Once again, the Riders found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, losing 35-32 to the Lions in overtime on Friday night in Vancouver.
What was once considered a problem for the Riders is developing into a full blown trend as for the fifth straight game, including the pre-season, they let a lead slip in the fourth quarter.
On this night, it was the most dramatic fashion yet.
“I feel very bad for the guys in the room because we’re trying like hell to get them win a win. They deserve a win they work and prepare,” said head coach Corey Chamblin.
Like last week against the Argonauts, things started to unravel late for the Riders in this one. With just over two minutes to go in the game, Anthony Allen ran in a touchdown from 10 yards out giving Saskatchewan a 28-18 lead.
It took just three plays, a penalty and 43 seconds for the Lions to get back into striking distance thank to a Travis Lulay touchdown pass to receiver Austin Collie.
The Riders would get the ball back with a 29-26 lead and just over 90 seconds to go in the game. Allen rushed for a first down. Two plays later, the Riders were at their own 48-yard line.
Quarterback Brett Smith came out for the sneak on a third-and-one to try and pick up the first down to seal it, he didn’t get it. Smith originally was called for a fumble, but upon review, his forward progress was stopped but the command centre ruled he didn’t get the first down.
“We came here to win a football. We could have punted the ball and they still could still drive and do what they did. But, we were trying to win a game,” said Chamblin.
It was a call that was supported by every player asked in the locker room after the game.
It’s a call that is successful far more often than not. Chamblin wanted to be aggressive and it didn’t work out. On a similar play in 2014, Chamblin opted to punt and his team ended up losing. That night, Chamblin said he learned a lesson.
“You love the play calling from a coaching stand point to be that aggressive. To put in on you to get the win and when you don’t get it you feel like you let everybody, not only on this team, but in the province and all of the fans and everything else down,” said offensive lineman Brendon LaBatte.
Even with the turnover on downs, the Riders defence still had a chance to close out the final 43 seconds.
The defence did its job holding there holding the Lions exactly where they were, leaving it up to fate. Lions’ kicker Richie Leone then nailed a 56-yard field goal, tying the game and setting a new Lions franchise record in the process.
After taking a knee, the game went to overtime. Paul McCallum gave the Riders a 32-29 lead with a 33-yard field goal. The Lions responded with a touchdown pass to Emmanuel Arceneaux for the win.
The question is now, why are the Riders letting these leads slip?
“It’s probably part mental, part physical, part everything right now,” said Weston Dressler.
Penalties were again a problem for the Riders as they were flagged a total of 15 times.
Dressler had himself a night on the field with nine catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Most of those yards did come in the game’s first quarter.
Kevin Glenn finished the night 23-for-29 for 271 yards passing, two touchdowns and an interception.
Jerome Messam rushed for 85 yards while Allen picked up 69 yards along the ground.
Linebacker Jeff Knox Jr. led all defensive players with 10 tackles. Lulay wasn’t sacked once in the game.
The Riders are now off until Tuesday, they will host the Lions next Friday night at Mosaic Stadium.