HAMILTON — Brandon Bridge made the best of a rare start.
Bridge became the first Canadian quarterback in more than 30 years to throw three touchdown passes in a game as the Saskatchewan Roughriders defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 27-19 at Tim Hortons Field in CFL action Friday night.
"It feels pretty good," said the 25-year-old from Mississauga, Ont. who was making just his second career start. "Obviously, it's been such a long time ... I'm trying to just open up doors for the younger generation who actually (are) Canadian and want to play quarterback."
Greg Vavra was the last Canadian pivot to throw for three TDs, back in 1984 for Calgary.
Bridge completed 21-of-31 pass attempts for 231 yards, three TDs and one fumble.
The Riders were up 27-10 in the third quarter, but the offence began to stall down the stretch, which allowed Hamilton to claw their way back to the point where they could have tied the game with time expired.
"It means a lot," Bridge said about notching his first win as a starter. "Obviously, the ending is not how we'd like it, but we definitely liked how the outcome was. We were up by 17 points at one time and we definitely made it harder on ourselves.
"Obviously, it's definitely on me. We gotta learn how to finish. I gotta learn how to play down the stretch and keep at a high level even if the game is tight or not."
Bridge, who played college ball for South Alabama, got his first CFL start in 2015 when he was with Montreal (a loss against Saskatchewan). He is now in his third CFL season and second with Saskatchewan.
He took over for Kevin Glenn last week against Winnipeg when the veteran pivot injured his hand late in the third quarter. Glenn's status against Hamilton was a game-time decision even though he hadn't practised all week and Bridge had taken first-team reps.
Saskatchewan head coach Chris Jones was having none of the negative talk when asked about the faltering offence down the stretch.
"It wasn't slipping away," he said. "We were two scores up. We couldn't stay on the field. We won the ball game. We won the ball game, just for your information y'all. We won the football game.
"It was a tight, tough game playing with a backup quarterback and playing with nine guys injured. So we won the game. On the road. On the short week. So, we're a good football team. So don't get it twisted."
Saskatchewan improved to 6-5 and temporarily ties B.C. for fourth in the CFL West and a possible playoff crossover spot. The Riders also hold a game in hand.
Hamilton fell to 2-9, last in the East Division.
Devon Bailey, Bakari Grant, and Naaman Roosevelt scored for the Riders, who lost their top receiver Duron Carter early in the game to an ankle injury. Jalen Saunders scored for Hamilton.
Hamilton quarterback Jeremiah Masoli completed 29-of-49 pass attempts for 328 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions — both to Rider defensive back Ed Gainey.
"We just did some undisciplined things that normally winners don't do," said Hamilton head coach June Jones, who is now 2-1 with the club. "A couple of stupid penalties (including a 25-yard penalty for spitting that moved the ball deep into Hamilton territory), a couple of turnovers."
The Ticats had five turnovers, leading to 17 Saskatchewan points.
Saskatchewan kicker Tyler Crapigna hit both his field-goal attempts, from 15 and 42 yards.
Hamilton kicker Sergio Castillo was 4 for 4 on field goals, hitting from 19, 50, 38, and 22 yards.
The Riders were up 20-10 at the half and added to their lead midway through the third when they took advantage of a Gainey interception off a tipped ball in their own end and drove the remaining 70 yards in three plays (including that 25-yard penalty against Hamilton's Demond Washington for spitting). Bridge hit Roosevelt for a 23-yard score and the 27-10 lead.
Castillo's 50-yarder pulled Hamilton to 27-13 and a 38-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter made it 27-16.
But just as it looked like the Ticats were making a game of it midway through the fourth, driving deep, Gainey picked off Masoli again, this time in the endzone.
Saskatchewan's offence stalled in the fourth, and Hamilton continued picking away. Castillo's 22-yard field goal made it 27-19 with 2:52 left in the game.
Hamilton had one last drive with 31 seconds left and had first-and-goal on the one with five seconds left thanks to a pass interference call against Saskatchewan. But the final play was a pass that went incomplete in the endzone and Saskatchewan held on.
Saskatchewan went up 3-0 late in the first quarter with Crapigna's 15-yarder when the Riders couldn't convert a first-and goal on the Ticat five-yard line.
The Rider offence got rolling in the second. Bridge led a 75-yard scoring drive early that ended with a nine-yard TD pass to Bailey and the 10-0 lead. Hamilton receiver Saunders fumbled on the Ticat 31 on their following possession, and Bridge went back to work, finishing a four-play drive with a nine-yard TD pass to former Ticat Grant.
But Hamilton and Saunders responded immediately with a 75-yard scoring drive of their own, pulling to 17-7 when Masoli hit Saunders for a 36-yard catch-and-run TD.
Crapigna's 42-yard field goal late in the quarter was answered with a 19-yarder by Castillo with seconds on the clock to make it 20-10 at the half.