Winnipeg Blue Bombers celebrate WR Clarence Denmark's TD during second quarter CFL action between the Bombers and the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Winnipeg on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (CFL PHOTO - Jason Halstead)
If there was such a thing as a Banjo Bowl ‘To-Do’ list, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers checked off a good chunk of the items Saturday afternoon.
Yes, in knocking off the Saskatchewan Roughriders 48-28 in front of a raucous sold-out crowd at Investors Group Field, the Bombers not only improved to 8-3, but have captured the season series with their archrivals 2-1.
In addition, the Bombers:
- Won the turnover battle, finishing with a +2 takeaway-giveaway ratio
- Saw the offence bounce back from a so-so effort in the Labour Day Classic loss last Sunday with four touchdowns, including three aerial strikes from Matt Nichols
- Got a special teams score on a punt-return TD by Maurice Leggett;
- Added a defensive TD when Leggett, once again, stepped in front of a Kevin Glenn pass and returned it 54 yards to pay dirt
- Managed to survive some big-time explosion plays against their defence by shutting out the Riders in the fourth quarter
- And, just to make a wild and woolly day that much nuttier, also won the TSN challenge to determine which building is nosier – IGF or new Mosaic Stadium in Regina – despite fans being delayed getting to the building because of a loose moose running around Chancellor Matheson Road before the game.
We’re not making this stuff up, people.
“That was certainly more like it,” said Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea. “If you want to go back to last week, we had five minutes where we gave up three scores and it was tough to climb out of.
“This was a good win and I believe – and the players believe – more indicative of how we’re going to play football.”
Now, there’s a way to over-analyze thing, to breakdown the numbers – the first-down production, the explosion plays against, etc. etc. – but the simplest take is this: The Bombers got socked in the lips last week in Regina. And Saturday afternoon in the Banjo Bowl, they got up off the mat and landed a few jabs of their own.
“When we get hit in the mouth we just hit harder back,” said Leggett, who was sensational in the victory. “That’s what we preach in the locker room. It doesn’t matter what happens out there, we just stay together. And if you throw a blow at us, we’re going to throw one harder back.”
Nichols completed 24 of 37 passes for 282 yards with two TD strikes to Clarence Denmark and a third to Ryan Lankford; Leggett had his two scores, Dan LeFevour scrambled for a major, and Justin Medlock hit one field goal and had three singles to account for the 48 points – Winnipeg’s highest point total of the season and highest since throwing up 49 in a win over Hamilton in July of 2010.
“That was big,” said Nichols. “A lot of this game is how you respond to situations and in an 18-game season, you’re going to have some down points. I felt like last week was a little bit of a down point for us… all three phases struggled at times.
“The guys took that challenge. We knew we had to come back and play well in front of our home crowd and get some momentum back, especially going into a bye week, and we did exactly that.
“We got back to playing our brand of physical, tough football, clean football. We didn’t make too many mistakes tonight and guys were making plays all over the field. Absolutely it was a big night for us.”
The Bombers and Riders traded punches early, with Nichols teaming up with Denmark for a 12-yard TD to open the scoring and Saskatchewan answering with a 88-yard Kevin Glenn-to-Duron Carter bomb. Leggett did his thing on the punt-return score, but again the Riders responded in one play when Glenn and Naaman Roosevelt teamed up on a 75-yard score.
But from that point on, the Bombers out-scored the Riders 33-15 en route to their eighth win.
“This is a great game to remember,” said Leggett. “This is the first game my mom (Kelley) has actually seen me play in Canada. It’s a pretty great thing to remember.
“We still left some plays out there. We know we’re not perfect but that’s what we’re striving for.”
The Bombers, FYI, are now 4-1 at home and 8-3 in their last 11 at IGF.
“It was crazy,” said Denmark of the whole Banjo Bowl environment. “It’s always fun to play in front of our home crowd because they’re always into the game. We knew it was going to be tough, but it was all about us and what we decided to do from the beginning of the game.
“I felt like from the beginning we had the edge. We made our minds up early that we were going to come out and play, that we were going to respond for our team, our fans and this whole city just to show what kind of team we are. We did that.”
THE BIG STAT
4-1-1: Touchdowns scored by the offence, the defence and the special teams of the Bombers: three through the air and one along the ground offensively, with Moe Leggett adding one on an interception return AND on a punt return.
TRACKING HARRIS 1K-1K
Bombers running back Andrew Harris is attempting to become the first player in CFL history to finish a season with 1,000 yards rushing and receiving. He finished the afternoon with 57 along the ground and 26 through the air, boosting his season totals to 656 yards rushing and 588 receiving. He would need to average 49.1 yards rushing and 58.9 receiving in the final seven games to make history.
The Bombers announced a late scratch before the game with safety Taylor Loffler moved to the one-game injured list due to illness. Head coach Mike O’Shea said Loffler should be good to go when the club returns from the bye week to face Ottawa on September 22nd. Derek Jones started in Loffler’s place and finished with four tackles, while newcomer Kahlen Branning, a Canadian DB just added to the practice roster, was activated and dressed for his first game.
274: Yards passing for Kevin Glenn at halftime, including TD strikes of 88 and 75 yards to Duron Carter and Naaman Roosevelt. Glenn finished with 327 yards and was picked off twice before having to leave the game in the third quarter after hitting his throwing hand on Bombers defensive tackle Cory Johnson
4: Tackles for linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox, making his first CFL start in place of the injured Kyle Knox. Santos-Knox also registered his first CFL interception in the first quarter.
97: The length of Moe Leggett’s punt-return TD, the longest in Bombers history. Dexter Dawson and Eric Blount had shared the record for the longest previously, at 92 yards.
The Bombers are now 8-6 in the 14 year history of the Banjo Bowl after winning their third straight, with Nichols at the controls of all three victories.