The Saskatchewan Roughriders' third straight win avenged arguably their ugliest loss of the season.
Chris Getzlaf caught seven passes for a game-high 170 yards and rookie kicker Chris Milo booted three field goals, including the winning score, as the Roughriders beat the Toronto Argonauts 30-20 on Saturday.
“It was a team victory,” said Saskatchewan quarterback Darian Durant. “We don't want to point fingers at any specific area. Special teams showed up when they had to. Defence made plays when they had to. And offence made plays when we had to. So it was a total team effort.
“It wasn't pretty but we got the win and that's all that matters.”
The game served as a marked contrast to the teams' first meeting this year, a 24-18 Toronto win on Aug. 18. That loss dropped Saskatchewan to 1-7 after managing just one point through three-plus quarters of play.
Then-head coach Greg Marshall and offensive co-ordinator Doug Berry were fired the next day.
“Every game now is a playoff game,” said Riders head coach Ken Miller, who improved his own record to 3-0 since reassuming the role. “We can't afford to go through cyclical ups and downs of playing well and not playing well. So we have to get on a course where we improve every week.”
For the second straight home game, Saskatchewan's defence came up big in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 19-14 heading into the final quarter, the Riders (4-7) created three turnovers — an interception by linebacker James Patrick, a fumble recovery by Dario Romero, and an interception in the final minute that halfback Chris McKenzie returned 33 yards to the end zone for the game's final score — while outscoring the Argos 16-1.
The two picks were the only significant blemishes for Toronto (2-9) quarterback Steven Jyles, who finished 19-of-34 passing for 254 yards with one touchdown throw.
“I just covered my man and the ball came to me. It was a gift from God, I guess,” said a laughing McKenzie.
Jyles' lone touchdown, a 32-yard pass to Andre Durie in the third quarter, was the Argos' first offensive touchdown in over three full games. Despite putting up nearly 300 yards of offence and having ball possession for over 20 minutes in the first half, Toronto had to settle for four field goals from Noel Prefontaine.
Prefontaine was 4-for-4 making kicks from 18, 41, 35, and 32 yards. He also added a punt single in the fourth quarter.
“Any time your defence can make them kick field goals it gives you hope,” said Durant, who completed 21 of 34 passes for 279 yards. “I think they had four field goals and imagine if those were touchdowns. Then it's a whole different game so the defence deserves a lot of credit.”
Durant connected with Getzlaf on back-to-back plays in the second quarter, first on a 28-yard pass that set up a 27-yard TD throw to make it 9-7 Toronto.
On the Riders' second possession of the third quarter Durant found Getzlaf again, this from for a 64-yard gain, to set up Weston Dressler's six-yard touchdown run.
Milo was good in the fourth quarter from 11, 30, and 25 yards, finishing 3-for-3 on the day.
“In the past we were really known for coming back in the fourth quarter on a regular basis ... so being able to do that today shows a lot of character,” said Getzlaf, who now has six touchdown catches in his last four games.
Mike Bardwell led Toronto's receivers with four catches for 78 yards.
Saturday's game was the first on home turf for Roughriders slotback Andy Fantuz, who returned to the team last week after a failed bid for an NFL job. He had one catch for 12 yards before leaving with a high ankle sprain in the second quarter.
Wes Cates' first rush of the game, a five-yard effort to open the second quarter, moved him past Mike Saunders and into second on the Roughriders' all-time list.
Both teams return to action next Saturday. Saskatchewan hosts B.C. in a crucial battle for the final West Division playoff spot while Toronto hosts the East Division-leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers.