Canadian Football League

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Riders share first place in Canadian Football League West

Danny Barrett isn't about to complain about coming into Hamilton, spoiling the Tiger-Cats' home opener and leaving town with another victory.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats' Hugh Smith (right) tries to break a tackel from Saskatchewan Roughriders' Darnell Edwards during first quarter CFL action on Saturday. Then again the Saskatchewan Roughriders coach isn't happy that his team nearly let a 23-21 win slip away Saturday night and it's something he'd like to see them improve on.
"I don't want to take a win for granted because this is a tough place to play but we left a lot of points on the field," Barrett said. "I told the guys we will stay aggressive on offence, we just have to learn on finishing drives.
"If we finish drives then the crowd might have been walking out of here early."
Chris Szarka's one-yard touchdown plunge at 5:53 of the third quarter highlighted a 13-point, third-quarter outburst that gave the Roughriders a commanding 22-7 lead before 29,032 at Ivor Wynne Stadium. Paul McCallum bounced back from a pair of second-quarter misses to kick field goals of 34 and 19 yards in the period.
But after Jamie Boreham and McCallum then traded singles in the fourth, Ticats quarterback Danny McManus - pulled earlier in the contest for poor play - returned to the game and caused some palms to get sweaty on the Saskatchewan sideline.
First he connected with Craig Yeast from 13 yards with 3:04 left, cutting Saskatchewan's lead to 23-14 and after Szarka blew a chance to bury Hamilton by fumbling the ball on the one, McManus led the Ticats down the field and handed off to Julian Radlein for a one-yard TD.
The Ticats then tried an onside kick that failed, allowing Saskatchewan to run out the clock on a brutally physical contest. Matt Dominguez, who left the game with a sprained right knee and will be re-evaluated Sunday, caught a touchdown and McCallum added a pair of singles as the Roughriders, who dismantled Winnipeg 42-15 last week, improved to 2-0.
"Our goal in the third quarter was to re-establish momentum and we did that, we got in the end zone and we wanted to finish strong," Barrett said. "That was the only part of the game we didn't do well, finish the game the way we should have.
"All other phases we did a great job."
That they did, controlling the ball for 36 minutes 49 seconds, wearing down Hamilton's defence and punishing the Ticats physically at every opportunity.
"It was a fierce game," said Saskatchewan defensive back Scott Gordon, who set the tone with a wicked hit on Ticats receiver D.J. Flick on the first play from scrimmage.
Flick had to be taken off the field on a stretcher and suffered bruised ribs. He'll be re-evaluated Sunday.
"Our defence had our way for the most part, we played confident for 3 1/2 quarters," said Gordon. "They had their last breath in the last four minutes but that's just the CFL."
The loss was another punch in the stomach for the Ticats (0-2), who hit a low point in the third quarter when Mat Petz was ejected for punching fellow linebacker Walter Spencer in the groin.
They had plenty of reason to be frustrated, as the offence once again did little to get things going. For most of the game, it looked like linebacker Donnavan Carter's 47-yard TD return in the first quarter would be their only offence.
"We wanted to play better and I think that's the one thing that probably concerns me more than going 0-2," said Ticats coach Greg Marshall. "We need to play better football, certainly offensively we didn't get it done tonight. We left our defence on the field too long."
McManus took plenty of heat for his play in the season-opening 31-21 loss and didn't do much in this one to change the critics' minds. His passes were all over the place and his receivers didn't help by dropping a couple of easy balls.
Szarka's touchdown made it 16-7 Saskatchewan and prompted Marshall to send in backup Marcus Brady, to a loud ovation from the crowd.
But Brady didn't fare much better, fumbling the ball on his second play and again late in the fourth quarter, leading to McCallum field goals both times. McManus was sent back in late in the final period.
"We thought maybe it could give us a spark and he could get out there and create something," said Marshall. "It let Danny sit back and have a look at it again. We didn't have any success when Marcus was in there. Danny did some good things in the final quarter, but we ran out of time."
The Roughriders took a 9-7 lead into the second half after an opening 30 minutes highlighted by several crushing hits and lots of pushing and shoving.
No hit was harder than the one absorbed by Flick, who failed to corral a pass from McManus, was spun around and was prone when defensive back Scott Gordon crunched him.
Flick lay on the field for about 10 minutes as he was tended to by medical staff, with his teammates and Roughriders - including Gordon - coming over to tap him on the leg.
He was then immobilized and carted off the field.
Notes: Corey Holmes took over Saskatchewan's tailback duties for the injured Kenton Keith, who is nursing bruised ribs. . . . A flag 85 yards long was unfurled on the field during the singing of O Canada before the game by a group of Air Cadets. . . . The Ticats drew 25,712 to last year's home opener. Seating at Ivor Wynne was expanded to a capacity of 29,650 for this season


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