way I can.”

Watford played quarterback in college but was shifted to receiver after signing with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. The Roughriders moved him back to QB when he signed last fall — and he got into his first game Saturday.

He threw the first touchdown pass of his pro career in the fourth quarter, connecting with Naaman Roosevelt from five yards out.

“(Throwing a TD pass) is always good, but at the same time, I’d rather have a win,” Watford said. “I’d rather throw no touchdowns and win the game than have a touchdown and an L.”

•••

The contest Saturday was the Humboldt Strong game, as the teams paid tribute to the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos and their home community.

The Broncos were involved in a bus crash on April 6 that claimed the lives of 16 people and injured 13 others. Members of the team, family members of the survivors and those who were lost, team and city officials, and first responders were honoured before and during the game by those on hand at Mosaic Stadium.

Roughriders defensive tackle Eddie Steele and Als defensive end John Bowman carried “Humboldt Strong” flags onto the field and took them to midfield for the coin toss (which actually was a puck toss).

“In warmups and the pre-game, being able to see the families and the people from Humboldt was emotional for sure,” Saskatchewan fullback Spencer Moore said. “It was amazing to be out there for the coin toss and to talk to those kids (from the Broncos) a little bit. Once the game got started, though, it was a game as usual.”