The Saskatchewan Roughriders are heading into their bye week with a perfect 5-0 record.
While Darian Durant watched from the sidelines with his leg in a cast, Drew Willy led the Roughriders over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for back-to-back wins on Saturday in Guelph. He threw three touchdown passes for a total of 269 yards in the 32-20 victory.
The Hamilton affair was Willy’s second start of his CFL career. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound sophomore seemed to get off to a rocky start in the first quarter, but he gained confidence as the game went on and finished the contest with an impressive 130.8 QB rating.
Durant was a game-time decision on whether he would suit up. But after going over the pros and cons with head coach Cory Chamblin, the veteran quarterback decided to sit out the match.
“Darian felt like he could go and possibly do some things but not all the things,” Chamblin told the Canadian Press. “I said, ‘If you don’t think you’re 100 per cent then you won’t play 100 per cent.
“But it was one of those things where I was excited to see what Drew Willy had and we found out we do have a good backup quarterback. The big thing was he managed the game. There were some mistakes there but he made less mistakes this year than he did last year and I see the growth process.”
Willy’s target of choice was Geroy Simon. He hit Simon five times for 125 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
Having Kory Sheets in his arsenal was arguably Willy’s most valuable tool behind centre. Sheets ran for over 100 yards for the fifth consecutive game on the year, racking up 140 yards on 25 carries.
“Whew, that’s really good,” Sheets said to the Canadian Press. “Getting the win is more important than getting 100 yards but running for more than 100 yards every game feels good because the offensive line loves doing it and I love doing it with them.
“But excuse my words, Drew showed balls. He stayed in that pocked and threw the ball no matter who was coming. We’re just as confident with Drew as we are with Darian.”
With the Riders up 26-17 after the first half, the rainy conditions played a hand in a couple Henry Burris fumbles that led to Chris Milo field goals.
The turning point of the game came in the fourth quarter. Burris led the Tiger-Cats down the field to the Riders’ one-yard line. But on a third and goal, Burris was stuffed by the Riders’ defence causing a turnover on downs. To add insult to injury, Willy hit Chris Getzlaf for a 45-yard toss the next play to get Saskatchewan out from hemmed in their own zone.
Burris felt he got the ball into the end zone, but was understanding that the officials made the call they felt was right.
“I thought on the initial surge I stuck the ball into the end zone,” Burris said. “I guess the way things are set up they (officials) didn’t have a clean view of it but I thought I stuck the ball out (to break the plane of the goal-line) and they started pushing me back.”
The 1-4 Tiger-Cats hit another field goal in the fourth quarter. They weren’t, however, able to march down the field to close the 12-point gap.
With the month of July wrapped up in the CFL, all signs point to Sheets being named the Offensive Player of the Month. Renauld Williams, meanwhile, has made a strong case as Defensive Player of the Month. He has six sacks and 21 tackles, including one sack against Burris on Saturday, throughout the first five weeks.
After their bye week, the Riders play the Calgary Stampeders on Friday, August 9 at McMahon Stadium.