TORONTO - Brett Lauther bailed Zach Collaros out Saturday night.
Lauther's 56-yard field goal with 1:14 remaining earned the Saskatchewan Roughriders a wild 30-29 road win over Toronto. Lauther's boot came after Collaros was penalized for intentional grounding, moving the ball back 11 yards to the Argonauts' 48-yard line.
"That bailed me out, my boy Brett ... I can't say enough about him.''
Still, Toronto had a late shot at the comeback win. McLeod Bethel-Thompson drove the Argos from their 38-yard line to the Saskatchewan 44 before an all-out Riders' blitz forced him to throw prematurely, which resulted in barely missing a wide-open S.J. Green on what would've likely been a TD pass.
Riders coach/general manager Chris Jones admitted the blitz call with the game on the line was a gamble.
"We wanted to send pressure,'' he said. "I said if we're going to lose this game it was going to be because we were going after somebody.''
The Argos still had one final chance to claim the victory. But Zack Medeiros missed from 51 yards out and Saskatchewan conceded the single with two seconds left before an energetic BMO Field gathering of 14,479 that was liberally sprinkled with Rider green.
A dejected Bethel-Thompson could only shake his head and lament about his missed opportunity to connect with Green.
"A professional quarterback has to make that play,'' he said.
Saskatchewan (8-5) earned its fifth win in six games. More importantly, the Riders took sole possession of second in the West Division after the Edmonton Eskimos (7-6) lost 28-15 on Saturday to the Ottawa Redblacks (8-5).
But after taking a 24-14 half-time lead, Saskatchewan was outscored 15-6 in the second half by Toronto. The big blow was Trumaine Washington's 61-yard interception return TD on the final play of the third that tied the score 27-27.
"We're never going to apologize for a win, I can assure you of that,'' said Jones. "We're on the road ... and if you look at these games when you have to travel, they're tough games.
"They did a good job of scrapping and getting back into the football game. We had a 10-point lead at halftime and we're fortunate to walk out of here with the win.''
Collaros finished 14-of-25 passing for 233 yards with two TDs and two interceptions. He has yet to have a 300-yard passing game this season, but this did mark the first time this season Saskatchewan has had multiple TD passes in a game.
Toronto (3-9) suffered its third straight loss and remains tied with Montreal (3-9) for last in the East Division. The Argos' already thin playoff chances took yet another major hit as they're six points behind second-place Hamilton, which visited the B.C. Lions (5-6) later Saturday night.
And Toronto trails the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (6-7), who entered Saturday's action holding down fourth in the West Division, in the cross-over battle. The Argos' schedule isn't easy either, with road games against Calgary (10-2), B.C. and Ottawa.
"Words cannot describe the heartache of losing this game,'' said Toronto head coach Marc Trestman. "We're bitterly disappointed with where we are, but the season isn't over.
"We'll be back to work Monday. We saw strides in all three phases of the game, we put ourselves offensively in a position to win but didn't get it done.''
Bethel-Thompson finished 32-of-44 passing for 321 yards with an interception. Receiver Duron Carter was targeted once, but had no catches in facing his former team for the first time since being released last month.
Medeiros also missed a 36-yard field goal at 10:53 of the fourth, with the single putting Toronto ahead 28-27.
Toronto opened the second half with a smart 11-play, 61-yard march. Medeiros capped it with a 22-yard field goal at 5:38, cutting Saskatchewan's lead to 24-17.
The Riders countered with a 60-yard, six-play drive Lauther finished with a 23-yard boot at 8:24 to restore the 10-point advantage. Toronto came right back with Medeiros's 21-yard kick at 12:53 to pull to within 27-20.
Jordan Williams-Lambert, with two, and Marcus Thigpen had Saskatchewan's touchdowns. Lauther added the converts and three field goals.
James Franklin scored Toronto's other touchdown. Medeiros booted four field goals, two converts and three singles.
POSTGAME COMMENTS FROM CHRIS JONES:
- It wasn't our prettiest performance but we'll never apologize for a win. We were fortunate to walk out with a win, but it was a win.
- A lot of our depth guys are not very well-known but they're vital to the success of this football team. They show up every day and work hard, and they perform when the game is on the line.
- The wind was blowing and it didn't seem like it was a huge wind in the pregame but we thought it was a 5-7 yard wind. We discovered it was blowing harder than we thought. We decided at halftime to give them the ball and take the wind in the fourth. It affected a couple of their kicks and hopefully affected ours too.
- It was the 2nd or 3rd week of those young receivers working together. It's never going to be beautiful with all those rookies running around, but they performed tonight.
- It was a long game but we're a good team and we kept with it. We kept throwing it down the field. We did just enough to win the football game and I'm proud of the team.
- We came out pretty much healthy. We had a few guys had some bumps and bruises but we'll take two days off over the three days and then get back with Day 1.
(With RodPedersen.com Wire Services)