Regina, Canada (CFL.ca) - The Toronto Argonauts' special teams spoiled Saskatchewan's playoff party Saturday.
Toronto's second fake punt of the fourth quarter set up the game-winning touchdown pass from Cleo Lemon to Jeremaine Copeland as the Argos beat the Roughriders 24-19.
A Saskatchewan win would have guaranteed the 'Riders a home playoff date for the fourth straight season, but instead it was the Argonauts who were celebrating.
The game-changing sequence started when Toronto's Ricky Foley blocked a Luca Congi field goal attempt to give the Argos the ball at their own 28-yard line.
Facing a third-and-long situation three plays later at their own 51, the Argos (7-7) set up in punt formation. But instead of kicking it away, Bryan Crawford ran the ball to the Saskatchewan 29-yard line for an Argos first down.
That set up a 27-yard touchdown pass from Lemon to Copeland that held up as the game-winning score.
"We're not just hoping they work," Crawford said of Toronto's trick plays. "We're running them against looks that we're practising against, that we're waiting to see. And when we see them we have to trust in the guys on the field that we're going to execute them properly."
Earlier in the quarter, the Argos' were facing third down in the shadow of their own goalposts. Punter Jamie Boreham took the snap in the end zone and started to kneel as if conceding the safety, but instead handed the ball behind his back to Byron Parker. Parker ran out of the end zone and drew a penalty to give Toronto a first down.
"You have to do things like that to get players to believe that you believe in them," Toronto head coach Jim Barker said. "And I believe in these players and I'm going to give them opportunities to win games."
The Roughriders (9-5) started slow, forced into two-and-outs on their first offensive series. On his next drive, quarterback Darian Durant was intercepted by Jeremy Unertl, who ran the pick 69 yards for a touchdown as the Argonauts led 11-1 after the first quarter.
Saskatchewan used contributions from all corners of the team to rally back in the second.
Linebacker Tad Kornegay ran a Lemon interception 18 yards back to the Toronto 30, setting the table for a one-yard Wes Cates touchdown run.
Saskatchewan's special teams then forced Chad Owens to fumble on the ensuing kickoff and, three plays later, the 'Riders had their first lead of the game on an eight-yard touchdown reception by Neal Hughes.
As in the first quarter, the 'Riders had to settle for an Eddie Johnson single in the third and the Argos' special teams combined with their defence to hold Saskatchewan at bay.
"You could say our offence maybe their heads weren't into it because we weren't very effective on offence ... but I don't think that you can point to our special teams and say that they are the reason we lost this football game," Roughriders head coach Ken Miller said. "They, like our defence, played well enough for us to win."
Justin Medlock rounded out Toronto's scoring, going 3-for-4 on field goal attempts. His only miss was from 50 yards but was good enough to get the Argos a single point.
Congi booted a 42-yard field goal in the fourth to close out the game's scoring.
Roughriders receiver Weston Dressler surpassed 1,000 yards receiving for the season, while Cates passed Kent Austin for second place on the team's all-time rushing touchdown list. Andy Fantuz moved into 11th on the team's all-time receptions list.
"We like individual awards when they are compatible with team achievements," Miller said. "If you don't have team achievements, individual awards are pretty flat."
Durant finished 19-of-34 for 210 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Lemon went 17-for-26 for 150 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
Argos running back Cory Boyd led all players on the ground with 131 yards on 21 carries, including six rushes to preserve the lead on Toronto's final possession.
"Cory Boyd was just a warrior at the end of the game," said Barker. "I just give our offensive line a ton of credit. To be able to run the ball when they know you're going to run it is what winning the game is all about."