REGINA - Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Michael Bishop had more than one reason to smile after Friday night's 37-34 win over the Calgary Stampeders. It wasn't only that his team won, but also because they had fun doing it.
"In the huddle everyone was laughing," said Bishop, who completed 20 of 27 passes for 242 yards and one touchdown. "We definitely loosened up and we just played ball. A lot of times you tend to tense up but tonight everyone was loose. In the huddle - guys smiling - and we had fun. We made it fun."
Before a sold-out crowd of 30,945 at Mosaic Stadium, the Riders (9-5) broke a three game losing streak and secured a playoff spot. Despite the loss, the Stamps (9-5) clinched a playoff spot after the Toronto Argonauts (4-10) lost to the B.C. Lions (9-5) 24-20 earlier Friday evening.
"We had a pretty good feeling going into this game," Roughriders head coach Ken Miller said. "The men happened to have confidence. They know that they can play with anybody and it's just a matter of playing better consistently.
"It was a great football game and we were able to score more points than a really good football team that we played tonight and it was really a team effort."
With five carries for 25 yards, Calgary running back Joffrey Reynolds surpassed injured Riders running back Wes Cates to become the leagues leading rusher with 1,074 yards on 182 carries. If Reynolds can stay on top he'll be the first Stampeder to claim the rushing title since Gary Allen in 1986.
Despite the feat, Reynolds was disappointed with the result.
"Tonight was a step back for us," he said. "Taking the rushing lead is not really a point of interest right now. When we needed to move the ball, get back in their territory and score some points - we didn't get it done. Credit to their defence, they stopped us."
Stamps kicker Sandro DeAngelis scored the game's first points with a field goal from 25 yards out. He finished the game 4-for-4, with his longest from 39 yards.
Riders running back Neal Hughes scored on a three yard plunge to take an early lead 7-3. Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris would score on a naked bootleg from the one-yard line before Saskatchewan's Hugh Charles conceded a single point to make the score 11-7 for Calgary to close out the first quarter.
Burris completed 29 of 45 passes for 311 yards. He threw one interception and two touchdown passes. Roughriders kicker Luca Congi opened off the second quarter with a 47-yard field goal, his longest of the game, to pull Saskatchewan behind by one 11-10. He finished the game 3-for-4, missing his last by 52 yards.
Riders receiver Chris Getzlaf hauled in a nine-yard pass for a TD. Calgary came back again when Burris hit Ken-Yon Rambo for a 19 yard touchdown. The teams traded field goals before heading in for half time with Calgary ahead 21-17.
Within the first 30 seconds of the third quarter, Riders defensive end Stevie Baggs knocked the ball from Burris' hands. Jones picked up the loose ball and ran 15 yards into the end zone to take the lead 27-21 after the successful convert.
Calgary would add two more field goals but Saskatchewan responded when Hughes crossed the goal line from one yard out.
Congi would add a field goal to make the score 34-27.
Despite receiver Ryan Thelwell's 33-yard touchdown reception with less than two minutes to play, Calgary couldn't come back.