Riding into West final

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

Footwear wasn't a problem.

No, not to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Danny Barrett's Riders laced on a variety of shoes and put the boots to the Edmonton Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium yesterday.

A crowd of 37,359 braved the cold and snow to watch Saskatchewan put the kibosh on the defending Grey Cup champs' quest for a second straight title.

Two missed field goals by Esks' kicker Sean Fleming and a botched fake before the end of the opening half figured prominently in the 14-6 undoing which propelled the Riders into Sunday's Western Division final versus the B.C. Lions.

Until yesterday, Commonwealth had been Death Valley to the Riders, whose last post-season triumph over the Esks came in 1997 and, last win of any description came during the 2000 regular season.

BELIEVED

"We came in here and everybody was sayin' we hadn't won in here since 2000, but these guys believed we could do the job," said Barrett, the Riders head coach. "It took a total team effort and a full 60 minutes and we're very thankful right now.

"It's been a tough grind for us to get where we are but everybody in that room is very happy to be moving on to the next round. That's what it's all about."

Saskatchewan quarterback Henry Burris completed 15 of 28 passes for 158 yards and fired touchdown strikes to Corey Grant and Kenton Keith in the low-scoring affair, the last half of which was played on a snow-slicked field.

Saskatchewan is the first team to prevent the Esks offence from scoring a touchdown in post-season play since Calgary turned the trick in the '95 Western final.

Grant's reception came following Fleming's failed attempt to hit Mike Bradley on a third-and-19 gamble with just over a minute to play in the second quarter.

"Any time they do something like that and it backfires and they give you good field position, you definitely have to make them pay for it," smiled Burris.

"That's just like getting a big turnover. Any time a team turns it over, you definitely want to make them pay for it. We were blessed to get the opportunity and cashed in on it."

Prior to yesterday's breakdown, the Esks' fakes had worked flawlessly this season.

"It's a high-risk, high-reward play," said Bradley.

"If we make it, we're heroes. If we don't, we don't. That's the risk any time you run a fake punt or a field goal.

"A lot can go wrong. We were perfect on all our fakes this year and this time we weren't. The odds were in our favour but it wasn't our day, I guess."

Burris's TD pitch to Grant came shortly after a forward pass interference call against Saskatchewan's Matt Dominguez in the end zone.

The flag against Dominguez nullified the Riders' six-point play, but only forestalled the eventuality.

THE RIGHT CALL

"That was the right call," said cornerback Malcolm Frank, who drew the flag.

"He pushed off of me, I thought. They usually don't call it. I was surprised. I thought they were going to give it to me.

"He's a big-body guy. He tried to use his body. I think I had good position, but he kind of leaned and pushed off."

Ed Hervey had 13 receptions for 155 yards and was clearly Maas's weapon of choice. Outside surrendering a 33-yard completion to Hervey, Saskatchewan's defence avoided being stung by the big play.

"Any time you can take away the big play from this offence and make them nickel-and-dime you, you're going to be successful" said Barrett.

"The three (offensive) touchdowns they got on us this year, two of them came on big plays. So that's what we had to stop."


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