July 5, 2024

Rob Vanstone: Shea Day! Patterson prevails in first CFL start

Sixteen years to the day after Darian Durant received his first meaningful playing time in the CFL, another Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback put himself on the map.

Shea Patterson, starting for the first time in three-down football, piloted the Roughriders to a 30-23 victory over the Toronto Argonauts on Thursday at Mosaic Stadium.

“It means a lot, just being with those guys in that locker room and doing it with them,” the 27-year-old signal-caller said after Saskatchewan improved its record to 4-0.

“It was a long time coming and I put in a lot of hard work to be here.”

Patterson had worn a CFL uniform on 21 previous occasions — most often while serving as the short-yardage quarterback — before assuming the reins due to a knee injury that has landed Trevor Harris on the six-game injured list.

Although Patterson did not register passing stats that were reminiscent of Harris, the bottom-line outcome radiated business as usual.

Dating back to last season, the Roughriders have a 6-2 record in games started by Harris. Now Patterson has a “W” beside his good name.

“It’s just complete joy and gratitude,” he said shortly after becoming the 14th Roughrider in the post-World War era to win his first start in Canadian professional football.

The list also includes Durant (July 12, 2008), Johnny Cook (Aug. 21, 1948), Glenn Dobbs (Aug. 25, 1951), Frank Tripucka (Sept. 7, 1953), Ron Adam (Aug. 21, 1958), Joe Adams (Aug. 12, 1982), Kent Austin (Oct. 11, 1987), Kevin Glenn (Aug. 25, 2001), Rocky Butler (Sept. 1, 2002), Steven Jyles (Oct. 25, 2008), Keith Price (Nov. 8, 2015), Mitchell Gale (July 22, 2016) and Isaac Harker (Nov. 2, 2019).

Durant started for the first time eight days after entering the game at the start of the second quarter and helping Saskatchewan defeat the host B.C. Lions 26-16 on July 4, 2008.

It was a careful performance by Durant, who operated a turnover-free offence over the final 30 minutes.

His biggest play was a 20-yard screen pass to Wes Cates, who moved the chains on second-and-19. On the next play, Cates ran 15 yards for a touchdown that snapped a 16-16 tie at 6:33 of the fourth quarter.

Thursday’s tie-breaking TD was courtesy of Roughriders cornerback Marcus Sayles, who picked off Cameron Dukes and sprinted 54 yards before crossing the goal line at 8:34 of the final frame to snap a 20-20 deadlock.

Dukes was also intercepted on the next series, when Rolan Milligan Jr.’s 49-yard return put Saskatchewan in position for a chip-shot field goal that gave the home side a 30-20 advantage at 12:04.

“It’s definitely a sigh of relief when it’s a 20-20 game and you get two straight picks,” Patterson said. “That lets the offence take a deep breath and stay poised and try to get a couple of first downs to run out the clock.”

Patterson did precisely that after the Roughriders began their final possession on their 13-yard line, leading by seven points and with 1:51 — an eternity in the CFL — left on the clock.

Instead of playing it safe with a first-time starter behind centre, Offensive Co-ordinator Marc Mueller opted to throw in back-to-back second-and-long situations. Both times, Patterson found Mitch Picton for a 12-yard completion.

Patterson found his groove, period, after a shaky start.

Five minutes into the second quarter, he was 1-for-5 for 12 yards.

While the offence was struggling, Patterson approached Corey Mace on the sideline and said, “Coach, I need to settle in a little bit.”

That he did, connecting with Jerreth Sterns for a 24-yard gain that ignited an eight-play, 94-yard scoring drive.

Patterson was 5-for-6 for 82 yards during that march, which culminated in a 34-yard TD connection with Samuel Emilus.

“As much as we try to mimic live bullets flying in a game during a practice week, you just can’t,” Mace said. “You live with those because you know the potential of what it’s going to be.

“I’m sure when we watch the film and Shea watches the film, he’s going to see things that he feels like he can do better. I know that he’ll attack it that way.

“But I was just proud of the way that he handled himself, starting the way that he did. He was able to move the offence and lead the offence and put points on the board for us.”

For good measure, Patterson added to the numbers on his father’s pedometer.

“I walked two miles in a 1,000-square-foot condo,” Sean Patterson texted from Texas.

How did the Roughriders’ starting quarterback handle the emotions during the team’s third down-to-the-wire game in four appearances?

“I’m never nervous,” he said.

“It’s just a matter of being able to deal with the highs and lows. It’s just like in life. It’s just like in a four-quarter game.

“You need to be able to come back when you throw one into the dirt or when you read the wrong side.

“If the first couple of drives aren’t really going well, just turn it around and come back stronger the next try.”

That he did.

All in all, it was quite a Shea Day.