REGINA -- The Edmonton Eskimos threw a surprise at the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday.
Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant responded by throwing a crucial touchdown pass after his team adjusted to some unexpected wrinkles from the Eskimos' defence during CFL action at Mosaic Stadium.
"They kind of showed us something a little different than they had been showing us in the pre-season and in the first couple regular-season games,'' Roughriders tailback Wes Cates said after his team's 24-20 victory.
"They had done a little bit more blitzing than they chose to do on us. We had a lot of stuff in to kind of counteract the blitz. When they sat back and let it come to them, it slowed down the game on us a little bit. It kind of hurt our playbook, so to speak. We didn't have too much to go against the zone. It kind of slowed down our progress. It just made it a little harder going for us, but we found our creases when we needed them.''
The Roughriders eventually exploited the zone defence for a 37-yard touchdown pass from Durant to Andy Fantuz, who scored at 2:16 of the fourth quarter. Luca Congi's convert created a 20-20 tie.
"It was basically a double vertical route on the safety,'' said Fantuz, who was sent deep along with fellow slotback Jason Clermont. "They had been playing the same type of zone against us a bunch of times, so we attacked that zone that we expected and, sure enough, they had it. The safety flew over to Clermont's side and left me wide open. Double D made the right read and threw a great ball and I just made the catch.
"It was perfect for that defence. Good thing we've got a quarterback who we can count on to make those reads. You've got to give him the credit for that one.''
Wide receiver Rob Bagg set a career best when he ran for 46 yards on a double reverse.
"That was my first carry,'' the third-year Roughrider said. "I don't know if I'll get another one, but it was a lot of fun for sure."
The Roughriders called the double reverse when they were first-and-10 on their own nine-yard line. Bagg scampered to midfield to help Saskatchewan march toward a field goal that completed the scoring at 4:30 of the fourth quarter.
Bagg was close to being tackled in the end zone before breaking free.
"I had some concern,'' Roughriders head coach Ken Miller said when asked about Bagg possibly being tackled for a safety touch. "When you call a play like that in that situation, you have some concern about the execution of that play. It's not a play that you would normally call in that situation, which is one of the reasons that made it a great call. It was a non-expected play that we executed well. It was a game-changer play.''
Luca Congi also enjoyed that long-distance feeling on Saturday. His 54-yard field goal was the second-longest of his career. The fifth-year Roughrider connected from 55 yards away in 2008.
Eskimos slotback Fred Stamps didn't want to talk about numbers on Saturday â despite catching 12 passes for 213 yards.
"I led the league last year (with 1,402 yards). What did I get out of it? Nothing,'' said Stamps, who's back atop the CFL receiving list with 24 catches for 399 yards. "I just want one thing and I want it so bad it's starting to hurt. The individual stats and all that, none of that matters. I just want to win.''
The Eskimos haven't been able to do that in their first three games this season, putting them in a deep hole in the West Division standings. The team's 0-3 record has also cast doubt on the job security of the coaching staff, including head coach Richie Hall.
"The coaches put up a great game plan,'' insisted Stamps. "The coaches are doing a hell of a job. It's just us. We're shooting ourselves in the foot with minor mistakes, things that we can control.
"Like Coach Richie says, we have to learn how to win. We can't put our head down if something (bad) happens. Whatever it takes, we have to win.''
Avonlea, Nipawin, Unity, Weyburn and Yorkton were announced Saturday as finalists for the "Where Is Riderville?'' contest â part of the Roughriders' 100th-anniversary celebration.
The Roughriders' centennial committee will soon conduct site visitations. The winning community will be determined by fan voting. People can vote on riderville.com between Aug. 13 and 31. The winner is to be announced Sept. 5 during the Labour Day Classic.
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