WINNIPEG _ Weston Dressler was feeling pretty pumped after scoring a 75-yard touchdown on a second-quarter punt return in the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ 30-24 win over the Blue Bombers on Sunday.
It didn’t last long.
The veteran receiver, who just re-signed with the club last month and was playing his second game, held his breath when he saw quarterback Darian Durant writhing in pain after taking a hit 5:38 in the third quarter.
“Your heart just sinks,’’ said Dressler, who re-signed after being cut by the NFL Kansas City Chiefs.
“You never want to see a guy go down on the field, especially a guy like him. He’s our leader. He’s our guy. He’s our man that we follow.
“He’s the guy that I followed for the last six years so it’s tough to see, but you know what type of guy he is, what type of fighter he is and he’ll get back on the field.’’
Durant left the game holding his right throwing arm after being knocked to the turf by Bombers defensive end Bryant Turner on a play that had been whistled down in front of a sold-out crowd of 33,234 fans at Investors Group Field.
Early reports said it’s an elbow injury, which isn’t good news for the defending Grey Cup champions, who moved into second place in the CFL West Division with their seventh straight victory and 8-2 record.
Saskatchewan head coach Corey Chamblin said he heard the official’s whistle, but it was part of the positive and negatives that happen in a game.
He didn’t know the extent of Durant’s injury, but said it motivated the players to hang on to the lead with backup Tino Sunseri at the helm.
“The guys knew that our leader was down and we have faith in Tino. We’ve seen him before, but guys took it as a slight, they got a little pissed, but we finished the game,’’ Chamblin said.
Winnipeg (6-5), which has lost four of its last five games, had led 7-1 after the first quarter before the Riders exploded, outscoring the Bombers 26-1 in the second, including 17 points in a four-minute span.
Defensive back Rod Williams started the second quarter with a 60-yard fumble return for a TD 15 seconds in after Bomber Lirim Hajrullahu’s 41-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by Weldon Brown.
Running back Anthony Allen scored on a 13-yard run at 13:27 and Dressler missed some tackles and ran down the sidelines for his TD with 38 seconds left in the second quarter.
Sunseri went in for Durant and led the Riders on a drive that ended with Chris Milo’s 35-yard field goal to make it 30-15.
“Whenever you’re up by that many points, you want to establish the line of scrimmage, you want to run the football, understand the clock’s in your favour and you don’t want to turn the ball over,’’ Sunseri said. “I felt like our offensive line and running backs did a great job of getting on their man and making sure they were opening holes, able to get first downs and making sure that we put enough points on the board to win the game at the end.’’
Sunseri completed two of five pass attempts for 30 yards. Durant was 8-of-9 for 77 yards before his injury.
Winnipeg quarterback Drew Willy attempted his fifth late-game comeback of the season, hitting Aaron Kelly with a 29-yard TD pass with 2:27 left in the game to make it 30-24.
Riders fullback Jerome Messam then carried the ball and fumbled, with Bombers defensive back Maurice Leggett picking it up and breathing new life into the Bombers at Saskatchewan’s 45-yard line with 1:36 left.
The joy was brief as Willy’s next throw was intercepted by Williams with 1:26 remaining.
Willy said he wished he had that throw back, but there was some positive in the team battling to the whistle.
“The low obviously is the loss. Any time you lose a game, it stings, but we just need to look at the corrections, get better,’’ Willy said. “We have a big game this week against B.C. (6-4).’’
Willy completed 26 of 38 pass attempts for 360 yards with two interceptions and two TDs.