REGINA — The Saskatchewan Roughriders needed just one try in 2012 to do something they couldn’t do in 10 attempts all last year — defeat a divisional rival.
The Roughriders’ defence contributed six quarterback sacks, a fumble recovery and an interception Sunday as Saskatchewan beat the Edmonton Eskimos 17-1 before 31,459 spectators at Mosaic Stadium.
It was Saskatchewan’s first win over a West Division opponent since November 2010, after going 0-10 in their own division in 2011.
“Last year was last year and we don’t want to focus on what happened last year, but it’s definitely good to get over that hump and get the win over a West Division opponent,” said middle linebacker Shomari Williams.
After riding a player-of-the-week performance from quarterback Darian Durant to victory in Week 1, Sunday was the Saskatchewan (2-0) defence’s turn to shine.
Edmonton (1-1) was limited to one first down in the first quarter as starting QB Steven Jyles struggled to find his receivers.
Kerry Joseph replaced Jyles midway through the second quarter but the Eskimos’ fortunes changed little.
Brent Hawkins recovered an Edmonton fumble on the Eskimos’ next offensive series, and punter Burke Dales conceded a safety on the possession after that following Woodny Turenne’s sack of Joseph.
Jyles returned in the third quarter and gave the Eskimos their first offensive series of more than five plays, culminating in a missed field goal by Grant Shaw.
Hawkins and Tearrius George also contributed sacks in the third, helping the Riders maintain a 6-1 lead heading into the final frame.
Joseph replaced Jyles for a second time with three minutes to play and finished the day with four completions on eight attempts and 34 yards.
Odell Willis and David Veikune had Saskatchewan’s other sacks, and Craig Butler added a late interception that led to Chris Milo’s game-capping field goal.
Milo connected on two of three field goal attempts, opening the scoring with a 32-yarder in the first quarter and closing it with a 17-yarder in the fourth. He also had a pair of 56-yard punt singles.
Edmonton’s lone point came off a 62-yard punt single from Burke Dales on the first series of the second quarter.
“(Edmonton) had a rookie starting at right tackle and he wasn’t supposed to be in there so when you get things like that you try to take advantage of those matches,” said Hawkins.
Roughriders head coach Corey Chamblin joked after the game that Hawkins’ 26-yard fumble return left a little to be desired because the defensive end failed to score.
If not him, Hawkins is pretty sure one of his teammates will rectify that next week.
“If the fans want to see some more scoring our defence is going to try to score next game so how about that?” he said. “Maybe we can show you all a little show.”
Anyone hoping for an offensive show Sunday finally had their wish granted with three minutes to play when Riders tailback Kory Sheets found open field down the sideline and ran 34 yards for the game’s only touchdown.
Like Jyles, Durant’s effectiveness was limited early, with eight of Saskatchewan’s first nine possessions ending in punts. Last week’s Offensive Player of the Week warmed up as the game went on though, finishing 20-for-32 for 203 yards.Jyles went 10-for-19 for 91 yards.
“I got a little frustrated earlier because we hurt ourselves with penalties, a couple dropped balls we had, and we just put ourselves in bad situations,” said Durant. “(Chamblin) just said ’Look, we knew it was going to be a slugfest, we knew it was going to go down to the wire, so just make a play when we need you to.”’