September 3, 2019

Upon Further Review | WPG 17 SSK 19

Saskatchewan Roughriders running back William Powell fights for yards during first half CFL action against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, in Regina on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor

The hurt and the pain was evident all over his face as Winnipeg Blue Bombers right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick sat in front of his locker following Sunday’s Labour Day Classic loss.

It was there in his body, too, as he slowly rose to greet a wish from yours truly for a few thoughts following a 19-17 last-play field goal decision that sent the Bombers to their 14th defeat in the last 15 Labour Day visits.

“I just love these guys so much,” began Hardrick, “and I just really wanted to do it for all of them. I’m just emotional. There’s a lot that goes into a game like this – the highs and lows of a rivalry game, a game you think about in the offseason.

“This is one we wanted. We can’t dwell on it and we have to get past it, but I just wanted this one so much for the family. That’s why it hurts.”

It was an under-manned Bombers squad that headed into Regina minus several key starters, including quarterback Matt Nichols, running back Andrew Harris, defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and defensive back Brandon Alexander, but was in a position to win in the game’s critical moments.

The Bombers took a 17-16 lead on a QB sneak by Chris Streveler with just over three minutes remaining, but the Riders then marched 87 yards from their own five-yard line on 11 plays to set up Brett Lauther’s 26-yard game-winning field goal with no time left.

“We had a chance to win,” said Hardrick. “I wish we had been better offensively. I know I could have been better. We’ll get better. We thank the special teams, we thank the D… the offence, we’ll get better.”

Asked about getting another shot at the Riders in this Saturday’s Banjo Bowl – the Bombers, now 8-3, are just two points up on their rivals at 7-3 – Hardrick didn’t mince words.

“Can’t wait. I cannot wait.”

More on another Labour Day Classic loss for the Bombers in our weekly collection of post-game notes and quotes we call UPON FURTHER REVIEW…

THE REACTION BY HARDRICK WASN’T UNIQUE IN A SUBDUED BOMBER LOCKER ROOM after the game, as this club was in position to exit with a critical win but couldn’t seal the deal late as Riders QB Cody Fajardo went 5-of-5 for 58 yards and William Powell rushed for 39 yards on four carries in the final drive for the decision.

Up until that point the Bombers had pitched a second-half shutout – Saskatchewan had just four second-half drives before the clincher, with three punts and an interception – but the Riders are full credit for getting it done when it mattered most.

“My first Labour Day Classic… it was exciting, but I just wish we could have come out with the ‘W’,” said cornerback Winston Rose. “The environment was very hostile, the crowd played a part. Every time their defence was on the field they were very loud and when their offence was on the field they would quiet down.

“I just wish we could have got that ‘W’, man. But we’ll see it next week.”

Rose was then quizzed about the final drive of the game and he, like Hardrick, became emotional.

“We just didn’t finish, plain and simple,” he said. “We started off strong when we came out in the second half, but we just didn’t finish. That was a tough loss, man. A tough loss.”

And one more from Rose, on getting another shot at the Riders in the Banjo Bowl:

“Especially with the way this game went… I can’t wait to see them this week in our house. Bomber fans, get ready, baby.”

BOMBERS HEAD COACH MIKE O’SHEA WAS LIVID about a missed call by the officiating crew that led to an injury to long-snapper Chad Rempel, who was then capably replaced by Thomas Miles.

The whole issue best explained by the CFL on TSN crew here.

ONE OF THE COOL SUBPLOTS TO EMERGE FROM THE GAME was the work of running back Johnny Augustine in his first CFL start and first replacing Andrew Harris.

Augustine finished with 115 yards of offence – 12 carries for 98 yards and three catches for 17 yards – and his sensational 55-yard run in the second quarter really seemed to ignite an offence that has minus-10 yards net offence in the first 15 minutes.

“I’m going to remember the first one, but obviously it’s bittersweet,” said Augustine. “As a team and as an individual the only thing we can do from here is get better. That’s how I’m taking it. Learn from the mistakes tomorrow and then flush it. I’m privileged to have my first career start under my belt, get it over with. But now we go on to the next.

“Every time you have your first run, your first block it’s nice to knock off that rust and knock off those jitterbugs and then you start rolling into it. It was nice to do that (the 55-yard run) and show the league that I can play in this game, I can do this as a full-time running back and help my team try and win.”

Augustine had said all week in the days leading up to the LDC that he wanted to treat it as a regular game and not get too distracted by all the outside noise. Afterward he was quizzed as to whether he had a LDC moment.

“I’m not going to lie… to be honest with you it really did hit me (Sunday) morning,” he said. “I woke up and saw myself on TV and said, ‘Oh, this is the real deal.’ That’s when I was nervous. But after that, after the first rep I was just trying to get my assignments done.”

CHRIS STREVELER MADE HIS SECOND START IN RELIEF of Matt Nichols and completed 16-of-24 passes for 161 yards with a TD strike to Kenny Lawler and two interceptions and rushing 11 times for 65 yards and what could have been the game-winning TD.

He was helped after his first pick by Willie Jefferson, who knocked down a pass and then sacked Fajardo to force a punt and his second errant throw was offset three plays later when Winston Rose then stepped in front of a pass for his league-leading seventh interception.

But the second mistake also occurred at the Riders 21-yard line and did take points off the board. After an atrocious first quarter by the Bombers offence, Streveler & Co. did settle in and had their moments in a game dominated by the defences.

COACHES ALWAYS TALK ABOUT THE HANDFUL OF PLAYS… that make a difference in a game and the Bombers needed one more from somebody – offence, defence or special teams – to pick up the ‘W.’ The unfortunate part of this is the Riders’ last drive spoiled what had been a solid defensive effort for the Bombers, who could have sealed the deal with Saskatchewan backed up to their own five-yard line.

“It’s a good starting point for us, but with that much time left and the way the CFL goes nobody on our sideline was going ‘Oh, the game’s over.’ Nobody was doing that,” said O’Shea. “You still have to play those plays out. Did we get them where we wanted? We got them into good field position and gave ourselves and advantage… but with that much time left and the way the CFL is you would never, ever look at that and say, ‘OK, put your headset away.’

“When you lose a game by two points, it really boils down to a play. They netted out with one more positive play that we did. I know everybody in there, obviously, would have liked to get a stop there but it didn’t happen.”