REGINA - If Weston Dressler was distracted he barely showed it, and the B.C. Lions certainly wouldn’t have known it from his performance.
A day after attending his grandfather’s funeral Dressler put together one of the best performances of his career, catching for 160 yards and two touchdowns as the Saskatchewan Roughriders beat the league-leading Lions 27-21 on Saturday night.
“He was just one of the best men I know ... and I definitely felt his presence tonight,” said Dressler. “He’s only been up to one game since I’ve been here. Because of his age he couldn’t make that trip. It just didn’t work for him. So I felt like tonight he had the best seat in the house.”
Dressler, who cracked the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the fourth time in his career, opened the injury-filled game’s scoring in the second quarter on a 13-yard catch at the back of the end zone.
Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant connected with Dressler again on the Riders’ next possession, this time for a 53-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Dressler pointed to the sky in tribute to his grandpa after the second touchdown.
“I was definitely thinking about him out there at times and still trying to stay focused on the game and pay attention,” Dressler continued. “It was just a very surreal moment.”
The win ended B.C.’s three-game winning streak and tightened up the West Division’s playoff picture.
Saskatchewan (7-6) remains in third but just two points behind the second-place Calgary Stampeders, who are just two points back of the Lions (9-4).
Durant finished the game with 371 yards passing and three TDs.
“We’re a team that believes in ourselves and I think we are continuing to get stronger as a team,” said Riders head coach Corey Chamblin. “It’s not about sending a message to the CFL or the West, it’s about sending a message to ourselves.”
A third Dressler touchdown in the quarter was called back on an offside penalty against teammate Greg Carr.
The injuries started to pile up shortly thereafter.
Lions slotback Arland Bruce and Saskatchewan cornerback Milt Collins both left the game after a monstrous collision on the Roughriders’ side of half. Bruce’s teammate and fellow slotback Geroy Simon also had his day ended when he went knee-on-knee with a Riders defender near the B.C. bench.
And Saskatchewan running back-turned-slotback Jock Sanders left in the third quarter with a gruesome-looking knee injury after a tackle from Lions defensive back Ryan Phillips.
Earlier, Simon had extended his streak of consecutive games with at least one catch to 172.
“I think we punished them and at the same time we may have punished ourselves also,” said Chamblin. “We’re playing that ... type of football right now and down the stretch because we dug ourselves in a hole early in the year and we’re trying to get out of it and get back to where we want to be.”
Without their top two receivers in the second half, the Lions managed 20 points but never cut the Riders’ lead to less than six. McCallum hit on field goals of 40 and 20 yards, while B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay threw two late touchdown passes to Marco Iannuzza.
McCallum also had a punt single in the first half for B.C.
But after a slow start to the second half, Durant hit Carr with a 46-yard touchdown pass for what proved to be the game-winning points.
“When you make a mistake ... you have to come back and make up for it, so I was just thankful when I got the opportunity to make up for it,” Carr said of his first touchdown as a Roughrider.
Chris Milo had three punt singles for Saskatchewan while placekicker Sandro DeAngelis was good from 30 yards on his only field goal attempt of the game.
Lulay completed 19 of 36 passes in the game for 232 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. B.C. running back Andrew Harris, who entered the game third in the league in rushing yards, didn’t have his run attempt until nearly five minutes into the second quarter.
“It wasn’t necessarily things they were doing, it was things we weren’t doing, which was executing our scheme and game plan,” said Phillips. “But you do have to give credit where credit is due. They took advantage of the moments and opportunities, and executed and capitalized, and it showed up on the scoreboard.”