REGINA – Will Ford wasn’t sure if he’d be the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ starting running back when he signed with the CFL club earlier in the week.
But after a three-touchdown performance Saturday night to lead the Riders over the visiting Toronto Argonauts 37-9 at Mosaic Stadium, Ford made a strong case for himself.
An East Division All-Star with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2013, Ford says he came to Regina ready for any chance he’d get.
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“Opportunities are limited, so you’ve got to take advantage of them no matter what,” he said. “I came here to work and put the team in a position to win.”
The newly signed running back scored first-half touchdowns of 20, three and two yards in his debut for Saskatchewan (2-2), while running for a total of 113 yards. He also had 24 receiving yards.
Ford’s three touchdowns on the ground were one shy of the single-game franchise record held by Ferd Burket, Milson Jones and George Reed.
The injury-depleted Argonauts (1-4) meanwhile, dropped their third straight game. Toronto’s lone victory came against the Riders at Rogers Centre in Week 2.
As good as Ford was in his debut, Saskatchewan quarterback Darian Durant held off on referring to him as the team’s “answer at running back.”
“Man, you can never crown anyone off of one game — it’s a long way to go,” said Durant, who connected on nine of 17 pass attempts for 155 yards and an interception. “I think Will still has some improving to do … He did a great job of running the ball in key situations.
“But we all have to pick our game up.”
Ford echoed his quarterback’s words.
“It’s going to take time,” he said. “I’ve got a few mistakes that I’ve got to work on. I stay down on myself when I make mistakes. I’m going to watch film, correct those mistakes and see what happens.”
Roughriders coach Corey Chamblin said he wasn’t expecting a perfect game from Ford.
“He hadn’t even been close to a training camp for us,” Chamblin said of his new running back. “Just throwing him in there, we expected some mistakes. … But we just wanted to play fast in spite of it, and I thought the guys did that.”
Durant surpassed the 2,500 career rushing yards mark, picking up 28 yards on the ground and running in a touchdown during the game.
Argos quarterback Ricky Ray, meanwhile, was 23-of-35 passing for 221 yards and two interceptions. Toronto backup Trevor Harris completed 8-of-12 passes for 80 yards.
While Durant and Ford took care of the offence, Saskatchewan’s defence also played its part, stifling Ray and the Argos throughout the game.
Toronto running back Curtis Steele was held to just 32 yards on the ground on seven carries. Maurice Mann led Argos receivers with 62 yards.
Tyron Brackenridge intercepted Ray on his first pass attempt of the night, and Tearrius George forced and recovered a Ray fumble when the Argonauts returned to the field — the second of five turnovers forced by Saskatchewan.
The Riders also forced Toronto to punt on four second-quarter possessions. Mark Legree notched a late second-half interception, shortly before the half ended with the Riders up 28-6.
Roughriders kicker Chris Milo nailed a 39-yard field goal in the third quarter, and booted field goals from 38 and 43 yards in the fourth.
Toronto kicker Swayze Waters replied with field goals of 17, 16 and 40 yards for the only Argos points of the game.
Durant opened the scoring, taking advantage of the Brackenridge interception with a 10-yard touchdown run on the Riders’ first possession.
Ford scored his first touchdown two minutes later to give the Riders a 14-0 edge.
Waters replied with two field goals to get the Argos to within eight points as the first quarter drew to a close.
Ford’s second TD made it a 21-6 game less than a minute into the second quarter, and his third two minutes later gave the Riders a 28-6 advantage.
The Riders visit the Ottawa Redblacks Saturday while the Argos host the Montreal Alouettes on Friday.