And just like that, a locker room full of Saskatchewan Roughriders turned into B.C. Lions fans.
The green and white secured a home playoff game with a 35-16 victory over Lions Saturday night and because the Blue Bombers beat the Stampeders Friday night – first place is still up for grabs.
So when handshakes happened when the game ended, the Riders let their opponents know they were cheering them on next week. If B.C. beats Calgary, the Riders will finish atop the league.
“That what we told them walking off the field,” offensive lineman Tacoby Cofield said with a laugh. “We need them to get that win next week so don’t worry about this one and move ahead … shake it off.”
This victory was another defensive marvel for the Saskatchewan Roughriders who have netted 11 touchdowns for their team this season – one more than the goal head coach Chris Jones set for them at the start of the season.
Willie Jefferson was a difference maker – like he so often is – tipping up a Travis Lulay pass and allowing Tobi Antigha to come up with it. That turnover eventually turned into a touchdown by Tre Mason.
Then later on Jefferson sacked Lulay in the third quarter and forced a fumble in the process. Defensive lineman Zack Evans scooped up the ball near the one-yard line and brought into the end zone for a touchdown.
Then in just the second play of the fourth quarter Ed Gainey intercepted Lulay and ran it back for a touchdown.
“This defence is dynamic. We just wanted to go out there and make some plays. This was the last game of the season,” Jefferson said. “We know we had a bye week next week, we just wanted to go out give it our all and put it in B.C’s hand to go beat Calgary and give us first place.”
And the defence knew they had to step up after a hit by Odell Willis knocked Zach Collaros out of the game in the first quarter. The punishing hit saw Willis’ helmet come in contact with Collaros’ helmet. No penalty was called on the field, but Jones challenged the non-call and Willis was called for roughing the passer.
Collaros stayed in and finished the touchdown drive with back-to-back handoffs to Tre Mason, but was sent to the locker room not long after and did not return.
“He should be fine,” Jones said once the game was over. “We pulled him just to be safe.”
Jones, however, would not confirm if Collaros was in concussion protocol.
“He took a good shot, it was a headgear to headgear shot and out of precautionary reasons our trainers thought it was best to take him out of the football game.”
“It’s Odell playing football,” he added. “It’s not like he had any intention or ill-will.”
In tandem with the Roughrider defence, Cameron Marshall – who saw more playing time after Mason went down in the second quarter – and the offensive line took care of business on the other side of the ball.
Marshall rushed for 134 yards, keeping the offence on the field when the team needed to run the clock down.
It’s Roughrider team that seems to be peaking just in time – at least that’s what the players themselves are saying – and they’ll head into the bye week knowing they’ve done all they could to seal their own fate: a playoff game at home – either the semi-final or final – for the first time since 2013.