Courtesy Regina Leader Post:
On a blustery afternoon at Commonwealth Stadium, Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant didn’t throw all caution to the wind.
After forcing the ball downfield for two first-quarter interceptions — one of which was returned for a touchdown — Durant showed poise and resilience while methodically leading Saskatchewan to a 23-20 comeback win over the host Edmonton Eskimos.
“Everything is not (always) going to go your way in this game,” Durant offered Sunday after the Riders touched down at the Regina International Airport. “It’s all about how you bounce back from adversity. There were a couple of situations where I could have sat on the sideline with my head down and folded but my teammates rallied behind me and gave me the confidence to go out there and keep playing my game.”
Durant also received a vote of confidence from head coach Ken Miller, who has shown a quick hook with his quarterbacks in the past but appears more inclined to let Durant grow into the starter’s role through trial and error.
That was the case on Saturday — and Miller was rewarded for his faith.
“I think that’s how it’s supposed to be when a coach makes someone the guy, you have to deal with the ups and downs,” said Durant. “I really appreciate Coach sticking with me. In a game like that when he could have easily gave me the hook, he stuck with me and we made plays when we had to.”
Durant finished the game with no touchdowns and three interceptions, the last of which was gift-wrapped when receiver Jason Armstead missed a catch and tipped the ball into the air. However, the first-year starter responded by engineering a trio of momentum-swinging drives en route to completing 23 of 33 passes for 269 yards. Edmonton’s Ricky Ray, by comparison, was 15 of 29 for 244 yards with no picks and no TDs.
Most importantly, Durant marched Saskatchewan down the field in the fourth quarter for a crucial game-winning drive, capped by a one-yard run from backup quarterback Steven Jyles. Durant put an exclamation point on his performance by hitting Andy Fantuz for a two-point convert to round out the scoring.
“He outduelled the quarterback on the other side so that was really good for Darian,” noted Miller. “He’s our quarterback now and you have to let him fight through some things that maybe aren’t going as well as you’d like for them to go. He has proven he can fight through and battle through and be successful even if he doesn’t start out as quickly as you’d like.”
Durant and Miller both acknowledged that the 50-kilometre wind was a major factor in the game. In fact, Miller felt it contributed to Edmonton’s five sacks because the Riders were forced to hold onto the ball longer than they wanted.
It also made them adjust their game-plan on the fly.
“The early interceptions were directly attributable to the plays we called with throwing the ball down the field — with or against the wind,” added Miller. “So we went to a shorter passing game where we were able to move the ball methodically as opposed to getting the yards in large chunks.”