The Riders late-game heroics weren’t enough to get past the Toronto Argonauts.
Having scored just three points in the first three quarters, the Riders rebounded in the fourth and took a 21-18 lead, but couldn’t hold onto it, falling to the Argos 25-21.
“The kids fought their butts off and I’m proud of them,” head coach Chris Jones said after the game.
A myriad of factors contributed to the Roughriders loss including three interceptions by Kevin Glenn, nine penalties for nearly 100 yards and four sacks allowed.
The offence struggled to find its rhythm early and Kevin Glenn was pulled from the game not once, but twice, before Brandon Bridge went in to stay in the second half.
Glenn said it wasn’t difficult to take the blame for the loss.
“I put it on myself but at the same time, we’re a team, this is a team sport so I didn’t play so well but the defence played well, Bridge came in late put us in a position to be up. Christion Jones, special teams, that’s why this is the ultimate team sport you need everything from everybody in order to be successful,” he said.
And for a while, the team was really firing on all cylinders, but it came a little too late.
It started with 12:00 left in the fourth when Bridge, playing in relief of Glenn, put together a 93-yard drive to the end zone. Bridge started the drive by hitting Duron Carter for a 36-yard pass and added a 36 yard rush of his own before he went back to Carter for an 11-yard touchdown pass.
A historic pass at that. Bridge became the first Canadian quarterback to throw a postseason touchdown since Russ Jackson in the 1969 Grey Cup.
Then with 3:19 left in the fourth quarter Christion Jones ran 79 yards to paydirt to give the Roughriders their first lead of the game, sealed with a two-point convert to Naaman Roosevelt.
It was 21-18 for the Riders with 2:44 minutes left.
“We back in it, that was all that was going through my mind,” Jones said about the touchdown he scored. “We needed a spark and that was our opportunity.”
But the Riders gave the ball back to Ricky Ray’s offence and the Argos made no mistake engineering a two minute and 21-second touchdown drive.
With the score at 25-21, the Riders had 23 seconds to score a touchdown.
Bridge found Carter who lateraled the ball to Bakari Grant. Grant was stripped of the ball by Toronto’s Akwasi Owusu-Ansah to seal the ball game the Argos.
In the locker room, the disappointment hung in there air, even for a veteran like Chad Owens who has been in this spot a few times before.
“Losses in the regular season — those suck too,” Owens said. “But you know you got the next week to take the taste of your mouth. Playoffs, especially this game knowing what was the next game opportunity, this one stings and that feeling sits with you for the whole off-season.”
But there was hope too.
The Riders turned a five-win season into a ten win season and trip to the playoffs, and the head coach said there are definitely positives to reflect on.
“Nobody gave us a chance, they were ready to run our coaching staff out of town. We’ve got a great group of guys in our locker room we’ve got a great coaching staff … and they enjoy being around one another,” Jones said.
“I couldn’t be more proud, unfortunately, we fell a little short.”