REGINA – The Saskatchewan Roughriders produced an impressive defensive effort to record a 30-13 season-opening victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday at Mosaic Stadium.
The Riders registered eight sacks and two interceptions in the Canadian Football League contest with kicker Brett Lauther scoring Saskatchewan’s first 15 points of the game with five field goals.
Pete Robertson had two sacks for the Riders with Charleston Hughes, AC Leonard, Charbel Dabire, Mike Edem, Larry Dean and Rolan Milligan also recording sacks. Derrick Moncrief and Nick Marshall had interceptions for the Riders.
Lauther was a perfect five-for-five in field goal attempts, hitting from 13, 48, 30, 39 and 41 yards.
Since 2017, the Riders are 29-0 in the regular season when leading after three quarters. They held a 12-6 lead after three quarters on Friday.
Hamilton made things interesting midway through the fourth quarter when quarterback Dane Evans hit Steven Dunbar for a 71-yard touchdown to cut the Riders lead to 15-13.
The Riders responded with a lengthy drive, going 85 yards on seven plays, culminating with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Cody Fajardo to Kian Schaffer-Baker with three minutes left for a 22-13 lead. The biggest play on the drive was a third-and-one gamble at midfield with five minutes left in the final quarter. The Riders, who had turned the ball over on downs twice previously, kept the drive alive on a two-yard run by Jamal Morrow.
On their first offensive play following the Riders touchdown, Evans was intercepted by Moncrief who returned the ball 39 yards to the Hamilton one-yard line. Fajardo scored on a quarterback sneak on the next play and then hit Duke Williams on a two-point convert to increase their lead to 30-13.
Both offences struggled in the first half. The Tiger-Cats had four first downs and 96 total net yards while the Riders had three first downs and 94 total net yards.
Papi White had the biggest gain of the half for the Tiger-Cats, hauling in a 26-yard reception from Evans in the second quarter. Saskatchewan’s longest gain of the half came when tailback Morrow took a shovel pass from Fajardo and scampered 30 yards down the sideline. The play set up Lauther’s second field goal of the half with the 48-yarder giving the Riders a 6-3 lead.
Two minutes into the second quarter Hamilton linebacker Simoni Lawrence drilled Fajardo, who was being taken to the turf by Malik Carney. Lawrence hit Fajardo in the upper back and head area and was penalized for rough play. Although Fajardo appeared to be injured on the play, he remained in the game.
Hamilton got a break to start the second half when Morrow fumbled the kickoff and the Tiger-Cats recovered on the Saskatchewan 32-yard line. The Tabbies got into the end zone when Evans connected with Dunbar on an eight-yard scoring pass but the touchdown was negated by a holding penalty.
Evans was then sacked by Edem and the Tiger-Cats settled for a 25-yard field goal from Michael Domagala to tie the game at 6-6.
Domagala was good on two of three field goal attempts, hitting from 52 and 25 yards while missing from 46 yards when his kick hit the left upright.