A spectacular 37-yard touchdown by Samuel Emilus was part reception, part interception.
As Emilus made a beeline for a high, arcing pass by Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Jake Dolegala on Sunday, it appeared that the 25-year-old receiver’s primary role would be defensive in nature.
Two B.C. Lions defensive backs were in the vicinity as Dolegala’s pass neared its target. Initially, it looked like the Lions’ Marcus Sayles had the best shot at the football.
Emilus had other ideas. He swooped in, at full speed and maximum elevation, and plucked the football from Sayles’ fingertips.
After making a highlight-reel catch, Emilus tumbled to the turf and rolled into Mosaic Stadium’s north end zone to punctuate an utterly unbelievable play.
“That was something else,” Roughrider Head Coach Craig Dickenson marvelled after Sunday’s 34-29 CFL victory. “From my perspective, it was one of the best catches I’ve ever seen.”
“I thought it was possibly an interception, the way it happened, and he just went up and over and somehow caught that thing at its highest point. It was an outstanding play.”
The gem of a grab resulted in Dolegala’s third touchdown pass of the game.
Asked about Emilus, Dolegala replied: “He’s a stud. There’s no other way to put it. The defensive halfback was coming over. I was like, ‘I’ll just put the ball up.’ He’s got, whatever, a 45-inch vertical and he’s going to go up and get it, so that’s what I did and I trusted him.”
Emilus was drafted seventh overall in 2022 with plays such as that in mind.
At the time of the selection, Roughriders General Manager and Vice-President of Football Operations Jeremy O’Day lauded the ability of the 6-foot-1 Emilus to make contested catches.
“For me, there’s no such thing as a 50-50 ball,” Emilus said. “It’s up to me to make a play. That’s what I’m getting paid for.”
Earlier in the game, Emilus had made a leaping 46-yard reception — on first-and-20 — to set up the Roughriders’ second touchdown.
He finished the game with five receptions for a career-high 106 yards.
After 10 games this season, Emilus has 35 receptions for 577 yards. That puts him on pace for 63 catches and 1,039 yards over a full 18-game schedule.
Emilus has caught the Roughriders’ third touchdown pass both times the aerial attack has produced at such a level this season.
On June 16, he caught all three TD passes thrown by Trevor Harris in the home opener against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Over Dolegala’s two starts as a Roughrider, he has hit Emilus for completions of 51, 46 and 37 yards.
Dolegala’s first start was on July 24, 2022 against the visiting Toronto Argonauts.
Emilus included, the Roughriders have three receivers who are on a 1,000-yard trajectory.
Shawn Bane Jr. (who currently has a league-best 55 grabs for 656 yards) is on pace for 99 catches and 1,181 yards.
Tevin Jones (44 catches, 599 yards) is producing at a rate that extrapolates to 83 receptions and 1,131 yards. His stats are pro-rated over 17 games because he did not play in the regular-season opener.
Saskatchewan has had three 1,000-yard receivers four times in its history.
Don Narcisse, Ray Elgaard and Jeff Fairholm all hit triple digits in 1991, 1992 and 1993. Weston Dressler, Chris Getzlaf and Taj Smith formed a 1,000-yard troika during the championship season of 2013.
Also in 2013, Kory Sheets rushed for 1,598 yards, giving Saskatchewan four 1,000-yard producers for the first time.
This year’s Roughriders could very well duplicate that rare feat, because Jamal Morrow is on pace for 1,010 rushing yards.
Morrow’s 561 yards place him second in the league, behind Winnipeg’s Brady Oliveira (783).
Saskatchewan forced five turnovers for the first time since the aforementioned July 24, 2022 home game against Toronto.
On Sunday, Saskatchewan played turnover-free football for the first time since July 8, 2022, in a 28-13 home-field victory over the Ottawa REDBLACKS.
Sunday’s turnover differential (five) was the largest in the Roughriders’ favour since Aug. 14, 2021, when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats fell 30-8 at Mosaic Stadium.
Hamilton committed six turnovers. Saskatchewan relinquished the ball only once.
13 STRAIGHT FOR #12
Roughriders placekicker Brett Lauther kicked two field goals, including a 53-yarder, on Sunday to extend his streak of successful three-point attempts to 13.
As a Roughrider, he has assembled two other streaks of 13, along with runs of 27, 17 and 16 in a row.
In 2018, he made 27 field goals in a row, missed one, and then nailed the next 17 attempts en route to being named a West Division All-Star.
Converts included, Lauther has made 22 consecutive placement attempts this season.
The Roughriders are to return to action Sept. 3 against Winnipeg (5 p.m., Mosaic Stadium).
The left side of the Roughriders’ offensive line, augmented by an extra blocker (Logan Bandy), caved in the Lions’ defensive front on Sunday’s eight-yard TD run by Morrow.
Bandy (on the far left), left tackle Eric Lofton and left guard Evan Johnson created a massive hole for Morrow, who was untouched en route to the end zone.
Also of note: Right guard Logan Ferland bulldozed Lions pass rusher Sione Teuhema while the Roughriders’ offensive line was providing Dolegala with airtight protection as a whole on a play that resulted in an 18-yard TD toss to Jerreth Sterns.
Dolegala threw a dart to a wide-open Sterns, who made a move to the outside before cutting toward the middle of the field and finding himself wide open for his first CFL touchdown.
A leaping, 22-yard grab by Sterns also set up Morrow’s TD run.
DEAN OF THE DEFENCE
Roughriders middle linebacker Larry Dean,
playing in his 100th CFL game, marked the milestone in fine style on Sunday.
He registered four defensive tackles (ascending to 32nd on the league’s all-time list), one sack and a tackle for a loss.
Crucially, Dean felled Lions short-yardage quarterback Dominique Davis on a two-point convert attempt with 6:07 remaining in the fourth quarter and Saskatchewan leading by five.
Dean made the stop after defensive back Jeremy Clark defeated a block by former Roughriders receiver Justin McInnis and blew up the play.
- The Roughriders have registered nine sacks, including five on Sunday, over two games against the Lions this season.
- Sunday’s total of 34 points was the most by Saskatchewan since Aug. 13, 2022, when the Roughriders won 34-23 in Edmonton.
- Kosi Onyeka earned a game ball on Sunday after becoming the first Roughrider to register four special teams tackles in a game since Alexandre Chevrier (Aug. 25, 2018 at B.C.).