Bombers Beat the Banjos out of Saskatchewan

WINNIPEG, MB – Playing in front of the loudest fans in the Canadian Football League, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers responded by silencing the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Slotback Clarence Denmark caught two touchdown passes and defensive back Moe Leggett scored two more – one on a punt return and one more on an interception return – as the Blue Bombers blasted the visiting Riders 48-28 to win the 2017 Banjo Bowl.

This one was never in doubt as the Bombers exacted revenge for last Sunday’s 38-24 loss at Mosaic Stadium in the Labour Day Classic in Regina.

Then again, were it not for the first quarter last week, the Bombers might have won both games. After all, Saskatchewan took a 24-3 lead after the first quarter in Regina and then the Bombers essentially won the next seven quarters.

With the win, the Bombers improved to 8-3-0 (4-1-0 at home) on the season while the Roughriders had their three-game winning streak stopped and fell to 5-5 (1-4-0 on the road). Winnipeg has won six of its last seven games.

On Saturday afternoon at Investors Group Field, the Bombers scored every which way – special teams touchdowns, defensive touchdowns and offensive touchdowns – to pummel the Riders in every aspect of the game.

It was also a game that had just about everything. Including a moose on the loose at the University of Manitoba campus. The presence of the wandering Moose resulted in police shutting off Chancellor Matheson Blvd., in front of the stadium. That caused many in the sold out crowd to arrive late.

Of course, it was a good thing they cops eventually opened the road. If it had been closed after the game, people might never have got home. It takes hours to get out of these games now. With a road closed, it might take days.

This was a rare game in which the Bombers didn’t have to rely on the best field goal kicker in the CFL, Justin Medlock. The Bombers scored six touchdowns – two each by Leggett and Denmark and one each by backup quarterback Dan LeFevour and receiver Ryan Lankford. Medlock kicked a field goal, five converts and two singles.

It was 7-7 after the first quarter as Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Denmark and Glenn answered with an 88-yard pass and run play to Duron Carter.

The Bombers took a 29-20 lead at the half as Leggett returned a punt for a touchdown, Medlock booted a single on the ensuing kickoff, Nichols hit Denmark for his second TD of the game and LeFevour ran one-yard for the third TD of the quarter. Winnipeg’s own Kienan LaFrance scored a TD for Saskatchewan on a one-yard run.

Winnipeg extended its lead in the third quarter to 38-28 when Leggett returned the INT for a major. Interestingly, after three quarters, the Roughriders had 440 yards of offence to Winnipeg’s 224, but the Bombers led 38-27. Of course, a 97-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 54-yard interception return can quickly prove that stats are often for losers.

In the fourth quarter, Nichols found Lankford for a 23-yard TD and Medlock finally kicked a field goal (36 yards) as the Bombers padded their lead and, perhaps, started a new winning streak.

Nichols finished 24-for-37 for 282 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also carried twice for 53 yards. Andrew Harris carried 12 times for 57 yards and caught five passes for 26 more.

Denmark caught five passes for 65 yards and two TDs while Darvin Adams caught six passes for 62 yards. Weston Dressler had three catches for 56 yards as the Bombers had 420 yards of total offence.

Glenn completed 15-of-22 passes for 327 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Former Sturgeon Heights and University of Manitoba star LaFrance carried 12 times for 49 yards.

Canadian quarterback Brandon Bridge came into the game late for Saskatchewan and completed four-of-eight passes for 67 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.

Naaman Roosevelt caught four passes for 102 yards while Duron Carter caught two for 96 and Caleb Holley caught four for 75. The Riders had a load of big plays.

The Bombers finished the game with 410 yards of total offence while the Roughriders had 471. Of course, three turnovers certainly didn’t help the Riders.

And neither did a very strange “accidental pass interference” call that smart coaches should actually make part of their offensive strategy.  One has to figure that if inadvertently tripping over a defender’s foot gets a pass interference call in the end zone – when a pass is overthrown by 10 yards – teams should get that play into the playbook, right now. It might have been the proper call, but it’s a dreadful rule and it set up the Bombers for one of their six touchdowns.

Regardless, the Bombers were the better all-around team on Saturday. They took advantage of opportunities, got plenty of calls from the officials and played well in every aspect of the game. It was a well-earned victory in front of a tremendous crowd.

The Bombers have the bye next week. They’ll face Ottawa at IGF on Friday, Sept. 22 at 7:30 before heading to Edmonton for a showdown with the Eskimos on Saturday, Sept. 30.

Scott Taylor, MyToba Sports

Photos by Jeff Miller

Editor of the popular Game On Hockey Magazine and The Point After Football Magazine, editor of Canadian Meat Business Magazine, sports editor of Grassroots News, TV play-by-play voice of the Winnipeg Goldeyes and author of the bestselling book: The Winnipeg Jets: A Celebration of Professional Hockey in Winnipeg. He likes virgin pina coladas, long walks on the beach, puppies and thoroughbred race horses that run according to form.
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