June 15, 2023

Game Preview | WPG at SSK

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros (8) is congratulated by Marty Costello after the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the annual Labour Day Classic 20-18 in Regina on Sunday, September 4, 2022. (CFL PHOTO - Matt Smith)

Scene setter:

The first of three showdowns between the long-standing Prairie rivals has the Blue Bombers in Regina for Round 1 – to be followed by the annual Labour Day Classic and the Banjo Bowl doubleheader in September.

Both clubs are coming off season-opening victories, Winnipeg with a 42-31 decision over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats while the Saskatchewan eked out a 17-13 victory over the Elks in Edmonton.

This will be the Blue Bombers first visit to Regina since losing the Grey Cup 24-23 to the Toronto Argonauts last November 20th and the game also serves as the Roughriders 2023 home opener.

The Basics

Kickoff: Friday, 8 p.m. CDT, Mosaic Stadium, Regina
TV: TSN or CBS Sports Network (US)
International live streaming: here
Radio: 680 CJOB
Last meeting: Winnipeg 31 Saskatchewan 13 on September 30th, 2022, in Winnipeg.
All-time: Winnipeg leads the all-time series 141-106-4.
PlayNow odds: The Blue Bombers are favoured by 6.5 points

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The QBs

  • Winnipeg lines up Zach Collaros behind centre. He is 62-36 in his career and now a remarkable 34-5 in his games as a starter in Winnipeg, including playoffs and two Grey Cup victories. Collaros is 9-3 in his career vs. Saskatchewan.
  • Saskatchewan signed veteran Trevor Harris in free agency over the winter. He is 49-46-2 in his career as a starter during his time with Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Montreal and now 1-0 with the Riders. He is 4-7 all-time vs. Winnipeg.

The Coaches

Winnipeg: Mike O’Shea has a career won-lost record of 83-58. O’Shea’s 83 wins as a Blue Bombers head coach ranks third on the club’s all-time list, behind only Bud Grant (102) and Cal Murphy (86). O’Shea also moved into a tie for 13th on the CFL’s all-time wins list alongside Jack Gotta last week and the club’s next victory will move him into a tie for 12th with Tom Higgins.

Saskatchewan: Craig Dickenson leads the Riders. His clubs have a combined 29-22 in his three years at the helm, with his 29 wins putting him in a tie with Corey Chamblin for seventh in franchise history.

Blue Bomber Roster Notes

  • Just one change to the Blue Bombers depth chart from a week ago, with new DT Miles Fox coming aboard for DE Jackson Jeffcoat, who was injured in last week’s win over Hamilton and has been moved to the six-game injured list.
  • Fox was just signed by the Blue Bombers on Monday. He played in three games with the B.C. Lions last year, recording three tackles, and popped out to head coach Mike O’Shea while he was watching preseason tape of the Leos.
  • FB Mike Miller has been moved from the one-game to six-game injured list, while LB Brian Cole goes from one-game to the practice roster.

Blue Bomber Spotlight: Defensive end Anthony Bennett

The Blue Bombers first-round selection in the 2023 CFL Draft returns home to Regina this week, where he played his college ball. Born in Weston, Florida – his mom is from Regina – Bennett began his collegiate career at Florida Atlantic University, where he played from 2015-19.

Last year with the Rams, he was named a first-team All-Canadian and Canada West all-star after setting a school single-season record with eight sacks n his senior year. He tied a school record for most tackles for loss in a single season (10.5) and started all eight Canada West games at defensive end, finishing the year with 25.5 tackles (19 solo, 13 assisted).

Bennett had one special-teams tackle while working in a rotation along the defensive front in last week’s win and said he hopes to have about a dozen family and friends at Mosaic Stadium on Friday. Here’s our chat with Bennett on that and other topics.

Scouting the Roughriders

The Riders were a disappointing 6-12 last season in a year in which Regina played host to the Grey Cup. They finished fourth in the West and missed the playoffs and with that comes even further scrutiny this year for GM Jeremy O’Day and head coach Craig Dickenson.

The club made some extensive moves in the offseason in an attempt at an upgrade. In addition to signing Harris from Montreal as the QB, they added veteran receivers Derel Walker (Edmonton), Jake Wieneke (Montreal), Shawn Bane, Jr. (Calgary) and Juwan Brescacin (Toronto), brought back veteran DT Micah Johnson (Hamilton).

Harris threw for 179 yards with a TD to Walker last week – while also being intercepted twice – while Jamal Morrow ran for 80 yards on 14 carries. The Riders were led by their defence, which picked off Elks QB Taylor Cornelius twice and then held on three Edmonton cracks from just outside the goal line in the fourth quarter.

Milestone Watch

  • Willie Jefferson’s next sack will be the 60th of his career. His two pass knockdowns last week increased his career total to 56.
  • Adam Bighill has 821 tackles in his career and needs 13 more to pass Solomon Elimimian (833) for 6th place on the CFL’s all-time list.
  • Zach Collaros moved past Russ Jackson for 22nd spot on the CFL’s all-time, passing yardage list. He is now at 24,701 – 492 yards behind Conredge Holloway on the career passing yardage list and 299 yards shy of the 25K mark. He now also has 152 career passing TDs, making him just the 25th QB in CFL history to reach 150 TD mark. Collaros also needs 228 passing yards to move past Tom Burgess (8,170) into 10th place on the Blue Bombers all-time passing yardage list.