It was right there.
And in an instant it was gone.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders came storming back during the dying minutes of the Labour Day Classic, eventually tying it up when Kendial Lawrence ran back a punt 85 yards for a touchdown.
The scoreboard flips to 25-25. Rider kicker Tyler Crapigna lines up for the convert and misses.
It’s run out of the endzone 55 yards by Winnipeg’s Maurice Leggett – and soon, with the help of a pass interference call, the ball is well within field goal range for Justin Medlock.
As the clock runs down to zero Medlock nails it through the uprights for the game winning field goal and the Roughriders lose their first Labour Day Classic in 11 seasons.
Darian Durant, who before Sunday was 6-0 in Labour Day games he’s quarterbacked, played a gutsy game that included a passing touchdown, a rushing touchdown and running in a two-point convert. He threw 36 of 47 for 399 yards. He also threw two interceptions.
After the game, he was obviously heartbroken, saying he wasn’t even sure how to process the loss yet, but mentioned it felt nearly as bad as losing the Grey Cup in 2009.
“That second half we came out and played some good football,” Durant said. “We played the type of football it takes to win games and for us to fight back like that, come back tie the game – it still just hasn’t sunk in yet.”
“It’s tough to lose like that.”
Tough because it happened in the dying seconds, but also tough because of some officiating calls along the way that could be considered questionable.
The one that everyone is talking about came with 30 seconds left. It appeared that Justin Cox had intercepted Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols until the flags flew and defensive pass interference on Weston Dressler was called by the officials.
But with challenges burned earlier in the game, the Roughriders had no options.
In the locker room after the game, Cox was vocal in his displeasure.
“I didn’t touch him at the five, (I) got the interception and the ref – he had a bad call,” Cox said.
Head Coach Chris Jones stopped short of saying he agreed with Cox, but said if he had another challenge he would have used it.
“(The league) has already fined us $65,000 for doing the same thing everybody else in the league does so I don’t want to get fined $25,000 for them viewing me as saying or even commenting on anything that has to do with officiating – but again you saw the play and you probably have your opinion,” he said.
The Riders will go back to the drawing board this week before they lineup against Winnipeg again on Saturday. Jones said despite this tough lose he knows the team will be ready on Saturday.
“They’ll bounce back,” he said emphatically. “They’re too tough.”
- Sunday’s win was the first time that the Bombers have won the Labour Day Classic since 2004.
- The Riders may have lost the last LDC at old Mosaic Stadium, but the overall record since 1949 is 34-17 in the Riders favour.
- The Riders managed to score just three points in the first half of the game, which makes it four games without a major in the first two quarters. Jones said he doesn’t have an explanation. “We have to be able to get out of the shoots a little quicker and not always play behind the eight ball.” He said they’ll look at what they’re doing pregame to make sure the players are ready and focused.
- Roughrider’s newcomer Caleb Holley caught 10 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown.
- In his return to Mosaic Weston Dressler had seven catches for 77 yards. His quarterback Matt Nichols was 27 of 39 for 341 yards and a touchdown.
- Medlock was good for 7 of 8 field goals including a 52 yarder.
- Tyler Crapigna struggled all game going just 1 for 3 and missing a convert.