REGINA — Nathan Rourke’s amazing season hit a bump in the road on Friday night when the B.C. Lions quarterback was injured in a 28-10 CFL victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The 24-year-old quarterback went down early in the fourth quarter with an injury to his right foot after he was sacked by Saskatchewan defensive lineman Pete Robertson.
Lions head coach Campbell left no room for speculation, insisting there is little known without further evaluations.
“We’re just not going to know until some more tests are done," he said. "The doctors say, you just can't know until you get it checked out, so there's a wide range of (possible) outcomes and we'll find that out as soon as we can.
"We'll evaluate after we see what's going on, but we'll be smart with it. Hopefully we're talking that he's coming back really soon.”
Despite Rourke wearing a walking boot when exiting the field after the game, Campbell said the first-year starter looked better in the dressing room.
“He was able to put any weight on it, he was walking around in the locker room," he said. "He's obviously in some pain … He was feeling pain at the beginning on the sideline, but now he's got a smile on his face.
"He's happy the team won. I think he's just going to wait and be patient and see what we're dealing with.”
Rourke has become a strong contender for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award this season with his combination of passing and running abilities — and Friday was no exception.
Rourke completed 22 of 31 passes for 375 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions as the Lions improved to 8-1 and extended their winning streak to five games.
He also rushed for 63 yards on three carries, including a 36-yard run in the third quarter that set up an 11-yard touchdown pass to Bryan Burnham.
Rourke set the tone for the Lions in the first half, going 16-of-22 passing for 285 yards and one touchdown. Both his interceptions also came in the opening half.
With continuous attacks downfield, the big play came with 1:58 left in the first half when Rourke connected with Lucky Whitehead on a 90-yard touchdown to give the Lions a 21-3 lead. Three Saskatchewan defenders focused on a short curl route by B.C. receiver Bryan Burnham, allowing Whitehead to run free on a deep route.
Whitehead said the touchdown was a direct result of studying game film.
“We know (Riders defensive back Nick Marshall) likes to sit on routes. We’ve seen it enough, so we took it when we saw it,” he said.
Saskatchewan QB Cody Fajardo went 8-of-13 passing for 41 yards and two interceptions before Riders head coach Craig Dickenson pulled him in the second quarter.
Fajardo, who has been struggling with a knee injury, was replaced by backup Mason Fine. He drove the Riders down the field on his first drive, connecting with Justin McInnis on a four-yard touchdown pass. Fine completed three of four passes on the drive for 47 yards.
Fine completed 16 of his 26 passes for 210 yards and one touchdown in his first time seeing extended action this season. He was also intercepted once.
Although he won't assume he will start next week's game in Vancouver against the Lions, Fine feels he's up for the challenge.
“I'm ready to go. I think as a backup quarterback, it’s your job to be ready on any certain given situation, just like tonight,” said Fine. “It's just going back to what I've been doing all year — kind of prepare like you are the starter and you're ready for any opportunity at any given second. That's what my mentality is going to be moving forward.”
Lions backup quarterback Anthony Pipkin scored two touchdowns on quarterback sneaks. Michael O’Connor came in as Rourke's replacement and finished 5-of-5 passing for 36 yards.
Campbell feels comfortable moving forward with O’Connor at the helm until Rourke can return.
“Michael's been in this league and when he went in there we said he’s going to take it home for us. He did everything the right way, managed the clock and did all those things, so good for him," he said. "We think he's a good player and that's why we signed him."
The Riders got interceptions from Larry Dean and Derrick Moncrief. Robertson, who returned to the Riders lineup after suffering a foot injury on July 8, collected his eighth sack of the season.
McInnis had six receptions for 111 yards and one touchdown.
Former Rider Loucheiz Purifoy, Ben Hladik and Marcus Sayles had interceptions for the Lions. David Menard and Oburn Gwacham had two sacks apiece for B.C. while Josh Woods added one more.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2022.
Jeff DeDekker, The Canadian Press