Gades' great escape

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:37 AM ET

REGINA -- You'd expect some cheering. Maybe a few slaps on the back and a couple of high-fives.

But the atmosphere in the Renegades' locker room after the team's 21-16 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday was anything but jubilant.

They had just captured the franchise's first victory at Taylor Field in four trips, but the Renegades were a quiet bunch after, and they knew they got away with one.

"We're just looking at this like a business trip," said linebacker Jason Kralt. "We got the win, and now let's go home and see what we can do about next week."

The game should have been out of reach for the Renegades early.

The Riders moved the ball efficiently against the Ottawa defence and gained 257 yards and had 15 first downs in the first half, while the Renegades' offence sputtered with only two first downs and 54 yards.

BEND BUT DON'T BREAK

But each time Saskatchewan got deep into Ottawa territory, the Riders either were forced to settle for a field goal, or they turned the ball over.

"We can give up a thousand yards a game. But if they don't score a touchdown, we've got a chance to win," said Renegades halfback Korey Banks, who intercepted Saskatchewan quarterback Nealon Greene twice in the first half.

That included a key pick in the end zone with five seconds left in the opening half.

Banks wasn't the only Renegades to step up and make big plays.

Punter Pat Fleming probably saved the game with a tackle on Riders return specialist Corey Holmes in the third quarter.

On the play, Holmes appeared to have an opening, some blocking and was on the verge of busting through for a touchdown, one that would have recovered Saskatchewan the lead and given the Riders momentum going into the later stages of the game. But Fleming made a diving tackle.

"That was a great tackle. It was a game-saver," said Ottawa special teams coach Jim Clark "It was huge. You didn't know it then, but it turned out that way."

Three plays later, in the final minute of the third quarter, Anthony Collier intercepted a shovel pass Greene attempted to Holmes near the Ottawa 40, batting it up into the air with one hand before catching the ball and chugging 45 yards with Holmes in pursuit.

Before Holmes could bring down the tiring lineman, Collier flipped the ball over his head to Kyries Hebert who covered the remaining 22 yards for a touchdown that -- after rookie Mark Irvin made the convert -- gave the Renegades a nine-point lead.

"They got a lot of momentum off of that and it was a great play by Collier to flip the ball back," said Riders coach Danny Barrett.

Fleming made another big play late in the first half on a 51-yard punt that Holmes caught at the Saskatchewan one-yard line before his momentum carried him out of bounds on the spot.

Two plays later, Riders kicker Paul McCallum conceded a safety, giving the Renegades their first points.

"I was pleased with my performance, but I'm hard on myself," said Fleming, who had a 39-yard average on nine kicks. "I wish I could have had a couple of the punts back."

Irvin, an Orleans resident who joined the team last week as an emergency replacement for Matt Kellett, was good on two converts, kicked a 31-yard field goal in the final quarter and performed the team's last three kickoffs.

The three-pointer wasn't a thing of beauty, as Irvin hit it flat and the ball barely made it over the crossbar on a line-drive, but it gave the Renegades a 12-point lead.

"I feel good that I just came out and did what they asked me to do," said Irvin. "I feel that I did my job to the best of my ability."

barre.campbell@ott.sunpub.com


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