June 10, 2024

Rob Vanstone: Dominant debut for Roughriders’ left tackle — “Reid” all about it!

Thanks to the modern miracle that is the PVR, I have now watched Saturday’s CFL game three times.

So, by my calculation, the Saskatchewan Roughriders are 3-0 after defeating the Edmonton Elks 29-21 at Commonwealth Stadium.

Upon further review, here is what I have extracted from the Roughriders’ 2024 season opener …


Left tackle Trevor Reid, making his first start at the professional level, provided virtually airtight protection for quarterback Trevor Harris.

Reid routinely handled everyone who lined up on the opposite side, ostensibly for the purpose of pressuring the passer.

In passing situations, there was only one occasion when Reid was on his heels. Aside from that, he reliably stood up the foe or smoothly steered him away from Harris.

The offensive line, as a whole, should be commended for a strong performance. Aside from the two plays on which Harris was sacked, the Elks didn’t even graze him.

That is a testament to the impressive work of Reid, left guard Philip Blake, centre Peter Godber, right guards Logan Ferland and Ryan Sceviour, and right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick.


Statistically speaking, the Roughriders’ ground game was not a factor. A.J. Ouellette, who handled all the ball-carrying for the Green and White, managed only 40 yards on 18 carries (one of which produced a one-yard TD).

Now, here is more of my specially tailored math: 18 > 40.

Obviously, the Roughriders would like to rush for a total that is exponentially greater than 40 yards. But I attach greater weight to the number of carries when considering Saturday’s circumstances.

Because Offensive Co-ordinator Marc Mueller refused to abandon the run, even when the gains were negligible, the Elks were unable to tee off on Harris. They had to honour the run — an imperative that contributed to the lack of pressure, referenced above.

Harris was one of the beneficiaries. He completed 22 of 31 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns, each of which was scored by Shawn Bane Jr.

Bane Jr.’s first score, from 27 yards away, was made possible by a textbook pocket that was created by the offensive linemen. Harris released the ball in 2.97 seconds.

When Bane Jr. caught a 40-yard TD pass, Harris had 3.75 seconds — an eternity, in football circles — in which to throw. He stepped up in the pocket and six more points resulted.

Edmonton sent four pass rushers when Bane Jr. scored his first two TDs. Leading up to the third score, a 33-yarder, the Elks aimed seven defenders in the direction of Harris, whose diagnostic abilities and quick release enabled him to unload the football in 1.51 seconds and completely neutralize the blitz.

Bane Jr. proceeded to claim a 1/20th share of the Roughriders’ record for touchdown receptions in a game.

The feat had been accomplished for the 19th time on June 16, 2023, when Harris and Samuel Emilus combined for three majors.

Then, as on Saturday, the Roughriders rushed for 40 yards.


Five times in Roughriders history, a green-and-white-clad receiver has caught three touchdown passes against Edmonton.

The common denominator: Hugh Campbell.

Gluey Hughie caught three TD passes for Saskatchewan at Edmonton’s Clarke Stadium on Aug. 28, 1964 and July 29, 1966.

He was Edmonton’s head coach when the Roughriders’ Joey Walters caught three TD passes against the then-Eskimos on Aug. 30, 1981 (Commonwealth Stadium) and Oct. 18, 1981 (Taylor Field).

Most recently, Campbell was in attendance on Saturday, when Bane Jr. hit the trifecta. Campbell was at the game to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Elks/Eskimos.


The combined yardage of Bane Jr.’s three TD catches was the fourth-highest in franchise history. Here are the specifics:

136 — Andy Fantuz (TDs of 36, 73 and 27 yards) at Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Oct. 14, 2007.

114 — Rhett Dawson (24, 46, 44) vs. B.C. Lions, Sept. 28, 1975.

105 — Tom Campana (25, 36, 44) at Montreal Alouettes, Sept. 16, 1973.

100 — Shawn Bane Jr. (27, 40, 33) at Edmonton, June 8, 2024.

Bane Jr. hit the jackpot in his first game as a Roughriders starting wide receiver.

He was used primarily at slotback in 2023, when he caught 93 passes for 1,104 yards.

On Saturday, Bane Jr. lined up as a left or right wideout 77 per cent of the time. He was an inside receiver for the remaining 23 per cent.

“Shout-out to Coach Muels,” Bane Jr. told CKRM’s Luc Mullinder after Saturday’s game. “He was just saying that ‘they won’t be able to get a bead on you if we can move you around.’

“It’s obviously going to take a little more studying and whatnot, but if you can do that, you can make some big plays.”


On Saturday, the Roughriders did not attempt a field goal for only the fourth time since Brett Lauther became the team’s full-time placekicker in 2018.

Moreover, Saskatchewan won without the benefit of at least one field goal since Oct. 12, 2013, when the visiting Edmonton side lost 14-9.

Worth noting: Lauther’s four converts on Saturday increased his all-time total in green and white to 134. He is seven extra points away from tying Bob Macoritti for sixth on the Roughriders’ career list.

Points-wise, Lauther is at 759. By season’s end, he is likely to leapfrog Jack Abendschan (853) and George Reed (823) and ascend to third in team history, behind Canadian Football Hall of Famers Dave Ridgway (2,374) and Paul McCallum (1,615).


• An oft-overlooked key play by Ouellette. Midway through the first quarter, Harris found Ouellette for 19 yards on second-and-10. Two plays later, Bane Jr. scored his first TD.

• Saturday’s rushing stats listed only one Roughrider (Ouellette). Before the 2024 season opener, Saskatchewan had not relied on a sole ball-carrier since Nov. 20, 2021, when Jamal Morrow had nine carries for 41 yards in Hamilton.

• Ouellette’s 18 carries on Saturday were his second-highest total as a CFLer. With the Argonauts, he rushed 19 times for 105 yards against the visiting Alouettes on Sept. 9. Also in 2023, he had an 18-carry game on June 25 in Edmonton. In the latter contest, he rushed for 84 yards and three TDs.

• The Roughriders outrushed Edmonton by one yard on Saturday. The Elks had 12 rushes for 39 yards. Kevin Brown, a 1,141-yard rusher last season, was held to 23 yards on seven carries. Subtract a 13-yarder and Brown had 10 yards to show for the remaining six rushes.

• Saskatchewan and Edmonton combined for 79 rushing yards on Saturday. That is the lowest total in a Roughriders game since July 22, when Saskatchewan (16) and B.C. (34) combined for 50 yards in Vancouver. Before that, there hadn’t been 79 or fewer total rushing yards in a Saskatchewan game since Oct. 31, 1993, when the Roughriders (31) and Argonauts (36) combined for 67 in Toronto. Earlier in the 1993 season, on July 15, Saskatchewan (13) and Edmonton (50) had combined for 63 rushing yards.


• Roughriders defensive halfback Rolan Milligan Jr. clearly likes playing in Edmonton. On Saturday, he celebrated a career high for defensive tackles (nine) and, per my calculations, added two pass knockdowns. His previous peak total of seven defensive tackles was registered on June 18, 2022 in Edmonton. As well, Milligan Jr. has made two of his three career CFL interceptions at Commonwealth Stadium, where he also had a key defensive stop on third-and-goal in the 2023 regular-season opener.

• Milligan Jr.’s first pass deflection on Saturday took place after defensive tackle Micah Johnson pressured Bethel-Thompson and forced him to scramble to his right. On another occasion, pressure exerted by Johnson led to a Bethel-Thompson pass that was batted down by safety Jayden Dalke.

• Linebacker C.J. Avery registered his first interception as a Roughrider — in his first CFL game. Last year, as a member of the Vegas Vipers, Avery recorded the first pick in the history of the revived XFL.

• Avery became the first player to make an interception in his debut as a Roughrider since Jeremy Clark, who had a pick in Calgary on Oct. 23, 2021.

• Defensive tackle Anthony Lanier II tipped the Bethel-Thompson pass that was ultimately intercepted by Avery.


• Saskatchewan’s Mario Alford had punt returns of 91 and 32 yards called back due to penalties. It was nonetheless a productive outing for the Roughriders’ ace returner, who scampered 48 yards after a missed field goal and took a kickoff back for 37 yards.

• Thomas Bertrand-Hudon added a 35-yard kickoff return. That was his 12th kickoff return as a Roughrider, dating back to last year. Saturday’s sprint increased his career average to 25.2 yards per return.

• Linebacker Melique Straker, Saskatchewan’s fourth-round draft choice in 2024, needed only 17 minutes to register his first two CFL special teams tackles.


Penalty-wise, it was a tale of two halves for both teams:

Saskatchewan: Five for 74 yards in the first half; one for 10 yards in the second half.

Edmonton: Three for 30 yards in the first half; eight for 71 yards in the second half.


• Bethel-Thompson’s 33 completions tied him for the 10th-most against Saskatchewan in a game. But when the Elks absolutely, positively needed a completion, it was not to be. The last offensive play on the Elks’ six fourth-quarter possessions was as follows: (1) Incompletion; (2) Lost fumble on a running play; (3) Bethel-Thompson run for six on second-and-10,  following an incompletion); (4) sack/fumble, recovered by Saskatchewan; (5) interception; (6) incompletion.

• The Roughriders’ 13-point fourth-quarter deficit was their largest in a victorious effort since Sept. 7, 2008, when Winnipeg led 31-14 after three quarters before Saskatchewan scored all 20 points over the final 15 minutes. Michael Bishop ignited the rally by throwing touchdown passes to Weston Dressler (45 yards) and Vincent Marshall (32). Luca Congi added two field goals and two converts in the fourth quarter. Bishop’s 45-yard bomb to Gerran Walker set up Congi’s 29-yard, walk-off three-pointer.

• The Roughriders’ 21 fourth-quarter points on Saturday were their most over the final 15 minutes since Sept. 1, 2013, when they scored 24 in the final frame and beat Winnipeg 48-25.

• Here’s one from Keith Willoughby: Saturday’s victory was the Roughriders’ first by more than seven points since Aug. 13, 2022, when Saskatchewan won 34-23 — also in Edmonton! The Roughriders’ next seven wins had been by margins of seven, four, three, one, two, five and two.

• In two visits to Commonwealth Stadium this year (pre-season included), 38 of Saskatchewan’s 57 points have resulted from turnovers.

• Saskatchewan has won four consecutive season openers.