The rouge can be a critical rule in Canadian football, providing a single point for punts or kicks that travel through the end zone or aren't returned out of it, and it proved to be so again Sunday in the Saskatchewan Roughriders' 35-32 double-overtime win over the Ottawa Redblacks. In one of the craziest CFL endings in a long time, the first overtime finished with Riders' kicker Chris Milo missing a field goal and Ottawa receiver Jamill Smith making a great play to grab it and prevent a rouge, then punting it out of the end zone before Saskatchewan could tackle him for a single:
How did this happen? Well, the CFL's overtime rules mean that each team gets at least one possession. In the first overtime period, Ottawa quarterback Henry Burris' deep pass was intercepted, leaving the Roughriders just needing a single point on their own possession to take the win. They didn't get too far on their first two downs, which meant that Milo was sent out to attempt a field goal on third down, but even most missed field goals would have travelled through the end zone and given Saskatchewan a game-winning rouge. Ottawa anticipated that and sent Smith to the back of the end zone, though, and when Milo missed, Smith made one of the craziest plays seen in Canadian football in a long while. He leapt to snare the missed field goal, somehow barely keeping his feet inbounds. and then punted it clear of the end zone before the Roughriders' cover team could tackle him. Saskatchewan wasn't able to get it back to the end zone, meaning that the game stayed tied and headed to a second overtime sequence. Of course, Saskatchewan won there, but that shouldn't take away from one of the best CFL endings involving a rouge since 2010 or 2011.
The game may not have needed to go that far with different decisions or execution from Saskatchewan, though. The Roughriders chose to play uberconservatively on their first and second downs after the Burris interception, which meant that Milo's field-goal attempt was from long range. If they'd been able to get closer, it would have been easier for him to hit the field goal (or failing that, harder for Smith to knock down a miss). Moreover, getting closer might have added to the incentive to try and punt for a winning rouge, like former Riders' head coach Ken Miller did in 2011. Beyond that, it's worth noting that the miss was partly thanks to a muffed snap and hold; if Saskatchewan gets that right, we don't see this ending.
Oddly enough, the Riders still could have easily won after Smith's kickout. Anyone in Canadian football can punt at any time, as we've seen before, and whichever Saskatchewan receiver catches Smith's punt (it looks like Rob Bagg) tries to punt the ball back through the end zone for the game-winning rouge. That's smart heads-up thinking, and it almost worked if not for some heads-up play from an Ottawa player who managed to block the kick; the ball then wound up short of the end zone, sending the game to a second overtime. The Roughriders did manage to win there, of course, but this was remarkably impressive from the Redblacks. Even if they couldn't pull off the win, at least they managed to provide a great ending.