Watch as Toronto Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. smashes a two-run shot off Cleveland Guardians pitcher Triston McKenzie for his ninth home run of the season.

REGINA, Sask. — Despite losing quarterback Trevor Harris to an injury, the Saskatchewan Roughriders improved to 3-0 with a convincing 36-20 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Sunday.

Harris was injured late in the second quarter when tackled by Ticats defensive lineman Nick Usher. Harris walked off the field on his own, limping gingerly on his left leg. The 38-year quarterback missed the majority of the 2023 CFL season after suffering a tibial plateau fracture of his right knee in a Week 2 loss to the Calgary Stampeders.

Harris returned to the Riders sideline midway through the third quarter. He was wearing a brace on his left knee. He tossed passes on the sideline but the Riders decided to stick with backup Shea Patterson for the remainder of the game.

Harris was unavailable for comment after the game but Riders head coach Corey Mace was optimistic about the quarterback’s status going forward.

“I haven’t sat down with him, but I talked to him at halftime and he was in pretty good spirits. And then in the second half, he was in my ear and telling me, ‘Coach, I can go’ but we wanted to play it just a little bit safe,” said Mace. “Shea was moving the ball very well. Heading into the bye week, it’ll just give Trev some more rest but the way he was acting, it sounded like he was ready to go.

“Why risk it? We love Trevor. It’s a long season but we’re confident with what Shea has provided for us to this point. We were still able to maintain the lead, move the field and execute the offence. I didn’t see any point to putting Trev back in the game.”

With Patterson at the controls and the Riders holding an 18-7 lead, the Riders’ defence took control of the game in the third quarter. Saskatchewan forced three turnovers in the frame with Hamilton quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell losing a fumble on the Riders’ five-yard line and tossing two interceptions. Jameer Thurman had the first interception, returning it 28 yards for a touchdown, and DeMarcus Fields intercepted Mitchell on the next series.

Thurman said the defence took it upon itself to pick up the slack in Harris’s absence.

“We put it on our shoulders. Whenever one of our brothers goes down, we’ve got to pick them up. You’ve got to pick up the slack. Whatever it is, it’s got to be better. And then we came out and did that the second half,” said Thurman, who signed with the Riders during the off-season after playing for Hamilton in 2023.

“We talked about it all week that somebody’s going to get one. In the last game, they didn’t go right over the middle and we knew that they had to change that going back-to-back (games). I saw the ball when it was tipped and I knew I had to get into the end zone,” Thurman added.

Running back A.J. Ouellette, another free-agent signing by the Riders, had an impressive home-field debut. The former Toronto Argonaut was Saskatchewan’s leading rusher with 98 yards on 20 carries. He was also the leading receiver with four catches for 47 yards.

After rushing for 64 yards on 29 carries in the first two games of the season, Ouellette displayed the form Sunday that made him a highly touted free agent in the off-season.

Ouellette said his role with the Riders is a work in progress.

“This is just familiarity. It’s going to take a while for us to mesh together,” said Ouellette. “It’s a whole new system for these guys and then I haven’t got a chance to read them, you know? For years in Toronto, it took me a little bit to get used to those guys and we’ll get together in the bye week and get after it.”

The Riders opened the season with two wins on the road. In those victories — 29-21 over the Elks on June 8 and 33-30 over the Ticats on June 16 — the Riders were outscored 48-25 in the first three quarters. But in the fourth quarter, the Riders dominated their opponents 37-3 to escape with the victories.

Despite the two victories, Mace wanted more from his players Sunday and they responded.

“We challenged the offence and offensive line in the running game this week in the meetings. … It was just time, it was time to put their foot down. It really just comes down to executing the details,” said Mace. “I challenged the defence to get a little bit more pressure without necessarily having to press the pressure button and to also to score on defence. We managed to do both of those things so it was encouraging to see.”

The Riders got off to a fast start Sunday when Hamilton’s Lawrence Woods fumbled the opening kickoff with Saskatchewan recovering on the Ticats’ 20-yard line. After a four-yard pass to Shawn Bane, Harris hit Sam Emilus on a 14-yard touchdown pass. Emilus slipped making his cut but still managed to make the catch.

The Riders held an 18-7 halftime lead that they increased to 28-7 on Thurman’s touchdown and a 16-yard field goal from Brett Lauther.

Hamilton cut the lead to 28-14 with 6:29 remaining when Ante Litre scored on a one-yard run. The 70-yard drive was kept alive by three Saskatchewan penalties, two for roughing the quarterback and one for pass interference in the end zone.

The Riders went up 35-14 when Patterson scored on a one-yard run with 2:43 remaining in the game.

Kiondre Smith caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Mitchell with 2:06 left. The ensuing two-point conversion failed, giving the Riders a 36-20 lead.

Riders rookie receiver Ajou Ajou hauled in a 40-yard pass from Harris in the first quarter. It was the first regular-season CFL touchdown for Ajou.

Shemar Bridges scored Hamilton’s first-half touchdown, gr

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