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Selnes: A game of four interceptions

A rare game with four interceptions set up the Saskatchewan Roughriders a 30-23 victory against the Toronto Argonauts on July 4.
Bill Selnes
July 4's game against the Toronto Argonauts was a fine way to start my Rider season, said columnist Bill Selnes.

I am starting my 2024 Saskatchewan Roughriders coverage later this year as I was sick with a cold a couple of weeks ago and was not up to attending the first home game.

July 4's game against the Toronto Argonauts was a fine way to start my Rider season. The Riders won 30-23.

It was a rare game with four interceptions by the Riders. Each unfolded in a different way.

The first, late in the second quarter, saw Deontai Williams crossing the field with Damonte Coxie. Cameron Dukes, under pressure, attempted to flip the ball to Coxie. As Coxie juggled the ball, Williams reached in and pulled the ball away for the interception. Williams said he was atoning for dropping an interception earlier in the end zone. He had good position on Coxie to keep him to a short gain and reacted to the opportunity to grab the ball. Many a defender might have settled for knocking the ball away but not Williams.

On the second, in the third quarter, Rolan Milligan Jr. saw Dukes fake a handoff and roll right. Milligan stayed with Coxie while watching Dukes. While unsure if Dukes would run or pass he continued covering Coxie. On the pass Dukes threw across his body into a congested area with two Argo receivers and two Rider defenders. Milligan said he wanted to make up for a couple of earlier drops in the game.

The third interception was in the fourth quarter with the score tied. Dukes tried to hit Rasheed Bailey on an in route. He was high and the ball was tipped by Bailey and then intercepted by Marcus Sayles who took it back for a touchdown. Sayles said the ball was tumbling a bit so he concentrated on securing the ball. Once caught he started for the end zone. When he saw it was an offensive lineman trying to cut him off he was not worried about beating him. He was glad to get an interception as he said he did not have a regular season interception last season.

The fourth interception was on the next Argo possession. Under pressure Dukes threw into a grouping of five Roughrider defenders. Milligan was sitting back waiting for the ball and, but for Dukes’ great effort to trip him, he would have had a touchdown. Milligan thought Dukes forced the ball a bit. It was actually an impossible throw as Dukes was trying to drop it over the first defender.

Dukes looked anxious, especially on the last two interceptions. His feet were shuffling on the final interception. It was his last pass of the night as he was pulled in favour of Nick Arbuckle.

While Dukes was forcing the ball, Shea Patterson showed great poise following his reads and not throwing an interception. I acknowledge there were a couple that should have been intercepted.

He also showed his focus on what was happening next rather than what had happened. He was startled and could hardly believe the statement when I said he had only one completion in the first quarter before his second quarter completion to Jerreth Sterns for 26 yards that got his pass game going. On the Sterns play he said the field was open and the linebacker did not get depth on his coverage and Sterns ran a good route. He continued that they had set up the play during practice through the week and it had looked good.

Patterson was especially calm when the Riders got the ball with 1:52 to go in the game.

On second and 10 he said he took a quick look inside but the receiver was covered. He then looked outside where Mitch Picton was all alone as the cornerback had backed off.

After a two-yard run by A.J. Ouelette the Argos brought pressure. Patterson rolled right but kept looking downfield and threw back into the middle to Picton who was all alone again. 

Picton said he found a soft spot and waited. Knowing he had a first down he said he just wanted to catch and secure the ball and went to the ground after catching the ball.

It was no surprise Patterson was looking for Picton. Though Picton had only one catch before the final two catches Patterson said he went to Picton at the end of the third quarter and told him that the fourth quarter is Mitch time. And so it was.

Bill Selnes, who’s based in Melfort, has written about the Saskatchewan Roughriders since the late 1970s. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, Football Reporters of Canada wing on Nov. 24, 2013.