Saskatchewan Roughriders edge Toronto Argonauts for close win

TORONTO — The rematch of last season’s Eastern Final did not disappoint, as the Saskatchewan Roughriders came out on top against the Toronto Argonauts in an exciting 30-29 battle on Saturday night. The Riders overtook the Edmonton Eskimos for second place in the West division with the win, and the Argos dropped their fourth straight.

Two touchdown catches from receiver Jordan Williams-Lambert and a 82-yard touchdown run from running back Marcus Thigpen gave the Riders a 10-point lead heading into the second half, but the Argos were able to battle back and grab the lead down the stretch. Saskatchewan retook the lead with a 56-yard field goal from Brett Lauther with just over a minute left to seal the victory.

Naaman Roosevelt led the way for the Riders with five catches for 105 yards, and quarterback Zach Collaros had a solid performance with 233 yards and two touchdowns through the air.

James Wilder Jr. had a big game with 122 total yards, and S.J. Green led the Argos receivers with six catches for 106 yards.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson completed 32 passes for 321 yards in the loss, while Argos defensive back Trumaine Washington came through with two big interceptions, including a 62-yard pick-six.

The Argos’ defence appeared to stop Saskatchewan on their opening offensive drive, but a costly offside penalty on a missed field goal attempt extended the drive for the Riders. Receiver Kyran Moore then took a short pass from Collaros and gained 25 yards to set up a first and goal, and Collaros hit Williams-Lambert for a five-yard touchdown grab in the left side of the end zone to put the Riders on the board first. Lauther added the extra point to give Saskatchewan the early 7-0 lead.

The Riders’ defence made it happen on their own on the following drive, as Loucheiz Purifoy came up with the kind of big interception he’s been reliable for all season. The 25-year-old defensive back jumped up to secure the Bethel-Thompson pass attempt and returned it 34 yards before being pushed out of bounds by Armanti Edwards.

Toronto’s defence held strong from there with a big tackle for loss from defensive lineman Frank Beltre, and the Riders were forced to settle for a 22-yard field goal from Lauther to extend their early lead. The Argos also got on the board in the first quarter after a couple tough runs from Bethel-Thompson and Wilder set up a 42-yard field goal from Zack Medeiros, bringing Toronto within a touchdown.

Bethel-Thompson bounced back from the early interception by leading a big 83-yard drive to start the second quarter. Bethel-Thompson connected with Edwards for a 14-yard pick up before going deep to Green for a 56-yard catch-and-run up the right sideline, with Green almost scoring on the play. Quarterback James Franklin capped off the drive with his 11th touchdown run of the season, and Medeiros knocked the extra point through to tie the game at 10 apiece.

The Riders didn’t waste any time responding and grabbing momentum back, as Thigpen broke off an incredible 82-yard touchdown run. Thigpen sliced through the Argos’ defence and silenced the home crowd, using his next-level speed to give the lead back to Saskatchewan. Lauther added the extra point to put the Riders up 17-10. The Argos added a single on a 67-yard punt from Medeiros later in the quarter.

Saskatchewan kept things rolling after that when Roosevelt came up with two big plays to put the Riders in scoring position. Collaros was accurate and aggressive on the drive, finding Roosevelt for gains of 23 and 40 yards before finishing it off with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Williams-Lambert. Medeiros added the convert to extend the Riders’ lead to 13 points.

Argos defensive back Trumaine Washington made one of the most impressive plays of the night when he came through with a key interception near the end of the second quarter. Washington somehow managed to take it away from Roosevelt with a one-handed catch, giving the Argos the ball with just over two minutes to go in the half. Bethel-Thompson and the Argos ground out a tough drive to set up a successful 48-yard field goal from Medeiros, his longest of the season. The big field goal off the turnover brought the score to 24-14 at the half.

Wilder began to find running room to start the second half, reeling off gains of five and 18 yards to set up a 22-yard field goal from Medeiros that cut the Riders’ lead down to a touchdown. A big 43-yard play from Collaros to Evans helped the Riders get in position for a 23-yard field goal from Lauther, making it a 27-14 game midway through the third quarter.

The Argos answered back with a field goal of their own after Wilder stretched out for a key 24-yard grab out of the backfield. Medeiros made his fourth field goal of the game to bring Toronto within a score.

Trumaine Washington continued his big night on defence for the Argos later in the quarter when he picked off another Collaros pass and managed to take it all the way back to the end zone for a 62-yard touchdown. Medeiros added the extra point to tie the game at 27 apiece heading into the fourth quarter.

Both defences held strong down the stretch, and a missed Medeiros field goal resulted in a single point that put the Argos ahead with just under four minutes left to play. The Riders retook the lead with  just over a minute left on a clutch 56-yard field goal from Lauther, putting the Riders up by two points.

The Argos fought back to move down the field in one final attempt to grab the win, but the 51-yard field goal attempt from Medeiros went wide to the left.

Toronto will be on the road in Week 16 when they face the Calgary Stampeders next Friday, while the Riders will continue their road trip against the Montreal Alouettes next Sunday.

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