July 6, 2024

Robservations: Big plays by Baldonado … Schaffer-Baker the first-down maker … Patterson payoff pitches … and assorted references to my dog

Make it 4-and-0bservations.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders’ scorching start to the 2024 CFL season continued on Thursday when they defeated the Toronto Argonauts 30-23 at Mosaic Stadium.

After watching the game in person and dutifully submitting three stories, I sat down with my video assistant — an adorable Regina Humane Society alumnus named Candy — and re-watched the TSN broadcast.

We reached the following conclusions:

• Without much fanfare, Habakkuk Baldonado made one of the game’s biggest plays. Just past the midpoint of the fourth quarter, with the game tied at 20-20, Toronto’s Ka’Deem Carey accepted a handoff and appeared to have plenty of open turf in front of him. That was before Baldonado, a Global defensive lineman, intervened and tripped up Carey. The Argonauts’ talented tailback was visibly disappointed as he pounded his fists on the turf after a two-yard advance. On the next play, a Cameron Dukes pass was intercepted by Marcus Sayles, who enjoyed clear Sayle-ing (sorry) to the end zone for a 54-yard, tie-breaking, game-changing touchdown. It was a huge play by Sayles, but Baldonado set the table by putting the Argonauts in a second-and-long predicament.

• Baldonado, Part 2: With two minutes left, Baldonado knocked down a pass by Dukes’s replacement, Nick Arbuckle, at the line of scrimmage. Arbuckle threw another incompletion on the next play, forcing Toronto to settle for a 42-yard field goal that ultimately produced the final points of the game.

• A la Baldonado, Kian Schaffer-Baker made a massive play shortly before a Saskatchewan touchdown. Midway through the second quarter, Roughriders quarterback Shea Patterson flipped a short pass to Schaffer-Baker on second-and-10. The ball was caught eight yards shy of the first-down marker. An assortment of Argonauts defenders stood between Schaffer-Baker and first-down territory. So what did he do? He took on half the members of the Argonauts’ defence and still gained the requisite 10 yards. After putting an inside move on one Argo, Schaffer-Baker soft-shoed his way past another rival player before transporting four other would-be tacklers toward the Argonauts’ 40-yard line. A final push from offensive lineman Logan Ferland didn’t hurt matters, either. Two plays after Schaffer-Baker’s robust reception, Patterson threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Samuel Emilus.

• Regarding the Emilus touchdown: On second-and-four, the Argonauts sent the house — and perhaps the tool shed as well — and greeted Patterson with an all-out blitz. In the face of pressure, the Roughriders’ signal-caller zipped a short pass to Emilus, who evaded two Argos before using a spin move to elude another. Then it was off to the races for Emilus.

• Emilus describes his TD: “I had a short route and they blitzed everybody, really. I knew I was getting the ball quick. I just had to make one guy miss and it happened that I made three guys miss. I knew that once I had the ball in my hands, I had to make something happen.”

• You and my dog both knew that I couldn’t make it this far without resorting to the infliction of trivia, so here goes: Three players with the surname of Patterson have thrown a touchdown pass for the Roughriders. The key phrase is “a touchdown pass.” Gabe, Lloyd and Shea Patterson are tied with one each.

• You, my dog and the neighbour’s cat (Gordon) all knew I couldn’t leave it there, so … Gabe’s TD toss was a 12-yarder to Sully Glasser against the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Sept. 11, 1948. Lloyd connected with Willie Wilder for a 70-yard score against the Ottawa Rough Riders on Oct. 7, 1979 at Taylor Field. A mere 16,342 days later, the third Patterson TD pass in Roughriders history unfolded.

• The entire readership knew that I couldn’t make it this far without mentioning Joey Walters, so … the game in which Lloyd Patterson threw his only CFL touchdown pass was a classic. A faltering Patterson was replaced by Danny Sanders, who threw a 28-yard TD pass to Walters with 21 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Trailing 20-19, Saskatchewan eschewed a rudimentary one-point convert and opted to attempt a game-winning two-pointer. Alas, Sanders’ pass to Walters was intercepted by Mike Nelms. Roughriders Head Coach Ron Lancaster had chosen to go for two in the hope that the Green and White, then 0-11, would register its first victory of the season.

• Now, here is how the last two Patterson TD passes connect: Marc Mueller, the Roughriders’ first-year Offensive Co-ordinator, is Lancaster’s grandson.

• Shea Patterson is the 83rd Roughrider to throw at least one touchdown pass in the post-Second World War era. (Ryan Dinwiddie, the visiting Head Coach on Thursday, is one of those 83 individuals. He threw five TD passes while serving primarily as Darian Durant’s backup during the 2010 and 2011 seasons.)

• Patterson benefited from reliable pass protection even though left tackle Trevor Reid was unable to finish the game. With Reid sidelined, Ferland moved to left tackle from right guard. Zack Fry assumed Ferland’s guard position. Fry and Ferland join Baldonado in Thursday’s unsung-hero club.

• Add: KeeSean Johnson. Late in the second quarter, Johnson made a fine snag of a Patterson aerial and gained 23 yards (including 18 after the catch) on second-and-eight. Two plays later, Patterson ran for a nine-yard touchdown.

• That was the Roughriders’ longest TD run by a Patterson since Lloyd scored from three yards out against Edmonton on Oct. 14, 1979. Saskatchewan went on to win (finally!) 26-25. The longest TD run by a Patterson (Roughriders version) took place on Nov. 11, 1948, when Gabe took off on a 77-yarder during a playoff game against the host Calgary Stampeders.

• In addition to registering a team-high eight defensive tackles (two for a loss) and a fumble recovery on Thursday, Roughriders middle linebacker Jameer Thurman had three quarterback pressures. The latter stat is based on observations from an untrained eye (mine) and a virtually untrained dog (who’s a good girl?).

• Also with quarterback pressures: Charbel Dabire (2), Anthony Lanier II (2), Baldonado (1), Christian Albright (1), C.J. Avery (1) and Micah Johnson (1).

• Johnson is 36 and still a destroyer of interior offensive linemen. He sacked Dukes in the second quarter for a loss of seven on second-and-eight. On the next play, Lirim Hajrullahu barely missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt. Mario Alford retrieved the errant kick 10 yards deep in the south end zone and returned the ball to the Roughriders’ 23-yard line. If not for the sack, a Hajrullahu field goal from the 40-yard range would have been a virtual certainty. As it was, Toronto didn’t eke out as much as a rouge.

• Best-named player in Thursday’s Roughriders-Argonauts tilt: Benjie Franklin. The Toronto defensive back was a natural for a July 4 game.

• On Thursday, Dukes became the first quarterback to throw four interceptions against the Roughriders since the B.C. Lions’ Jonathon Jennings (Aug. 13, 2017). Saskatchewan intercepted five Winnipeg passes on Sept. 8 of the following year, but two quarterbacks — Matt Nichols (three) and Chris Streveler (two) — contributed to the pick parade.

• Saskatchewan has followed up on a 2-0 pre-season by going 4-0 to begin the regular season. This is the first time in franchise history that the Roughriders have been 4-0 in the regular season after going undefeated in the pre-season.

• Turnovers forced by the Roughriders in four games this season: 14. Turnovers forced in 18 games last season: 29.

• Brett Lauther needs 26 points to tie George Reed for fourth place on the Roughriders’ All-Time scoring list. Dave Ridgway leads the way at 2,374, followed by Paul McCallum (1,615), Jack Abendschan (863), Reed (823) and Lauther (797). Barring the unforeseen, Lauther will be third All-Time by season’s end.

• The Roughriders’ 30-23 victory over Toronto was their first since Oct. 31, 1993, when the Argonauts lost by the very same score at SkyDome (now Rogers Centre). In that Halloween showdown, Roughriders players established franchise single-game records for completions (41, by Kent Austin) and receptions (15, by Don Narcisse). Both standards have endured for 30-plus years.

• Sayles registered the 119th interception-return TD in Roughriders history. The first: A 55-yarder by Fred Brown on Nov. 11, 1929, during a playoff game in Calgary. That was also the first pick-six in Canadian football history. The next year, Brown became the first player on a West team to score a touchdown in a Grey Cup Game. He scored on an onside kick recovery against Toronto Balmy Beach on Dec. 6, 1930. (I covered that game.)


• Nice people who deserve a plug: Sean Patterson, Karen Patterson, Jon Ryan, Barb Ryan, Charbel Dabire, Chad Shepard, David Ablauf, Godfrey Onyeka Sr., Jane Onyeka, Lee Jones, Derek Bidwell, Darrell Romuld, Dr. Tom Robinson, Miles Brown, Phillip Daniels, Brett Lauther, Jill Lauther, KeeSean Johnson, Mark Guy, Bill Babey, Wayne McDonald, Candace Davis and everyone at the Regina Humane Society.