After losing in the CFL Eastern semi-final in 2002 and 2005, it appears for the Riders, third time is the charm when it comes to crossover success. Saskatchewan beat Ottawa 31-20 Sunday afternoon, led by running back Marcus Thigpen who ran for 169 yards and a touchdown. Thigpen’s performance is the third best playoff game for a Riders running back behind Kory Sheets in 2013 and the legendary George Reed.

It was a fast start for the Riders, who scored on their first possession of the game. Kevin Glenn finished a six play drive by hitting Bakari Grant for a 29 yard touchdown giving Saskatchewan a 7-0 lead. Ottawa would respond on their first possession. Trevor Harris found Diontae Spencer behind Kacy Rodgers II for the 56 yard score. Spencer was fantastic in a losing cause, nine catches for 157 yards and a touchdown. Saskatchewan would hit pay dirt again on their second possession. Kienan LaFrance with two catches for 26 yards would set up Kevin Glenn for the one yard plunge making it 14-8 Saskatchewan.

Ottawa was close to answering back, but Sam Eguavoen picked off a Harris pass inside Saskatchewan’s ten yard line, a huge turning point in the game. The only other score in the first half was a one yard TD by Vernon Adams Jr to give Saskatchewan the 21-8 lead. Ottawa’s leading receiver Greg Ellingson injured his knee in the first half, and while he stayed in the game, was never a threat.

In the second half, Christion Jones fumbled a punt return but the Redblacks could only get a field goal, cutting the lead to ten. But on the first play from scrimmage after the kick, Marcus Thigpen turned on the jets, scoring a 75 yard touchdown run. Saskatchewan led 28-11 and never looked back. Ottawa did score a late touchdown but it was too little too late.

Saskatchewan’s defense forced four turnovers and two quarterback sacks while the Riders offensive line held Ottawa’s defense to no sacks.

The Riders advance to the CFL Eastern Final next Sunday in Toronto, no crossover team has ever advanced to the Grey Cup.