Oooh, boy! Did the Saskatchewan Roughriders need a spark.
Nothing had worked offensively and the Roughriders were trailing the Calgary Stampeders by 16 points late in the first half of Sunday's CFL playoff game. There were eight seconds remaining before intermission when the Roughriders, scrimmaging first-and-10 on Calgary's 22-yard line, called timeout to decide what play might work.
"(Offensive co-ordinator) Tommy Condell suggested two plays and asked Kerry (Joseph, Saskatchewan's quarterback) which one he liked,'' said Roughriders head coach Danny Barrett, recalling the turning point of Saskatchewan's 30-21 comeback victory in the West semifinal. "Kerry went with the one he thought would work best. So that can really help his confidence.
"How Matt Dominguez got that wide open, I don't know.''
The play sent receivers Yo Murphy and Dominguez on an out- and go-route respectively. (For the record, Condell's other suggestion was a rub route which was also intended to spring a receiver by running some interference.)
Two Stampeders defensive backs converged on Murphy, Dominguez ran right past and was all alone in the end zone to grab a touchdown pass from Joseph. Suddenly Saskatchewan trailed 21-12 and the Roughriders, bolstered by cheering fans who comprised about 40 per cent of McMahon Stadium's sold-out crowd of 35,650, had an emotional spark.
"To get that right before the half really gave us a momentum boost,'' said Joseph. "Looking back at it now, we had two big plays, right before the half and one right after the half. The one before halftime gave us the momentum for the next one. It got us back in the game. We came in at halftime and coach told us, 'We're going to take the ball.' ''
On Saskatchewan's next offensive play, one snap after the second-half kickoff, Roughriders tailback Kenton Keith ran 76 yards for his first of two touchdowns. Saskatchewan had won the pregame coin toss and deferred its choice until the second half. Although coaches usually try to get the wind advantage in the fourth quarter, Barrett elected to let his team receive the second-half kickoff.
"He didn't want us to give any momentum back,'' said Joseph, who had completed only 10 of 20 passes for 94 yards in the first half; he was 7-for-11 for 96 yards in the second half while Keith followed a 5-for-19 first half with 11 runs for 122 yards.
"We had that long run, so give the offensive line full credit for blocking that one.''
Dominguez was also willing to distribute the credit, pointing to the Roughriders defence and its seven-turnover performance.
"Our offence might have scored 25 straight points,'' said Dominguez. "But our defence shut them out for the entire second half. Our defence won the game for us. I'm not afraid to say that.''