In the end it all came down to one yard.
Sure, there were plays along the way that could have went differently, fumbles that the team would like back, tackles they wished they had made but in the end all that was left was overtime.
The Eskimos had scored a field goal, so all the Riders needed to do was tie things up with a field goal of their own and both teams could try again. Instead, head coach Chris Jones took the more aggressive option – to go for it on short yardage. With a fresh set of downs the Riders could try for a touchdown and win the game. It was risky, perhaps less so because of the play in general, but more because it hadn’t panned out for the team all the other times they tried it.
It didn’t pan out this time either.
The Roughriders fell 39-36 in overtime.
“If you can’t get a yard, you shouldn’t be in the game,” Jones said when the dust settled at Commonwealth Stadium. “We’re going to be aggressive and we’re playing to win, we’re not sitting there to try and tie the ball game in their house.”
“We worked on (short yardage) a lot last week,” Jones said, adding that will continue into next week too. “We’re going to put an emphasis on it.”
For what it’s worth, the quarterback that had to advance the ball thought he gained the yard and got the first down. The referees and the review disagreed. Regardless of the outcome, Darian Durant knows the play needs work.
“He has a lot of confidence in us and we got to do a better job of executing in short yardage situations,” he said.
But as for his play during the rest of the game – he hopes he’s laid to rest the questions over his injury and if he’ll ever be the same. He went 27 for 38 for 317 yard and 4 touchdowns and hit the 25,000 yard milestone alongside his 100th career start.
“I’m not a stats guys,” he said when asked about the accomplishment. “The only stats that matter is wins and losses … If we lose a game, it’s the worst feeling ever.”
It doesn’t feel much better know the game was so close. In fact, at the half the Roughriders were leading 19-7, until just seconds before the end of the first half when Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly hit former Rider Chris Getzlaf for a touchdown. The Eskimos continued to surge getting 26 unanswered points and putting themselves up 33-19 before the Roughriders found some answers.
The first came in the form of a touchdown to John Chiles. The second, an onside kick, knocked out of bounds by former basketball player turned Rider defensive end Jordan Reaves and the last – another touchdown. This one to former Eskimo Shamawd Chambers.
“We’re always going to have fight in us. We’re never going to give up, not as long as I’m the leader of this team, we’re always going to fight,” Durant said.
But a breakdown in the defence brought the Eskimos back into field goal range with 3 seconds left. Shawn Whyte nailed a 51 yarder to force the teams into overtime where Edmonton got the ball first. White kicked another 32 yard field goal, making it 39-36.
The game ended when the Roughriders didn’t score in their possession.
But despite the loss and the failure to convert, Jones did see things he liked.
“I like the character of our group. It could have been real easy in their house with five minutes left, (needing) two scores, to just hang your ahead and accept defeat,” he said. “There wasn’t any of that on our sideline, and that’s a good indicator of things to come.”
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