Photo courtesy: Electric Umbrella/Derek Elvin/Saskatchewan Roughriders

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ quarterback Trevor Harris had only one thought when teammate Nick Marshall secured a game-sealing interception off of Elks’ pivot Taylor Cornelius on Thursday night.

“Ball don’t lie. Because I thought Taylor was past the line of scrimmage, I don’t know about y’all,” Harris told reporters post-game, drawing a smattering of laughter when referencing a controversial review earlier in the drive.

“Again, I didn’t see the view that the officials did in Toronto or whatever, but I was like, as soon as that happened, ‘ball don’t lie.’”

After a rouge was mistakenly conceded on a late fourth-quarter kickoff, the Riders led the Elks by a single point with a minute remaining. Starting from his own 30-yard line, Cornelius still had a chance to lead Edmonton on a game-winning drive.

The quarterback generated an early spark, scrambling right on the second play of the drive before finding Maurice Ffrench for a 30-yard gain. However, it appeared to many viewers that Cornelius was across the line of scrimmage when delivering the pass.

With procedural challenges out of the coaches’ hands in the final three minutes, the play was automatically reviewed by the CFL command centre to ensure its legality. After a pregnant pause in the gameplay, replay officials deemed that part of the passer’s body was still behind the line when the ball left his hand. The call on the field stood, stunning onlookers like Harris.

“I thought they were going to bring that back. I was talking to the official and I said, ‘I promise I won’t react, just tell me when you hear.’  He was like, ‘Call stands’ and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh,’” the 11-year CFL veteran recalled. “Obviously, you look at it with biased eyes when you are on our side.”

Riders’ head coach Craig Dickenson said post-game that he received no official explanation for the controversial call, but it ultimately wouldn’t matter. Two plays later, Cornelius threw an ill-advised pass to Dillon Mitchell while pressing for field goal range and was picked off by Marshall.

It was a costly mistake from a player who put forth an improved performance after being relegated to a backup role the week prior, as Cornelius finished 17-of-29 for 226 yards passing while rushing for 58 yards and a score. Even though he believed the football gods were justified in their late-game correction, Harris came away impressed with the opposing signal caller.

“I thought Taylor played really well tonight. Extended a lot of plays with his legs and was making some good throws. They did a good job staying on the field offensively and keeping us off the field.”

Harris went 19-of-26 passing for 292 yards, one touchdown, and an interception in a difficult offensive outing for the Riders, saving his best for late in the game. With 2:52 remaining, the veteran led a 10-play, 78-yard touchdown drive complete with a two-point convert to tie the game at 11. That included a rare flash of athleticism from the pocket passer, as he took off running for a 13-yard gain seemingly inspired by Cornelius.

“I’m just a scrambling quarterback, that’s all there is to it. 37 years old and getting faster, I guess,” he joked.

“It was big to use my legs a little bit on that possession. I think we did it twice, where they covered up pretty well and then they just gave me a B-gap escape plan. I was able to step up and buy some time or roll out to the right and buy some time and was able to get it to our receivers and let them make a play.”

Harris’ uncharacteristic scrambling helped to knot the game before a rouge on the ensuing kickoff and Marshall’s interception sealed the deal. After being held to just three points through 59 minutes and badly losing the time of possession battle, the 12-11 victory was as unlikely as it was difficult to watch.

“Shoot, how we won, I don’t know. We had a couple of drives inside their 10 and came up with nothing, they missed a couple of field goals, so I know both teams are going to look back and say we should have done this or should have done that,” Harris chuckled.

“You either find a way to win a game or you find a way to lose a game, and I feel like we are the team that is going to try and find a way to win those close games. However it’s got to get done, however ugly it is, it’s two points in the win column and we’ll take it.”

The Riders next host the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday, July 15.