Stampeders 34 Roughriders 26
REGINA — Henry Burris came through with a huge third quarter to put the Calgary Stampeders on the verge of winning the CFL West title.
Burris engineered back-to-back 80-yard touchdown drives in the third to bring his team back from a 19-10 deficit as the Stampeders beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders 34-26 Sunday afternoon.
A 60-yard fumble return by Corey Mace for a fourth-quarter touchdown stood up as the deciding score, and a last-minute interception of Saskatchewan quarterback Darian Durant by Keon Raymond ended any hopes of a Roughriders comeback.
Calgary (11-4) had lost three of its previous four games entering Sunday. With the win, the Stamps hold a four-point lead over Saskatchewan (9-6) for top spot in the CFL’s West Division and need only one win or one Saskatchewan loss to clinch the division title.
“In the end it’s all about who has the last laugh and thankfully today we were able to get that done,” said Burris. “The Riders played a tough game but we had to get that victory.”
The former Saskatchewan quarterback fully expected to be the target of ire from Saskatchewan fans, weeks after he suggested Regina citizens were behind the leaked photos showing a bra-clad Burris standing with a female friend who was also posing in her bra.
He insisted prior to the game the photos wouldn’t be a distraction, and the end result backed that claim up. Burris completed 19 of his 26 passes for 254 yards with one touchdown and one interception Sunday.
Durant finished 15-for-29 for 341 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
“Regardless of what they do in the stands, what they talk about, what they say, what they don’t, or who they try to dress up as, it doesn’t matter,” said Burris. “It’s all about what happens between the stripes and that’s the bottom line.”
For the first time all season, the Roughriders scored a touchdown on their first possession of the game. Durant found Weston Dressler in the end zone on a 25-yard pass to give the Riders a quick 7-0 lead.
They did it again on their next drive, when Durant connected with Chris Getzlaf on receptions of 85 and 11 yards to make it 14-0.
Calgary responded by picking away at the second-worst run defence in the CFL. Joffrey Reynolds scored on an 11-yard run and the Stamps capitalized on a blocked Luca Congi field goal when Rob Maver kicked a three-pointer of his own to make it 19-10.
The Stampeders finished with 221 yards rushing, including 57 over seven runs on their final two possessions to eat up the clock and preserve the win.
“When you combine this with late in the fourth quarter last week it’s a concern,” said Saskatchewan head coach Ken Miller. “It’s something that we have to talk about and do something better with. Just how we address that is something we’ll have to talk about.”
The third quarter was almost all Burris, as he played a key role in setting up Reynolds’ second touchdown of the game — a two-yard run — and then connected with Romby Bryant on a 17-yard touchdown pass.
Saskatchewan mounted a late charge after Mace’s fumble return, when Durant hit Getzlaf with a 64-yard touchdown pass to make it 31-26 for the Stamps.
But Calgary’s running game came throguh and set up Maver’s second field goal of the game.
“The O-line answered the call,” said Burris. “The last four games we haven’t been able to run the ball as effective as we’re used to, and what a better time to get the running game going than today … along with our O-line, and get those guys some confidence because we’re going to need those guys to get the job done.”
The fourth quarter featured a number of wild momentum swings. Saskatchewan’s James Patrick intercepted another surefire touchdown pass, intended for Bryant, on his own five-yard line. The Roughriders were forced to punt on the resulting possession, but got the ball back a little over three minutes later when Willie Byrd forced Ken-Yon Rambo to fumble and Daniel Francis recovered.
Two plays later Milt Collins knocked the ball from Durant’s hands, setting up Mace’s decisive score.
Saskatchewan’s other points came in the second quarter on a safety conceded by Calgary punter Burke Dales and a 36-yard field goal from Eddie Johnson.
Johnson replaced Congi in the second quarter after Calgary defender Dwight Anderson landed on Congi’s kicking leg in the course of blocking the field goal.
Congi (right leg), receiver Rob Bagg (right knee), and defensive back Omarr Morgan (ribs) all left the game for Saskatchewan and did not return.