Some big offseason acquisitions came up in the clutch as the Roughriders beat the Argos 27-19 in their season opener Friday night.
It was a bit of a grudge match for the green and white as it was Toronto that beat them in the eastern final and dashed their Grey Cup hopes last season.
“Definitely a statement game,” said third-year linebacker Samuel Egauvoen, who had five tackles on the night. “I don’t want to say we have vengeance for that team but everybody knows we really needed that win.”
It was a statement game too for defensive end Charleston Hughes who the Roughriders acquired in a trade after Calgary sent the 34-year-old to Hamilton in February.
Not only did Hughes get his 100th career sack, but he also got his 101st and 102nd. His three-sack night earned him the game ball.
“I think it’s all compounded on me right now, we got the win and that’s what we set out to do. I set out to get my 100th sack and I did that. I got three in the game so it’s like ‘wooo’ – a trifecta,” Hughes said from his locker after the game.
He even went so far as to compare himself to soccer sensation Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I watched Ronaldo play today and he got three goals and I did tweet and say ‘I guess it’s my turn next.’”
Ronaldo is the GOAT #🎩trick 🤔 guess it’s my turn now
— Charleston Hughes (@sackatchawen) June 15, 2018
Teammate Jerome Messam, who was also making his Roughrider debut (for the second time), wanted to it let be known what he thought of Hughes’ night too given both players had been let go by the Stampeders this offseason.
“He’s a dog man, that’s what he does. I don’t know why they let us leave Calgary, but we’re coming here to bring all our winning ways over here and we just got to keep it going,” Messam said.
Messam rushed for 72 yards Friday night including a pivotal run down the field at the end of the game and hold the Roughriders’ lead. The rushes left just 17 seconds on the clock and set kicker Brett Lauther up for a 32-yard field goal.
By the time the kickoff had been completed Ricky Ray and the offence only had six seconds left to score. They didn’t and the final was 27-19.
“Everybody knows we got to run the ball to close it out and it’s a big challenge for me to go out there knowing the defence knows we’re going to run and I still gotta get a first down. I put the team on my back and just want to run hard,” Messam said.
But perhaps most importantly, and after months of questions about if he’d even be the starter, Zach Collaros came out and had a solid game behind centre.
Collaros connected with Naaman Roosevelt midway through the second for his first touchdown pass since last August, giving the offence an 11-1 lead.
His first few series were a little shaky – and he was sacked twice early – but he found his game and his confidence and his team was well behind him.
(The game was) huge for the free agents coming in – especially Zach,” said Messam. “He’s coming to a new team with a lot of responsibility … everybody’s looking to him to see what he’s going to do.”
“He kind of started slow, you could kind of see he had some jitters early but he got through it, man, and we believe in him and we think he’s going to lead us to the promised land,” Messam added.
Collaros’ went 18 of 25 for 203 yards and a touchdown. It wasn’t a career-high by any stretch, but enough for the win.
“I thought Zach managed the game real well. There’s only a couple of things that I saw that he didn’t do pretty well,” said head coach Chris Jones of his starting pivot. “I thought he played real solid.”
Collaros, for his part, deflected attention away from himself and towards his offensive line.
“I can’t say enough about those guys up front for the entire night protecting me. The way they were able to run the ball … offensively I’m really proud to be a part of that group.
And proud to be a part of the Rider Nation.
“It was really cool to be on (this) end of it as opposed to walking off the field with your head down. It was really great,” he said.
- Linebacker Derrick Moncrief led the defence with eight tackles.
- Collaros hit nine different receivers during the game but it was Caleb Holley with the most receiving yards at 47.
- Kicker Brett Lauther went 4 for 5 in his Roughrider debut and his first regular-season game since 2013.
- Newcomer Nick Marshall returned an interception for a touchdown in his first game as a Roughrider.