He may have had to leave the game early, but he left little doubt – Darian Durant has a lot left to offer the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Durant exited the game late in the third quarter after hitting his head and feeling a little “woozy”, but not before putting up 326 yards and two touchdowns.
“The ball was just coming off,” he said post-game. “There’s something about these Saskatchewan cool nights. The ball was just spinning and I was seeing the field, I was able to hit my receivers in stride for the most part. (It) felt good out there.”
The Roughriders head coach saw it too.
“These last two football games, you know Darian’s took off running … and got us a first down when we needed it,” head coach Chris Jones said. “That’s the thing that makes Darian Durant special is when we used to play him here, we couldn’t tackle him.”
Durant said he had a little bit of a headache which is what caused the doctors some alarm. In the end, he felt he was ready but the doctors weren’t so sure.
Jones said you can never be too careful when it comes to concussions.
“I have a son myself and you’re not going to put anybody in a position that they’re going to hurt themselves in that way,” he said.
By the time he addressed the media post-game Durant said there were no lingering effects, so people shouldn’t worry.
“I don’t have any cobwebs, I feel fine,” he said.
Back on the field, the Riders got on the board first after Tyler Crapigna nailed a field goal from 48 yards out – his leg would be the bookends of Saturday’s win.
Hamilton scored a touchdown not long after, but the Riders responded in kind with an 81-yard march down the field that ended with a spectacular 46-yard catch by Armanti Edwards, putting the team up 10-7 going into the second quarter.
By then, Durant was already 13 of 16 for 172 yards and a touchdown.
The Riders put another touchdown on the board in the second quarter – a one-yard rush into the end zone after the team moved the ball 84 yards down field.
The stadium was radiating hope and optimism and despite cold, drizzly weather, the fans were into it as if they could feel what the team was feeling – it was finally coming together. Durant said they were playing the type of football he knew they were capable of.
“We know once we eliminate the mistakes, came tougher as a team and just played smart football, we could give ourselves a chance,” he said.
A chance was what Durant left them with when he went down on the play in the third quarter. It was still 17-10 when he left the game, and it was Mitchell Gale’s turn.
His start was rocky – an interception on the Hamilton 20 yard line, and then a two-and-out.
Hamilton would take an 18-17 lead for the first time in the game after a 21-yard rush by Jeremiah Masoli, but Gale settled in after that, executing a 62-yard drive into field goal range.
Crapigna nailed it from 29 yards out as the clock ticked down to zero.
“I was just glad we won that as a team,” Gale said after the game. “People are happy not because of individual plays, but because of the team effort.”
Though he watched the end of this one from the sidelines, Darian Durant had to agree.
“I can see where we’re going (and) what we’re building,” he said.
The Roughriders are now 3 and 10 on the season with five games left.
- Three Roughriders receivers were all in the 100-yard range tonight. Caleb Holley was the top receiver with 110 yards, Rob Bagg had 96 and Armanti Edwards had 88 yards and a touchdown.
- Kacey Rodgers led the team in defensive tackles with seven, Ed Gainey got an interception, while Ese Mrabure earned his second sack of the season.
- In limited time Mitchell Gale went 7 of 9 for 52 yards and an interception.
- Curtis Steele had 9 carries for 45 yards.
- Meanwhile, former Roughrider Andy Fantuz was the Tiger-cats top receiver hitting 113 yards on 9 catches. John Chick had five defensive tackles and one sack.
- Both teams were penalized just six times each.