March 26, 2024

Rob Vanstone: The Roughriders’ premier deep threat? Jeff Fairholm in a runaway!

Today, we take a deep dive into the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ deep passing game.

A descent into the latest (admittedly nerdy) research-related rabbit hole has led to the documentation of 391 completions of 50 or more yards, dating back to the Regina Roughriders’ 1932 season.

Twenty-five of those 391 passes ended up in the reliable hands of Jeff Fairholm, who pretty much owns this category.

Including Grey Cup and West Division playoff competition, Fairholm dressed for 101 meaningful games while starring at slotback for the Roughriders from 1988 to 1993.

And here’s an eye-popper for you: Fairholm averaged one 50-plus-yarder every 4.04 games.

Unsurprisingly, Ron Lancaster leads the list of passers who have produced aerial advances of 50-plus yards. Over 16 seasons with the Roughriders, The Little General completed 81 such passes, with 41 touchdowns resulting.

Kent Austin is next in line with 43 long completions, one more than Darian Durant. Durant threw 24 long TD passes, two more than Austin.

Without further preamble, here are the lists:


(Touchdown Catches in Parentheses Where Applicable)

25 — Jeff Fairholm (16)

18 — Ray Elgaard (9)

15 — Curtis Mayfield (10)

14 — Weston Dressler (7) and Bobby Thompson (9)

11 — Gord Barwell (7)

9 — Tom Campana (4), Steve Mazurak (4) and Taj Smith (7)

8 — Chris Getzlaf (5) and Don Narcisse (5)

7 — Rob Bagg (4) and Dwight Edwards (4)

6 — Matt Dominguez (3)

5 — Ken Carpenter (3), Chris DeFrance (3), Andy Fantuz (3), Alan Ford (1), Bob Pearce (2), Naaman Roosevelt (4) and Joey Walters (3)

4 — Derick Armstrong (3), Hugh Campbell (2), Michael Elarms (2), Shaq Evans (1), Corey Grant (1), Curtis Marsh (1), Ray Purdin (3), Ryan Smith (2) and B.K. Williams (2)

3 — Demetris Bendross (2), Rhett Dawson (3), Ron Dundas (1), Samuel Emilus (1), Dan Farthing (1), Jason French (1), Kenton Keith (1), Mike Saunders (3), Kian Schaffer-Baker (1), Chris Szarka (1) and Jim Worden (1)

2 — Jason Armstead (1), Nolan Bailey (1), Adarius Bowman (2), Bruce Boyko, Ed Buchanan (1), Leroy Campbell, Duron Carter (1), Ricky Collins Jr., Nic Demski, Dan DePalma (1), D.J. Flick (1), Tom Donnelly (1), James Epps, Jack Hill (1), Nate Johnson (1), Milson Jones, Reggie Jones (1), Tevin Jones (1), Darren Joseph (2), Molly McGee (1), Silas McKinnie (1), Brian O’Hara (1), Rodney Parker, George Reed, Bob Renn, Curt Schave (1), Kory Sheets, Larry Thompson, Elijah Thurmon, Emanuel Tolbert (1), Peter Watson (2), Dale West (2), Willie Wilder (2), Korey Williams (1) and Paul Williams (1)

1 — Emmanuel Arceneaux (1), Karsten Bailey (1), Dallas Baker, Shannon Baker (1), Shawn Bane Jr., P.L. Blake, Rob Bresciani (1), Todd Brown (1), Bob Bruer, Ken Charlton, Dylan Ching, Jason Clermont, David Conrad, William Davis, Tony Dennis, Paul Dudley, Rick Eber (1), Lucius Floyd (1), Tommy Ford (1), Stu Foord (1), Jack Gotta (1), Bakari Grant, Bill Gray (1), Tyron Gray, Eric Guliford (1), Mark Guy, Mike Hagler (1), Fred Hamilton (1), Rod Harris, Rocky Henry, Karl Hilzinger (1), Caleb Holley (1), Willis Jacox (1), Paul Kirk (1), Brayden Lenius, Justin McInnis, Robert Mimbs, Steve Molnar (1), Kyran Moore (1), Travis Moore, Jamal Morrow, Michael Palmer, Gabe Patterson, Ralph Pierce (1), Roell Preston (1), James Robinson, Frank Russell, Menan Schriewer, Mac Speedie, Pete Thodos (1), Gerran Walker, Victor Wallace (1), Mike Washington, Sam Wesley (1), Duke Williams (1), Stan Williams (1) and Tydus Winans


(Touchdown Passes in Parentheses Where Applicable)

81 — Ron Lancaster (41)

43 — Kent Austin (22)

42 — Darian Durant (24)

16 — Henry Burris (8)

13 — Tom Burgess (8), Kerry Joseph (4) and Reggie Slack (10)

11 — Kevin Glenn (5), John Hufnagel (3) and Frank Tripucka (7)

10 — Cody Fajardo (5)

8 — Nealon Greene (5)

7 — Joe Paopao (3)

6 — Warren Jones (5), Homer Jordan (3), Kevin Mason (3), Bob Ptacek (6) and Brett Smith (3)

5 — Michael Bishop and Steve Sarkisian (2)

4 — Don Allard, Joe Barnes (3), Jake Dolegala (1) and Marvin Graves (1)

3 — Ron Adam (1), Joe Adams (3), Marcus Crandell (2), Larry Dick (1) and Tino Sunseri (2)

2 — Austin DeFrate (1), Glenn Dobbs (2), Mason Fine (1), Jimmy Kemp, Oke Olson (2), Bernard Quarles, Heath Rylance, Danny Sanders (1), Rick Worman (2) and Bubba Wyche (1)

1 — Jeff Bentrim (1), Brandon Bridge (1), Rocky Butler (1), Zach Collaros, Johnny Cook, George Cullen, Ryan Dinwiddie, Frank Filchock (1), Mitchell Gale (1), Dave Grosz, Eric Guthrie, Charlie Harding (1), Trevor Harris, Craig Juntunen (1), Steven Jyles, Lloyd Patterson (1), Bob Pearce (1), Antonio Pipkin, Keith Price, Keith Smith and Pete Thodos (1)


Some (nerdy) notes …

  • Four different Roughriders quarterbacks — Trevor Harris, Jake Dolegala, Mason Fine and Antonio Pipkin — registered at least one long (50-plus) completion last season.
  • The Roughriders have scored a touchdown on 201 of their 391 long completions.
  • Samuel Emilus boasts the Roughriders’ past two long completions. He caught a 54-yard TD pass against the host Ottawa REDBLACKS on Sept. 22 and added a 51-yard gain against the visiting Toronto Argonauts on Oct. 21.
  • The Roughriders’ aerial awakening took place on Oct. 6, 1934, when Walter (Oke) Olson threw for 446 yards in a 29-9 victory over the host Saskatoon Hilltops. Included were TD tosses of 60 yards (to Paul Kirk) and 55 yards (Ralph Pierce). As well, Steve Adkins caught 11 passes for 234 yards. The off-the-charts yardage total by Adkins was the highest in franchise history until Chris DeFrance erupted for 260 yards on Aug. 5, 1983 in Edmonton.
  • Pete Thodos owns the distinction of appearing on both lists (passing and receiving). On Oct. 22, 1955 against the visiting B.C. Lions, he collaborated with Ron Adam and Harry Lampman on a 63-yard score. Adam completed the pass to Thodos, who gained 43 yards before lateralling to Lampman. After advancing about five yards, Lampman returned the football to Thodos, who proceeded to score. One week later, Thodos accepted a lateral from quarterback Frank Tripucka and launched a 52-yard TD pass to Tom Donnelly against the host Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
  • The Roughriders also engineered a three-way play on Oct. 22, 1932, when Austin DeFrate found Curt Schave for a 75-yard gain. As Schave was being tackled, he pitched the ball to Nick Busch, who advanced another five yards against the visiting University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
  • The longest reception in Roughriders history belongs to Fairholm, who collaborated with Austin on a 107-yard touchdown against the visiting Blue Bombers on Sept. 2, 1990. Fairholm owns the Roughriders’ record for receptions of 70 or more yards (10).
  • Longest reception against the Roughriders: 108 yards, from Tobin Rote to Jim Rountree for a score in Toronto on Sept. 10, 1961.
  • John Hufnagel’s four longest completions (for 74, 72, 62 and 60 yards) did not produce a TD. His longest scoring strike was a 57-yarder to Dwight Edwards against the visiting Blue Bombers on Sept. 5, 1982.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, all six of Bob Ptacek’s completions of 50-plus yards ended in a TD. He peaked with a 104-yard pass to Ray Purdin on Oct. 15, 1962 in Hamilton.
  • Weston Dressler and Don Narcisse are the Roughriders’ all-time leaders in post-season 50-plus gains (two). Lancaster, Austin and Durant each threw four 50-plus-yarders in playoff or Grey Cup competition.
  • Longest post-season completion: Reggie Slack to Tydun Winans for 81 yards in Edmonton during the 1997 West Division final. The completion set up a 21-yard field goal by Paul McCallum. Saskatchewan went on to win 31-30.
  • Craig Juntunen and Lloyd Patterson threw one TD pass as a Roughrider. In each case, the receiver was Willie Wilder. Juntunen and Wilder generated a 96-yarder against the visiting Calgary Stampeders on Sept. 16, 1979. Patterson found Wilder for a 70-yard major on Oct. 7, 1979 against the Ottawa Rough Riders at Taylor Field.
  • Two of Paul Williams’ five receptions as a Roughrider were for 50-plus yards. Lancaster found Williams for a 50-yarder against Winnipeg on Sept. 5, 1977 at Taylor Field. On Aug. 8, 1978, Lancaster and Williams combined for a 57-yard score when the Lions were in town.
  • Williams is the most frequently mentioned surname on the TD-receptions list, which includes Paul, Duke, B.K., Korey and Stan. But there was only one Jeff Fairholm!