REGINA — Tino Sunseri turned the boos he heard at halftime into a standing ovation at the end of the game.
In just his second start in the CFL, the second-year quarterback rallied the Saskatchewan Roughriders to a thrilling 35-32 victory in overtime over the Ottawa Redblacks at a sold-out Mosaic Stadium on Sunday.
Sunseri engineered a last-minute touchdown drive that tied the game at 32-32 and then set up the winning field goal by Chris Milo in overtime.
“I never saw doubt in his eyes,” Riders head coach Corey Chamblin said of his quarterback.
Milo’s game-winning kick in overtime was a 22-yard boot and it was his second opportunity to win the game. On the Riders’ first overtime possession, he had to deal with a bad snap and his 37-yard attempt sailed wide.
Redblacks kicker Kicker Brett Maher had his game-tying, 37-yard field goal attempt blocked.
“We came in here at halftime and looked each other in the eye and said, ’Shoot, that’s not how we wanted the first half to go,”’ Sunseri said. “But we had 30 more minutes to put our statement on this game.”
The Riders mustered just 26 yards passing in the first half and were booed off the field as they trailed 22-10 at halftime. In his first start a week ago in Hamilton, Sunseri struggled mightily. He managed just nine completions and 88 yards on 22 pass attempts in a 28-3 loss to the Tiger-Cats.
But Sunseri found a groove in the second half on Sunday.
On his team’s first possession of the third quarter, Sunseri hooked up with Will Ford on a 23-yard touchdown strike.
Sunseri’s second touchdown toss of the second half came early in the fourth quarter and stirred talk of a possible comeback by the home team. A 60-yard passing play to Weston Dressler pulled the Riders to within five at 29-24.
After a late field goal from Maher that pushed the Ottawa lead to 32-24, Sunseri’s stage was set for a thrilling, last-minute scoring drive.