RIDERS’ ROBOKICKER JR. DOES THE TRICK IN WIN
Brett Lauther delivered the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ biggest bailout since the telethon era.
The Roughriders’ offence, allergic to any form of sustained success, moved the football to the Toronto Argonauts’ 36-yard line with slightly more than two minutes remaining in Saturday night’s CFL game at BMO Field.
Trailing 28-27, the Roughriders needed only to control the football in sensible fashion before setting up Robokicker Jr., Brett Lauther, for a go-ahead field goal. Instead …
First-and-10: Marcus Thigpen was trapped for a loss of one.
Second-and-11: Zach Collaros was penalized for intentional grounding. Loss of (gulp) 11 yards.
That left Lauther to face a 56-yard field-goal attempt
— the most important kick of his career. He made it, in typically reliable fashion, to give Saskatchewan a 30-28 lead and, ultimately, its fifth victory in a span of six games.
The Roughriders escaped with a 30-29 win and two points after Toronto’s Zack Medeiros was just wide on a 51-yard fieldgoal attempt with two seconds remaining. He had flubbed a 36-yarder to conclude Toronto’s previous possession.
Missed field goals by Medeiros on Saturday: Two.
Missed field goals by Lauther since July 19: Two.
At an astonishing 39-for-42 on the season, Lauther has made 92.9 per cent of his field-goal attempts.
He is on pace to set a Roughriders single-season record for accuracy. For now, the record of 90.6 (set in 1993) is held by the original Robokicker, Dave Ridgway.
He, like Lauther, became the Roughriders’ full-time placekicker after an injury to the incumbent.
Paul Watson, who handled Saskatchewan’s kicking in 1981, suffered a torn Achilles tendon while playing football during the off-season.
That freak occurrence opened the door for Ridgway, who was eventually welcomed into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
Lauther took over as the kicker after Tyler Crapigna was sidelined in June with a leg injury that necessitated surgery.
That setback initially appeared to create a cavernous void, considering Crapigna has an 86.4-per-cent success rate as a Roughrider.
During exhibition play, Lauther went 5-for-5 (including a 55-yarder), but proceeded to miss his first kick of the regular season — an eminently makable 32-yarder.
Since then, he has evolved into the most consistent member of a team that, on Saturday, could not afford the slightest error — even in a situation where, considering the distance of the game-winning kick, a miss would have been forgivable.
The Roughriders’ defence had been as reliable as Lauther, but some cracks have started to show. Saskatchewan has surrendered 900 yards over its past two games.
The offence, on its final possession, had put Lauther in an unenviable situation.
Lauther responded by putting his team in considerably better position — second place, all alone, in the West Division.
If the Roughriders’ finishing kick is comparably impressive, there will be a playoff game at the new Mosaic Stadium.
And the new Robokicker can take a bow.