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September 12, 2022

Upon Further Review | SSK 20 WPG 54

Post-Game - Rasheed Bailey 88 trophy

Rasheed Bailey took one step up to the stage in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers press conference room, stood behind the microphones, and then grasped both the sides of the podium.

What then followed was a 7 ½ minute discourse from the veteran wideout, who finished Saturday’s dominant 54-20 Banjo Bowl victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders with a team-leading 83 yards receiving on five catches. Included in those numbers was a sensational 34-yard touchdown in which he dove from just inside the Roughrider four-yard line and – while seemingly flying horizontally – reached out and grazed the top of the pylon with the football.

“There was no way (he wasn’t getting to that pylon),” Bailey would explain. “I waited to be in that position for a while now. I ain’t taking ‘no’ for an answer.

“I’ve been working. It’s been showing up in practice, it’s been showing up every single week. I’m getting into that end zone. I want to continue to keep proving I am one of the best dudes in this league. Tonight, I was able to prove that, and I want to keep building off that momentum and just ride this wave.”

For those who might not have been formally introduced to Bailey, it should be said the proud product of Philadelphia, PA could make reading a grocery list sound like Denzel Washington in ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth.’

‘Emotional’ doesn’t begin to describe Bailey, who doesn’t just wear his emotions on his sleeve, he wears them on his collar, the yoke… hell, his whole damn outfit

And the energy he brought Saturday – mirroring every day for the 29-year-old – helped set the tone in what was a dramatic victory. Afterward Bailey was the first to admit he had been occasionally frustrated through the first two-thirds of the regular season, as he entered Saturday’s game ranked fifth on the team in receiving yardage behind Dalton Schoen, Greg Ellingson, Drew Wolitarsky and Nic Demski despite not missing any action.

Saturday’s effort now improves his numbers to 40 receptions for 431 yards and four touchdowns.

“I’m excited it was finally able to go my way a little bit today,” he said. “I’m happy about it. This is a team win. If you look out there, all of the receivers had a great game.

“You look at my touchdown, I don’t score that touchdown if it’s not for Dalton (Schoen) and if it’s not for Brendan O’Leary-Orange and I appreciate that. That’s the kind of room that we have. It’s an ’us’ thing. People ask how we win championships and what we do around here, it’s because we love each other. And tonight, we all saw it.”

A grinder his whole life, Bailey left tiny Delaware Valley University as the school’s all-time leading receiver before landing an undrafted free agent look from his hometown Eagles. After that he had looks from the B.C. Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Diego Chargers, Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers before getting his chance with the Blue Bombers.

There’s a gritty element to his game – the stuff like downfield blocking for others – that often gets overlooked by those outside the locker room. That, in part, is why he relished the opportunity to get a share of the spotlight against the Riders.

“Spiritually it’s been a battle. Everything just came together tonight, finally,” he said. “I’ve been doing some great things – blocking, being a leader, doing all the right things. (Saturday) it finally happened. That’s the story. I always tell people if they’re going through things and it’s up and down and it’s a wave… sometimes a battle is meant only for you. What I’ve been going through has been just for me. It’s in order for me to tell a story, it’s in order for me just to talk about all the perseverance and everything I’ve been through.

“It took me 13 weeks to come up here. I’ve been thinking about this moment for a while. I couldn’t wait to come and talk to you guys because it’s been that long. I appreciate being up here. I don’t take being up here for granted.”

More on the Blue Bombers Banjo Bowl blowout, which improved the club to 12-1, in this week’s post-game package we call ‘UPON FURTHER REVIEW’…

THERE WAS SO MUCH TO LIKE ABOUT WHAT THE BLUE BOMBERS OFFENCE DID… in Saturday’s win and the drive chart provided the perfect summation.

Winnipeg had 10 possessions against the Roughriders and scored seven touchdowns, kicked two field goals, and sent Marc Liegghio out to punt just once – with just three minutes left in the game.

All of this came after a Labour Day Classic in which the Blue Bombers scored two touchdowns in a 20-18 win but managed just 16 first downs and 289 yards offence. As we mentioned in our game recap, the Blue Bombers had 19 first downs and 263 yards in net offence at halftime in the Banjo Bowl.

Winnipeg’s first two possessions – both ending in TDs – featured 10 and 13 plays, respectively, and the attack had four drives that covered 60 yards or more as it finished with 35 minutes and 25 seconds of possession.

“It’s definitely rewarding,” said Zach Collaros, who took over the league lead in passing TDs from B.C.’s Nathan Rourke – currently injured – with four scoring strikes, two to Nic Demski and one each to Bailey and Brendan O’Leary-Orange. “You come to work every day to try and get better. It’s different when you play a team twice (in a row) – there’s less film to watch and the guys did a really good job of taking care of their bodies and executing the play calls.

“Again, for all of us it’s rewarding because you put the work in. You don’t go out there to punt the ball. You don’t go out there to kick field goals. You want to score touchdowns.”

DEMSKI, ONE OF WINNIPEG’S HOMEGROWN PRODUCTS ON THE SQUAD… finished with the two receiving touchdowns, as mentioned above, and 71 yards on seven receptions, adding another 10 yards on two carries.

Over the last three games he has 20 receptions for 267 yards and four touchdowns, with another 63 yards on eight carries. Despite missing three games, Demski now has 43 receptions for 483 yards and six touchdowns.

“Right now it does feel pretty good,” he said. “I have a lot of confidence in this offence. I’ve been in it, I know where my athletic ability can take me and with Zach and I, we’re definitely on the same page. I feel pretty good right now. I feel pretty positive. I just want to just keep going out there and being a consistent force for this offence.”

One more from Demski, when asked to comment on Bailey’s TD:

“His touchdown was amazing. That type of effort to get across the line like that… I’m pretty sure he just nicked the pylon, but if you ask Rasheed, he’ll be the first one to tell you everybody was doing a great job of blocking down the field. That’s just what I mean – we play together as an offence.

“I don’t want to take away anything from ‘Sheed because his effort, his Yac (yards after catch) to get into the end zone was impressive. I mean, I like to be Yac king on this team, but ‘Sheed might have taken the crown from me today. I thought ‘Sheed did a great job today and I know he’s been waiting for a touchdown like that for a while.”

WE KNOW WHAT SOME OF YOU MIGHT BE THINKING RIGHT NOW… how about a little love for the Blue Bombers ‘Dark Side’ defence?

Good point.

Riders QB Cody Fajardo – working behind an O-line ravaged by sickness as the club had a stomach flu virus dramatically impact the team – completed 15 of 18 passes, but for only 124 yards. Saskatchewan finished the day with just 214 net yards of offence as Winnipeg’s defence forced four turnovers and registered four sacks.

With the Blue Bombers offence so dominant, the Riders had the ball for just one minute and 57 seconds in the first quarter.

“I wouldn’t say that’s the way we would want it – to play two plays in the first quarter,” said Willie Jefferson, who had two sacks and a forced fumble. “At the beginning of the second quarter the defence had to warm up on the sidelines again. Again, I wouldn’t say that’s how we want it, but I wouldn’t change it.”

Get this: in the Blue Bombers current five-game win streak over Saskatchewan the defence has surrendered just 20 points in the second half of all five games, with just seven coming in the fourth quarter.

ONE MORE FROM WILLIE… you may have noticed in the pre-game that he was wearing a white Milt Stegall #85 jersey.

Jefferson donned the same jersey for his post-game media session, and when asked if it was a ‘loaner’, he offered this:

“This is mine. This is a personal gift from Milt to me. It was just the perfect time to wear it. I had a hard time this morning deciding between my Milt Stegall jersey or my Richie Hall jersey.

“So, when I tried them on for my wife, she said this one looked better with my outfit, so I chose to go with this one. Shout out to my boy, Milt.”

FYI: No update immediately after the game on the injury front, as the Blue Bombers saw two starters in receiver Drew Wolitarsky and defensive back Nick Taylor go down. Both players had to be helped off the field, with Evan Holm replacing Taylor in the secondary and O’Leary-Orange stepping in for Wolitarsky… Worth noting, and this from Joe Pascucci, the long-time now retired Winnipeg sportscaster: it was reported via the CFL that Dalton Schoen’s 10 TDs tied Neil Armstrong’s record for touchdowns by a rookie, first set in 1951. But as Joe points out, Armstrong spent four years in the NFL before coming to the Blue Bombers.

AND, FINALLY… a high five, fist-bump and massive shout-out to Sara Orlesky, who worked the Banjo Bowl Saturday for TSN in her last CFL telecast before joining the Winnipeg Jets as the club’s new Senior Host/Producer.

Nothing but the highest compliments from this perch for Sara, who is a dedicated and passionate professional. She will be missed by the Blue Bombers and the CFL but will most certainly crush it will the Jets. Congrats and good luck.