Corey Chamblin had seen this all before.
Sunday, for the first time, he was able to enjoy it.
With the Saskatchewan Roughriders trailing 25-16 after three quarters, quarterback Darian Durant came up with a blast from the past, rushing for 76 of his game-high 97 yards in the final frame to help propel the Riders to a 29-25 comeback win over the B.C. Lions in the CFL’s West Division semifinal.
The win also advanced Saskatchewan into the Western final for the first time since 2010, where they will face the Calgary Stampeders on Sunday at McMahon Stadium.
Chamblin, Saskatchewan’s second-year head coach, was a defensive coach with Calgary in 2009 and 2010 when Durant ran for 29 and 51 yards, respectively, as the Riders beat the Stamps to advance to back-to-back Grey Cups.
“Darian played like the Darian of old, the one that kept me out of a couple championship games,” said Chamblin. “Darian stepped up to the plate when we needed him. We were struggling in a couple areas and Darian just stood up and took over.”
Durant’s first big run actually came on the final play of the third quarter when he scampered for 15 yards on second-and-nine from the Saskatchewan 50-yard line.
Two plays later he did it again, this time going for 35 yards on second-and-10.
Two plays after that he threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Weston Dressler for the diminutive slotback’s second score of the game.
“I told Coach I thought the quarterback draw was there,” said Durant. “We had them pretty much outnumbered in the box. They were playing coverage a little bit and I felt like it was there. So Coach called my number and I was able to make some plays.”
That drive seemed to ignite the Riders’ running game which, to that point, had been virtually non-existent. The Lions had outrun Saskatchewan 162 yards to 35 by halftime.
The Riders ran six times for 32 yards on their next possession and took their first lead since the first quarter on a 45-yard field goal from Chris Milo.
Durant then added rushes of 28 and 13 yards on Saskatchewan’s final drive of the game and Milo capped the scoring with a 28-yard field goal, his fifth of the game.
He’d missed his first one, from 38 yards, by putting it off the right upright before making five straight.
“Better that than have them return it 110 yards for a touchdown,” said Milo. “Uprights are kind of my best friend ... and enemy at the same time. But it is what it is. You just shake it off. And having the confidence of the guys on the sideline, ‘Just get the next one, get the next one,’ and sure enough I did and we won the game.”
The Riders couldn’t capitalize on strong field position early.
On three straight drives they found themselves inside the B.C. 35-yard line but had to settle for six points, wasting a 55-yard circus catch from Taj Smith and a 56-yard kick return by Jock Sanders.
Milo provided all Saskatchewan’s offence until the final three minutes of the half, hitting field goals from 40 and 29 yards while missing off the upright from 38. The miss was his fourth time hitting a post this season.
Saskatchewan finally found the end zone after a screen pass from Durant to Kory Sheets turned into a 61-yard gain. Dressler outran J.R. LaRose on the next play for a four-yard TD grab to make it 14-13 B.C.
B.C. took a 17-16 lead into halftime on precision 13-of-16 passing from Travis Lulay, who only threw four incompletions in all after the game’s opening drive.
Lulay, making his first start since Sept. 15, completed passes to seven different receivers, including eight throws of 10 yards or more in the first half alone, to set up a pair of touchdown runs from Stefan Logan.
Logan hit paydirt from 14 yards to open the second quarter and from two yards to cap an eight-minute drive later in the quarter.
Lions kicker Paul McCallum and Milo traded field goals to end the half, Milo’s third of the game following a 43-yard pass from Durant to Smith that moved the Riders to the B.C. five.
Durant was near-perfect as well, despite a couple close-call throws into double coverage, finishing 19-for-23 with 270 yards.
He appeared not to be affected by the absence of injured receiver Chris Getzlaf either, connecting four times with Smith who had a game-high 126 yards receiving.
Saskatchewan avoided disaster in the third quarter after coming up short on a long third-and-one near midfield when Kory Sheets was tackled short by Adam Bighill.
Logan was then held to seven yards on back-to-back runs and the Lions could only manage a single on Paul McCallum’s 52-yard punt.
Logan had been a key piece of the Lions’ rushing attack that went for 213 yards in the game.
Thomas DeMarco scored on a one-yard run to give B.C. a 24-16 lead early in the third quarter.
Lulay finished 20-for-26 passing for 211 yards.