The Saskatchewan Roughriders will be packing their bags and heading to Ottawa after losing to the Edmonton Eskimos 28-13 Saturday night.
A win would have had the Riders stay west and play Winnipeg, but now the road to the Grey Cup goes through the east. No team in CFL history has crossed over and made to the championship game.
The Riders spent the week stressing the importance of going out on a high note but shot themselves in the foot with a costly 11 penalties which Edmonton took advantage of nearly every time.
“I think we were just undisciplined, took too many penalties, missed too many assignments. Certainly, I hope that’s not indicative what we’ll do next week,” said head coach Chris Jones of the effort.
The Riders were disappointed by the loss, but are trying to quickly look past it to the playoffs.
“That game is over with. You flush it and now you get on to the playoffs … we don’t have anything else to worry about but that,” said Kevin Glenn who went 5 of 10 for 63 yards in a quarter and a half of work.
The Riders will stay out east for the duration of their playoff run. If they make to the Grey Cup, they will stay in Ontario for more than two weeks, but they don’t mind.
“Just as long as we make it to that Grey Cup, I’m with whatever,” said defensive back Ed Gainey. “Whatever route we need to take. It’s not always the fastest route or the easiest route but whatever we need to do get there, I’m with it.”
The Eskimos opened the scoring with a rouge, late in the first quarter, but followed it up after Riders two and out with a touchdown drive that concluded at the start of the second quarter.
Mike Reilly rushed one yard for a touchdown to put his team up 8-0.
After a 30-yard Eskimos field goal with 6:08 remaining in the first half the Riders opted to bring Brandon Bridge into the game for the next drive.
Buoyed by a 28 yard catch by Bakari Grant – who hit 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in his career – and a roughing the passer penalty, Bridge found Marcus Thigpen – starting his first game for the Riders since signing in August – for a 12 yard touchdown.
But the play was a costly one for the Riders as Brendon LaBatte went down with an injury and had to be carted off to the locker room.
Jones was not optimistic about the status LaBatte – who had just been named the Riders Most Outstanding Lineman.
“Any time you lose your best offensive lineman, that’s tough,” Jones said after the game. “(It) does not look good, (he) probably will be out.”
Rookie offensive lineman Dariusz Bladek came in to play right guard, while Peter Dyakowski moved over to left guard for the remainder of the game.
Tyler Crapigna was good on the convert to make it 11-7. That score held into halftime.
The Eskimos kicked off the third quarter with a 45-yard bomb to Adarius Bowman, but the Riders defence was able to hold off the offence and Edmonton settled for a 19-yard field goal.
Bridge took the offence back down by 7, but put together a strong drive down the field that ended with an eight-yard rush by Thigpen for a touchdown – his second of the night.
However, the convert didn’t get off the ground after Josh Bartel couldn’t wrangle a botched snap and instead of being tied the Riders were down 14-13.
Reilly started the fourth a lot like he started the third with a long bomb, this time a 41-yard pass to Zylstra, but the Riders defence can’t hold off the drive this time and Reilly rushes for his second touchdown of the night.
With 10:23 remaining, the Riders were down 21-13.
After moving back 15 yards on the kick off from a Jeff Knox Jr. penalty, the Riders woes continued when Greg Morris fumbled the return and the Eskimos recovered.
Reilly ended the 27-yard drive with his third rushing touchdown of the night and a 28-13 lead on the Riders.
“We shot ourselves in the foot on both sides of the football. It’s one of those where we just got to learn from this going into the playoffs and knowing that we can’t play like this going into the playoffs or we’re going home,” said Gainey.
“When we just give it to them like that, I mean don’t get me wrong Edmonton’s a good team, but we had way too many penalties tonight to win the football game,” he added.
With the time ticking down and the game out of reach, Vernon Adams Jr. came in in garbage time to finish up the game for the green and white. However, he couldn’t get the offence moving and turned the ball over on downs with two minutes remaining.
The Eskimos rushed the ball a few times before assuming victory formation and sealing the 28-13 win and their playoff spot in the western conference.
The Riders begin practicing again on Wednesday and will leave Friday ahead of Sunday’s game against Ottawa.