REGINA (CP) - It had been a long time since Macho Harris had a game like he did on Sunday.
The Saskatchewan linebacker tied a Roughriders record with three interceptions in a game - bringing one back for a touchdown - as Saskatchewan beat the visiting Montreal Alouettes 33-21 at Mosaic Stadium.
"I've never had three interceptions in a game and the last time I had a touchdown was back in my senior year at Virgina Tech,'' said Harris, who only had one career interception in the CFL prior to Sunday.
Harris picked off Alouettes quarterback Jonathan Crompton on the first drive of the game at the Riders 46-yard line and brought it back 26 yards. On the next play, Kevin Glenn hit Rob Bagg for a 38-yard TD strike. Paul McCallum missed the convert wide right.
Jerome Messam rattled off 111 rushing yards and scored one TD for Saskatchewan (2-11), which kept its slim playoff hopes alive. The Alouettes (5-7) failed to keep pace in the tight East Division.
Following a Montreal single on the next drive, Glenn went deep again, hooking up with Naaman Roosevelt for 49 yards - leading to a 24-yard McCallum field goal at 7:17 of the first quarter to increase the lead to 9-1. Roosevelt (three catches for 68 yards) and Bagg (three catches for 63 yards) led all Riders receivers.
Harris's second interception of the game with 1:16 left in the first half led to a 14-yard McCallum field goal, giving Saskatchewan a 15-1 lead at half.
After going 8-for-18 with 97 yards and two interceptions, Crompton was pulled to start the second half in favour of Rakeem Cato.
The change didn't benefit Montreal, as Cato tossed up an interception at 4:37 in the third quarter to Harris, who returned his third pick of the game 50 yards for a TD - putting the game out of reach.
"Macho brings it every single week,'' Riders interim head coach Bob Dyce said. "He's a smart guy and can play any position in the secondary. It may not be seen outside of the room as much, but Macho is also one of the biggest leaders on this team.''
While no CFL team has ever made the playoffs following a 1-11 start, Harris hopes his performance can inspire the team.
"We know it's still possible,'' Harris said. "We knew if we came out and won this game it would mean a lot. At 2-11, people are probably counting us out, but at the end of the day we still believe.''
S.J. Green (four catches for 78 yards) and Brandon Rutley (16 carries for 73 yards) were the top offensive performers for the Alouettes, which are now two wins behind the nearest team in the East. The team still leads in the crossover standings, however.
"It's very disappointing. As quarterbacks we've got to be making the right reads and right throws,'' said Cato, who finished 14 for 21 with 170 yards, one touchdown and a pair of picks. "We've just got to remain mentally sharp, mentally sound and focus on tomorrow. We have to come in and watch film and get better as a unit.''
NOTES: Several players have recorded three interceptions in a game for Saskatchewan. Most recently, former Rider safety James Patrick did it in an Aug. 28, 2010 bout against the Edmonton Eskimos. ... Glenn threw for 212 yards in the game to extend his streak to six consecutive games of 200-plus yards passing. ... Alouettes defensive lineman John Bowman recorded two sacks in the game, giving him 92 for his career. He ranks No. 1 among active players and No. 12 in CFL history, five behind Mike Walker (96).
HEAD COACH BOB DYCE
- The guys came together and played solid football. That's what we talked after the game. We talked about starting fast. Kevin, there's a reason he's elite in this league. He was playing like it. We had some challenges early but no one got down or pointed the finger. They made the play the next opportunity.
- Coach Quick and all the defensive coaches did an outstanding job. They prepared extremely well. Both QBs for Montreal, we had an answer. They scored some late points, but truly defense was locked in.
- Macho's such a big leader for us. On the field, and vocally. To see him rewarded with an effort like that was just outstanding. It wasn't just his picks - he had some great pressures on the QB.
- It's good. Anytime you don't have to make changes to your roster, you get continuity. When there's no injuries, that's allowed to happen.
- Coach Chapdelaine is a great coach and I may throw the odd two cents out there but not often. All three coordinators had great plans and I think we surprised them a bit going vertical into the wind. All the coaches did a great job.
- I can't say it was any one thing specific. When we play solid football in all three phases, we're a very good football team. The coaches had the guys locked and focused in for today's game and those were the results we got.
- I said 'congrats' to Macho. It may not be seen outside of the room but Macho is one of the biggest leader on this team. His effort was outstanding and he brings it every week. He's a smart enough guy and can play all positions in the secondary. We have leaders like Dressler and Chick but they're not always vocal but Macho is and he got the guys up.
- Obviously up until three weeks ago I focused on special teams. I never noticed that Macho missed plays and I didn't look to his weaknesses. He's made plays throughout his time here. He was bothered by injuries early in his time here but he's a guy that makes sure everybody's aligned in the secondary when he's in there.
- Coming out strong in the second half was something we wanted to focus on. We started fast the last three weeks but we had to carry that over into the second half. The coaches gave them the instruction they needed at halftime.
- That may be the first time this year we scored a touchdown on our first possession. We'd have to check that. That was a big thing. We had a turnover right away and we talk about seizing the opportunity. To put six points up after the turnover was huge. We played aggressively and that was huge.
- I think sometimes as a coach you bring points of emphasis. If you're not trying new things, you're not doing your due diligence. The idea was to get them to refocus. What we tried to do was have the second half of practice go well and see if it carried over to the game. We got the result we wanted but we noticed some things different than we expected.
- When they came out with the rule changes, it forced special teams coordinators to change everything. I spent hours looking at NFL film and coverage principles. We changed our coverage schemes on special teams twice. The players obviously have bought in. Coach Jackson and Coach MacDiarmid have done a great job with that.
- I didn't sense desperation. We talked about fighting, right? I'm a realist as well. The reality of our situation is we have to control what we do. We talked about mentally preparing to fight early in the week and then moved it to the physical part late in the week.
- It hasn't been difficult for them to focus. We try to keep the focus on one week at a time. We knew we had to catch Montreal and we knew we play them twice. You don't have to go into the other teams. We locked in on Montreal.
- When I first came in, I said we're all human and we'll make a mistake. I asked that we only make it once and due to where we're at, we can't afford for each guy to make that mistake. Everybody has to learn from other's mistakes. Will they happen? Yes. Will I be happy? No. We have to eliminate mistakes. We were 10-1 in penalties at halftime but we lost our focus in that regard in the second half. We can't let that avalanche and bring us down.
- That's our plan (for a miracle finish). It's funny, I've let certain players talk to the team at certain points. Chick asked me if he could talk to the team and he had a message to the team. He said he has nothing but belief in this team and we need to keep fighting and see where the cards fall.
LB MACHO HARRIS
- First of all I just want to give thanks to the man upstairs. This was impossible without Him. All coaches came in with a great plan. We executed the plays and disguised our coverages and blitzes. Coach Quick was familiar with their offense and it helped with the game-planning.
- This week at practice we focused on communicating because of new guys in the secondary. We had a lot of youth back there but we did a better job of communicating. I commend all our players out there, and making plays. It's tough when you're young to come in and play at a high level.
- It feels good to win the game. Believe it or not, we still believe in this game. We talk about it all the time, to keep the faith and believe we still have a chance of the playoffs. They'd laugh when we say that, but we believe in each other.
- Yeah it left a bad taste in our mouth losing to them twice earlier but this is another crack at 'em. We'll see what happens next week.
QB KEVIN GLENN
- The drops didn't rattle me. When you believe in the guys, that stuff never crosses my mind. They didn't do it on purpose. It happens. They knew what they did wrong. They know that coulda been a blowout early.
- The score, because of their late scores, it didn't show how dominate of a performance it was. We coulda scored 50 or 60 points today.
- The M-O for the day was going deep early. They thrive off big plays on defense so we wanted to do the same thing and we showed it the first couple of plays.
- It's funny - at halftime the hoggies were saying they were getting a certain look and we can get them if we run a certain play. We exposed it in the fourth quarter and it was very successful.
- Any QB would love to hand it off and be a fan. I'm never selfish in saying we want to throw the ball. I know how this game is to be played and what to do when you get a lead. It was a big character win. For us to come out in the fourth quarter and when everybody knew what we were going to do, and still did it, that was big.
- I think we've learned from the earlier games and the guys rememember that game in B.C. We had it won and it slipped out of our hands. We can't let that happen again. This is a team we're chasing and we know the significance of this game.
- It's a different mentally now. We have a lot of the same guys but sprinkled in some new guys, like Roosevelt, but for the most part, we had a good team early on and weren't getting the breaks and weren't doing the right things early. But it's a different mindset now. You can credit the coaches and the guys, but everyone is coming together.