July 5, 2024

Turnovers tell the tale for undefeated Roughriders

The Saskatchewan Roughriders doubled down on the digit on July 4.

Four interceptions.

A stellar fourth quarter.

And a 4-and-0 record to begin the 2024 CFL season.

Turnovers influenced the outcome in the Roughriders’ favour yet again as they defeated the Toronto Argonauts 30-23 at Mosaic Stadium on Thursday.

Saskatchewan transformed takeaways into 20 of its 30 points.

Over the course of the season, 36.7 per cent of Saskatchewan’s 128 points have resulted from turnovers.

“We’ll take them whenever we can get them,” Head Coach Corey Mace said, “but when it’s crunch time, it really swings momentum into your favour.”

That has been the theme in all four games.

June 8: The Roughriders’ final two touchdowns resulted from turnovers in a season-opening, 29-21 victory over the host Edmonton Elks. Deontai Williams forced a fumble, which was recovered by Roughriders middle linebacker Jameer Thurman, to set up a one-yard touchdown run by A.J. Ouellette. Brett Lauther’s convert gave Saskatchewan a 22-21 lead. Later in the fourth quarter, Bryan Cox Jr. forced and recovered a fumble by Elks quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson to put the Roughriders in position for a 33-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Harris to Shawn Bane Jr. Linebacker C.J. Avery added an interception in the final minute.

June 16: Avery’s interception with 33 seconds left set the stage for a 43-yard walk-off field goal by Lauther, whose three-pointer gave Saskatchewan a 33-30 road victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

June 23: With 1:08 remaining in the third quarter, Thurman scored on a 28-yard interception return against the visiting Tiger-Cats. Lauther’s convert gave the Roughriders a 25-7 lead. With 1:04 left in the game, Rolan Milligan Jr. intercepted Hamilton’s Bo Levi Mitchell to secure a 36-20 victory for Saskatchewan.

July 4: The Roughriders and Argonauts were tied 20-20 when Marcus Sayles stepped in front of a Cameron Dukes pass and sprinted 54 yards toward Mosaic Stadium’s north end zone. Sayles scored with 6:11 remaining in the game. Two plays into the Tiger-Cats’ next possession, Milligan Jr. intercepted Dukes and sprinted 49 yards to set up a chip-shot field goal. It was the second pick of the day by Milligan Jr., whose third-quarter theft was turned into a TD when quarterback Shea Patterson ran for a nine-yard score.

“That’s just our M.O.,” Sayles said. “We want to get to the ball.”

Saskatchewan has registered back-to-back five-turnover games.

The 10 turnovers are the most by the Roughriders over a two-game span since they dealt the opposition a pair of fives to begin the 2022 season.

Prior to that, Saskatchewan had not registered a double-digit turnover total over a two-game span since August of 2017, when the magic number was 12.

Toronto entered Thursday’s game with a turnover differential of plus-3 before committing all five giveaways at Mosaic Stadium.

Thursday’s binge increased the Roughriders’ turnover ratio to plus-10.

Saskatchewan is plus-9 in that category over the past six quarters. Over that span, Milligan has all three of the interceptions he has registered in 2024.

“We’re going to get opportunities,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we capitalize when we do.”