Sports

Ed Gainey's three first-half interceptions lift Riders over Lions 41-8

B.C. Lions running back Jeremiah Johnson (24), fights for yards during first half CFL action against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, in Regina on Sunday, August 13, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor

B.C. Lions running back Jeremiah Johnson (24), fights for yards during first half CFL action against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, in Regina on Sunday, August 13, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor

REGINA — Ed Gainey won't forget his most recent CFL performance. And neither will Jonathon Jennings. 

Gainey was all smiles after he and his Saskatchewan Roughriders blasted the B.C. Lions 41-8 Sunday night at Mosaic Stadium.

Gainey was the ring leader of a dominant defensive showing from the Riders, who just six days previous were manhandled 30-15 by the Lions at BC Place. Gainey had four interceptions and a fumble recovery and the unit as a whole registered five picks and four sacks.

"I started off slow these first six games of the season and I expect a lot more out of myself," Gainey said.

"These past two weeks I've been able to get my hands on some balls and wasn't able to bring them in. I had my son (10-month-old Grayson) coming in to town this week and I just had a feeling that I was going to be able to make some plays out there today. I didn't think it was going to be four, but they came and I took advantage of them."

Gainey's four interceptions is a franchise record. It was a performance Riders head coach Chris Jones was waiting for and, perhaps, anticipating after a "very direct" conversation he had with his veteran defensive back earlier in the week.

"I told him, 'You know, you're a good player, but you're not playing like a good player,'" Jones said of that talk.

The victory helped the Riders (3-4) keep pace with the competitive West Division, including the fourth-place Lions (5-3), who they trail by four points.

Jennings, understandably, didn't match his opponent's enthusiasm after throwing four picks. 

"It was the toughest game of my career. It was the toughest game of my life, actually, Jennings said after his return to the starting lineup.

"I've never gone through something like that. It was tough. It seemed like I couldn't do much of anything. It seemed like everything was a struggle."

Gainey's first two interceptions — both in the first quarter — led to points.

Jennings heaved a deep pass that Gainey snatched at the Saskatchewan 31-yard line. Four plays later, Kevin Glenn hooked up with Bakari Grant on a 35-yard touchdown pass and catch that gave the Riders an early 8-0 lead.

On the ensuing B.C. drive, Gainey again picked off Jennings and returned the ball 49 yards for another touchdown.

The Riders' defence forced a Lions punt on their next possession and Glenn, again, marched the Riders 90 yards for another touchdown. Cameron Marshall (one-yard run and a 29-yard reception) scored back-to-back majors to give the home team a 29-0 lead going into the half.

"We all know that we put a bad product on the field last week, so we wanted to come out here and make a statement," said Riders defensive end Tobi Antigha, who had two sacks in the game.

"This just gives us confidence that we can compete and actually play very well against the Western teams. Going forward, this is the expectation. We don't want this to be just a one-game thing. We want this to be the standard, especially on defence — domination up front, domination in the secondary, domination at the linebacker position."

Jennings missed the previous three games with a right (throwing) shoulder injury. His best drive on Sunday came on the opening possession in the second half when he pushed the Lions to the Saskatchewan five-yard line. However, his fourth inception snuffed that drive.

"I had some mistakes, some big mistakes that made it tough, but they were dropping deep and switching coverages, giving us man-to-man at times, and they got pressure at times, too," Jennings said. "They made it tough and we didn't make any plays.

"It's only one game. It doesn't define us as a team. It doesn't define us as players going forward. I'm not going to let this define me."

Jennings finished the night 14-of-30 for 195 yards and one touchdown — a 56-yard bomb to Chris Williams in the fourth quarter.

Glenn was 19-for-25 for 320 yards and three touchdowns. Marshall had a combined 104 yards total offence and two touchdowns.

The Riders will savour this victory during their bye week, while the Lions are to return home to take on the Calgary Stampeders (5-1-1) on Friday.

More on Metronews.ca