All eyes were on Duron Carter on Friday night and he backed up his talk.
Carter, playing cornerback for the first time in his football career, finished with an interception return for a touchdown in a 30-7 win for the Saskatchewan Roughriders over the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium.
The win clinched a playoff spot for the Riders after two seasons on the outside looking in at the post-season.
“I didn’t make the playoffs last year, I didn’t even make it to the end of the season last year, so right now, I’m feeling great,” said Carter after the game. “We’re on a big high, playing some of our best football going into the playoffs, it feels really good.”
The lead-up to Friday’s game was filled with distractions, starting with an altercation between Carter and defensive back Sam Williams at practice on Monday. Then word that Carter, the Riders’ leading receiver, would be starting on defence for the first time in his CFL career.
Carter spent the entire game on defence, picking up two tackles and the pick-six to seal the win in the fourth quarter. The Stampeders were only able to complete one pass for six yards against Carter.
“It was cool. The offence was moving the ball, there was no need to change anything. Defence, we were stopping them, so we were in a groove, there was no need to switch anything up, it felt really good,” said Carter.
“I’m just out here living my life and I’ve been the same since day one, everyone in the locker room appreciates me, I’m the big brother to some guys. I get really passionate about football, everybody understands that and they let me be me.”
Calgary quarterback Bo-Levi Mitchell, who warned Carter against moving to defence on Twitter this week, just missed on a couple of deep passes, but Carter eventually got the last laugh, grabbing an overthrown pass and running it back 73 yards to make it 28-7 for the Riders early in the fourth quarter.
Head coach Chris Jones said he was pleased with the performance from Carter, “If he quit jumping offsides when I tried to blitz him, but he did good, he tackled well, he made the plays that came to him and he’s a good football player.”
The Riders put together an impressive road performance in Calgary with all three phases contributing to their first win over the Stampeders since 2013.
After a quiet first quarter, punt returner Christion Jones sparked the Riders with a 61-yard touchdown return to make it 7-1. The teams traded field goals the rest of the way in the first half as Saskatchewan led 10-4 at the break.
Tyler Crapigna’s second field goal of the game made it 13-4 midway through the third quarter. On the next play, linebacker Henoc Muamba stripped the ball from Calgary’s Kamar Jorden and three plays later, Vernon Adams Jr. was walking into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown to put the Riders in front by 17.
Carter’s interception return touchdown sealed the win in the fourth quarter.
“I feel like we did a good job of coming on the road and playing three phase football,” said Jones.
Kevin Glenn started at quarterback for the Riders, but the team made the switch to Brandon Bridge after the Jones punt return touchdown. Bridge finished the game 10-of-19 for 133 yards with two interceptions, while Glenn was 1-of-3 for 19 yards.
Bridge felt he could have played better, but was happy that the defence and special teams came through for the win.
“We did a good job on offence of just controlling the football, but I know that I have to play better if I’m in that position again,” said Bridge.
“I was very surprised (that he was called upon so early in the game), but at the end of the day, you have to go in there and do what was asked of you and if that was to go out there and manage the game to get us the win, that’s what I have to go out there and do.”
The Riders won the ground battle, which was a big part of the victory. Cameron Marshall, who returned from injury, led the way with 14 carries for 53 yards, while Trent Richardson had an impressive 22-yard run and finished with 52 yards.
Bridge also picked up 40 yards along the ground as the Riders out-gained Calgary 150-45 in the rushing department.
Mitchell was held to 14-of-27 for 136 yards and two interceptions in the first home loss of the season for Calgary.
“This is a great feeling,” said Bridge. “Once we got up and the storm came out, it put their offence in a bind, they had to throw the ball and in those conditions it was very hard.
“For us to go out there and get a win in their house with those conditions is a great feeling.”
The Riders have secured at least a crossover spot in the playoffs. They currently sit tied with the Edmonton Eskimos for third place in the CFL’s West Division. Edmonton will be in Vancouver to face the B.C. Lions on Saturday night.
Saskatchewan will return to the field next Friday to host the Montreal Alouettes at Mosaic Stadium.