REGINA — Charleston Hughes had three sacks and the Saskatchewan Roughriders won their first regular-season opener since 2014 by defeating the defending Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts 27-19 on Friday.
Not only did the Riders defensive unit ground Ricky Ray and the Argos aerial game for much of the contest, they bottled up James Wilder Jr., the league’s Most Outstanding Rookie from 2017, as well.
Hughes was acquired by the Riders during the off-season via trade with the Calgary Stampeders. He and fellow defensive end Willie Jefferson disrupted Ray’s timing and prevented Wilder from gaining any traction. Wilder rushed for just 17 yards on five carries.
The new-look Roughriders offence, meanwhile, did just enough to pull off the victory.
Quarterback Zach Collaros, another off-season pickup, threw his first touchdown with his new team mid-way through the second quarter, a 13-yard strike to Naaman Roosevelt. That score gave the Riders an 11-1 lead.
Another new Rider, kicker Brett Lauther, kicked two first-half field goals and the home team led 14-4 at the half.
The Argos finally crossed the goal line early in the fourth quarter when backup quarterback James Franklin scored on a one-yard touchdown plunge. That score cut into Saskatchewan’s lead and the Argos trailed 17-12 with 13 minutes remaining.
The Riders restored a double-digit lead after cornerback Nick Marshall picked off Ray and raced 65 yards for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. That put the Riders in front at 24-12.
Franklin, in for short yardage, threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Declan Cross with two minutes to go to pull Toronto to within five at 24-19.
The Riders responded with a clock-eating drive that ended with a Lauther field goal, his fourth of the game.
Ray finished the game with respectable stats, 242 yards passing. Collaros completed 18-of-25 pass attempts for 203 yards. Jerome Messam led the Riders with 72 rushing yards.
In Week 2, the Riders will visit the Ottawa Redblacks on Thursday. Toronto will return home on Saturday and host the Calgary Stampeders.