Roughriders sack the Lions

The Saskatchewan Roughriders seemed to give up the ball at every opportunity. Fortunately for them, the B.C. Lions were even more generous.

B.C. Lions’ quarterback Buck Pierce is sacked during the final minutes on Friday as the Roughriders won by 28-24.

Roughriders 28 Lions 24

REGINA — The Saskatchewan Roughriders seemed to give up the ball at every opportunity. Fortunately for them, the B.C. Lions were even more generous.

Saskatchewan and B.C. combined for 15 turnovers as the Roughriders opened their 2009 CFL regular season with a sloppy 28-24 win over the Lions in front of 30,062 spectators Friday.

Serious injuries to Saskatchewan offensive lineman Belton Johnson and Lions running back Ian Smart, along with a number of major fouls, further marred an already ugly game.

Saskatchewan quarterback Darian Durant completed 18-of-32 passes for 313 yards while throwing three interceptions and fumbling once. B.C. pivot Buck Pierce was 17-of-33 for 186 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions, and four fumbles.

Pierce’s backup, Jarious Jackson, threw his only pass of the game right into the hands of Saskatchewan’s James Patrick with no time on the clock to cap the night of giveaways.

“It’s ugly. It’s a win. We’ll work on pretty next week,” said Roughriders head coach Ken Miller.

Durant showed flashes of pretty, hitting his receivers with five catches of over 30 yards. Weston Dressler was his favourite target, gaining 154 yards on seven receptions. The Riders’ defence was also strong, forcing four of the Lions’ fumbles and sacking Pierce nine times.

“Their defence did more to our quarterback than we did to theirs and how you control the quarterback usually determines who wins the game,” said Lions head coach Wally Buono.

Smart declined to elaborate on his injury, which occurred on a 21-yard reception from Pierce in the third quarter. Smart pulled up sharply near the sideline and could only use one leg as he was helped off the field. Buono said only that it appeared to be a groin injury and he hoped it wasn’t serious.

Saskatchewan (1-0) also suffered an injury, losing Belton Johnson on a third quarter B.C. punt return.

“I’m concerned about that,” said Miller. “I don’t know exactly the extent of that injury. The very first report I heard, it was a pulled thigh muscle but that was just a very first report so I’ve got to find that out later.”

Friday’s game also marked the debuts for Lions linebacker Anton McKenzie and Riders slotback Jason Clermont against their former teams.

McKenzie signed with B.C. (0-1) as a free agent in February after three seasons in Saskatchewan while Clermont was cut loose by the Lions in December and signed days later by the Roughriders.

Clermont did not register a catch and McKenzie was limited to a sack and a forced fumble that Saskatchewan recovered.

“You always want to make more of an impact,” said McKenzie. “I always feel like if I’m going to make a play I should make it. I made a few mistakes out there and I’m going to learn from it. We made a few mistakes out there on defence, and we’re going to have to learn from it.

“It was just another Lions-Riders battle down to last play of the game. We’ve just got to play a lot better. We know we can play a lot better. We just got to do it and prove it now.”

The Lions will have their chance to prove it July 10 when they host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (0-1). Saskatchewan will continue its season July 11 on the road against the Toronto Argonauts.

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