It was a heavyweight fight during Sunday’s Labour Day Classic but the deciding factor was a 10-play, 87-yard drive, capped by a Brett Lauther 26-yard field goal to give the Riders the 19-17 victory. Heading into this game, many wondered if this would be Saskatchewan’s most difficult test yet. The Riders difficulty of opponents has come under fire with their 6-3 start.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, the Riders received a couple of breaks with Matt Nichols on the six-game injured list and Andrew Harris serving a two-game suspension. This didn’t help Saskatchewan’s cause in terms of proving they can defeat the elite of the elite in the CFL. However, they still faced the challenge of going up against a vaunted Winnipeg defence.
The Riders jumped to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter but Winnipeg didn’t make it easy. Long before their scoring drive that started on their own 41, it was evident quarterback Cody Fajardo would have his work cut out for him against the Bombers defence. He was sacked twice in the first quarter and also threw an interception to Winnipeg linebacker, Adam Bighill.
The Riders defence would be the ones making all the noise in the first quarter, holding the Winnipeg offence to two, two-and-outs as well as forcing an interception of their own. Oh, there was also this:
“I’m a beast!” ?
Yes, yes you are, Derrick Moncrief (@hotboy_shoemane) ?
— CFL (@CFL) September 1, 2019
The second quarter would bring more of the same, however, this time the Winnipeg offence was able to generate longer, sustained drives. With Harris out, the Bombers turned to Johnny Augustine out of the University of Guelph to carry the rock and he did not fail to impress.
— CFL (@CFL) September 1, 2019
The drive was finished by a Streveler touchdown-pass to Kenny Lawler to make the score 10-7. The remainder of the second quarter would be a grind for both offences with the Riders stringing together two field goals and the Bombers with one of their own to make the score 16-10 heading into half-time.
The Riders offence endured much of the same in the second half of the Labour Day Classic. Prior to their game-winning drive at the end of the fourth quarter, Saskatchewan’s offence was stagnant. Punting on three drives and throwing an interception on another. Winnipeg’s offence wasn’t able to capitalize during the third quarter, adding two drives ending in punts of their own and an interception that was read beautifully by Loucheiz Purifoy.
However, with 10 minutes to go in the fourth, Streveler marched the Winnipeg offence down the field with an equal mix of run and pass until they reached the Saskatchewan 31-yard-line where they ran the ball five straight plays, ending the drive with a Streveler quarterback sneak for a touchdown with four minutes left to play in the Labour Day Classic.
After an extremely difficult game offensively, Fajardo had the ball back in his hands on his own five-yard line, down by one with three minutes and change to play. Fajardo was able to connect with the likes of Shaq Evans, Naaman Roosevelt and Emmanuel Arceneaux. By the time they reached the Winnipeg 40-yard line, the Riders turned to William Powell at the end of the drive to secure field position for a Lauther 26-yard field goal for the win.
A Look Ahead
After an extremely close battle between the Bombers and the Roughriders. The attention now turns to the Banjo Bowl rematch. Since 2004, the Bombers are 8-7 in the Banjo Bowl, the Riders, 7-8. Depending on how the Calgary and Edmonton games shake out, the Riders could take a lead in the West Division with a win next weekend improving their record to 8-3. But it won’t be easy.
The Riders bought themselves room for error with the win this weekend. If they do drop the Banjo Bowl next week, they have the opportunity to win the season series back at home in Week 17. The Bombers meanwhile, play Montreal and Hamilton with a bye week beforehand before returning to Mosaic.
While the West Divison picture didn’t gain any more clarity from Sunday’s matchup, it proved something for each team. The Riders can still gut out gritty games as they did many times in 2018 and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are still a team to be reckoned with even down their two biggest stars on offence.