Short plays make the biggest difference in Riders win over Hamilton

Converted and failed short yardage plays change momentum
Reported by Joel Gasson
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Many of the Saskatchewan Roughriders are off this week and enjoying their perfect 5-0 to start the season.

One of the biggest reasons the Green and White are still undefeated is thanks to a series of events that no one outside of Alumni Stadium in Guelph saw live.

While the TSN feed was down, the Tiger-Cats got pretty good field position after the Riders were pinned deep, and punter Ricky Schmitt didn't have his best punt. Hamilton would drive the ball down the field all the way to the goal line, when safety Tyron Brackenridge made the stop.

The next play, 3rd and goal at the one-yard-line, Hamilton called the quarterback sneak, but the Riders defensive front held, and Henry Burris was stuffed, and had nowhere to go.

"If they were to score a touchdown it would be a big momentum shift for them," said linebacker Sam Hurl. "It was amazing to see, it gave everyone on the sideline chills, we were exteremly pumped."

With a 12 point lead still intact, the Riders then had to move the ball from their one-yard-line, and quarterback Drew Willy wasted no time as he hit receiver Geroy Simon for a 45-yard gain, a big play that ended up shifting the field position for the rest of the game.

"That was a huge play when our defense did that," said offensive lineman Ben Heenan. "Any time the defense can make a stop like that, it's impressive and definitely motivates us."

The Simon 45-yard gain was certainly the flashier of the plays, the one that will make highlight reels and get YouTube views, but often it's the smallest plays that make the biggest difference in a football game.

While the Ti-Cats failed to convert on their 3rd and 1, their second in as many weeks against the Riders, though the week before wasn't at the goal line. The Green and White later in the game converted a couple of huge 3rd and 1s, effectively ending the game.

"You never want to be stopped on 3rd and 1," said offensive lineman Brendan LaBatte. "I've had it happen to me a few times, it's pretty much the worst feeling you can have as an o-lineman."

LaBatte adds that those short yardage plays are what the line lives for.

"It's one of the few times as an o-lineman that you can have a direct outcome on the game," said LaBatte. "You're definitely fired up when a play like that gets called."

As good as the Riders offensive lineman has been so far this season, moments like Saturday in Guelph show just how good they actually are.