It was late in the second quarter, the score was 4-0 for Hamilton and the Roughriders needed a spark.
The offence had been struggling, rotating between Brandon Bridge and David Watford seemingly at random, and something needed to be done.
Enter Charleston Hughes.
The Roughriders defensive end was picked up in a trade with Hamilton in the offseason, the perfect second bookend to a defensive line that had Willie Jefferson on the other side.
The 10-year CFL veteran is known playmaker which was exactly what he did on Thursday night, forcing the football out of the hands of Masoli and running it back 57 yards for a touchdown.
“I ain’t seen the end zone in a long time so it was a good feeling knowing I can get there,” Hughes said grinning from ear to ear. “It’s six, I scored.”
Though having the ball in his hands didn’t come without worry.
“When I looked up and saw the ball coming I went ‘oh shoot, I gotta run now,” he laughed.
Head coach Chris Jones had a similar reaction.
“I told ’em he just took a delay of game on that run. I thought he might have to take a break, a timeout to get in the end zone,” he joked.
But Jones was not joking about how important the play was for his team.
“We knew either the kicking game or on the defence we needed to score a touchdown,” Jones said in his post-game interview.
“We’re doing some good things defensively, we need to fix our errors and quit giving up so many big plays,” he added.
But in the end, the defence did what it needed to do help the struggling offence.
Neither Brandon Bridge nor David Watford showed particularly well in the game. Watford went just three of six for 47 yards passing and 50 yards rushing. Bridge, on the other hand, went 11 of 13 for 101 yards passing and 30 yards rushing, as well as a fumble in the end zone. However, Bridge also engineered the game-winning drive with a pass to former high school teammate Joshua Stanford 29 yards downfield and a handoff to Thigpen who scampered 34 yards for the touchdown.
With 1:29 left and an 18-13 lead that would be all the Roughriders needed to seal the win – along with a strong defensive stand that held Masoli and the Tiger-Cats out of the end zone and led to a turnover on downs.
After missing a sure touchdown in last week’s game, Thigpen was happy to run in the game-winner this week.
“It felt great, to be honest with you. I visualized me scoring the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter when we were down I saw it and I just really wanted to make it happen,” Thigpen said. “I just wanted to give the team that spark we need on offence and I was able to do it that time.”
The Roughriders head into the bye week now at 2-2 on the season and no closer to deciding on either Bridge or Watford as a full-time replacement for Zach Collaros.
Jones said there was no telling when Collaros, who is recovering from a concussion he suffered against Ottawa two weeks ago, would be ready to step back into the offence, but in the meantime, Jones was going to stick with his quarterback rotation.
“I want more out of ’em. I’m hard on them,” Jones said of Watford and Bridge. “We’re just going to keep grinding until we figure it out.”
- The Thigpen touchdown marked the seventh lead change in the game, the most since July 18, 2014.
- Charleston Hughes reached the end zone for just the second time in his career. The other was in 2011 and he believes it was against Saskatchewan.
- Tobi Antigha could be seen all over the field Thursday night but perhaps one of his biggest plays was in the interception five minutes into the fourth quarter.
- Despite the loss and the Tiger-Cats not scoring a single touchdown, Jeremiah Masoli still surpassed 300 yards passing, tying a CFL record for recording nine straight games with 300 or more yards passing.