June 17, 2023

Game Recap | WPG 45 SSK 27

Winnipeg Blue Bombers wide receiver Nic Demski (10) runs the football against the Saskatchewan Roughriders during the first half of CFL football action in Regina, on Friday, June 16, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Heywood Yu

REGINA – Go ahead and add another chapter to a tale which will never get old or boring for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and their faithful – winning a slugfest against old foe Saskatchewan Roughriders.

And bonus points for doing it in their backyard.

The two Prairie rivals delivered a Canadian Football League classic Friday night at Mosaic Stadium, with the Blue Bombers spoiling the hosts’ home opener in a 45-27 victory. Here’s the good part for those in Bomberland: the win is Winnipeg’s eighth straight against the Riders – including two Western Final victories in 2019 and 2021 – with half coming in the Saskatchewan capital.

Most importantly, the win improves the Blue Bombers to 2-0, while the Riders fall to 1-1.

“That was a fun one,” began Blue Bombers QB Zach Collaros. “Back and forth… we did a good job of staying on the football field and scoring points. There were a lot of swings of momentum in that game and we did a good job of riding that storm.

“It’s always fun to come in here and win. It’s a great environment, great team effort all the way around. We just understand what the task is. We’re here to play a football game, obviously, and it always comes down to execution and prior to that preparation has to be key.

“We’ve got a very methodical approach of how we do things and everybody has bought in. Whatever is thrown our way, we just know the most important thing is the next play and it takes all 12 guys and a great effort by everybody all the way around.”

Here are the post game observations from our perch in the press box…


Winnipeg’s diminutive and soft-spoken kick returner – he’s the smallest guy on the team at 5-9, 157 pounds and often speaks in a whisper – made the biggest noise on a night full of highlights with an absolutely sensational 92-yard punt return score that saw him break six tackles en route for a critical TD.

That score turned a 24-21 Winnipeg advantage into a 10-point lead.

“It was crazy, man,” said Grant. “I had to make one move and then bounce back to the field. I had to make a few stiff arms and once I made that sideline it was just open from there and my teammates just had to guide me to the end zone. I appreciate those guys.”

The play had originally been wiped out for an illegal block on Nic Demski, but the Blue Bombers challenged the penalty and the command centre determined there were no infractions. Head coach Mike O’Shea said the staff had some extra time due to an injury on the field to review it and then felt it was worth the risk.

“I think because of the magnitude of the play it was worth it,” said O’Shea. “And from what we saw on film there was enough there to make that challenge. Those ones are hard ones to win, so it must have been clear and obvious. And… awesome. I mean, what a return. I don’t know where it ranks. I know Janarion is really, really good.”

Grant is already the club’s all-time leader in kick-return TDs, and now has eight in the regular season, plus two more in last year’s playoffs.


Winnipeg has now put up 87 points in two games, as Collaros completed 23 of 31 for 292 yards with TD strikes to Dalton Schoen and Drew Wolitarsky while rushing for one score himself.

Worth noting: the Collaros rushing TD was his first since August of 2015.

“They don’t want me to do sneaks any more,” said Collaros with a grin. “It was funny… I didn’t know what to do. I’m going to get blasted in the team meeting tomorrow, so that will be good.”

Schoen led all receivers with eight catches for 149 yards, while the club also churned out 107 yards along the ground – 42 from Brady Oliveira, 31 from Johnny Augustine, 17 from Collaros, 13 from Grant and four, plus two TDs, from Dru Brown.

“There are things we can clean up, me especially,” said Collaros. “There’s one I got away with there in the fourth quarter where we ended up with an interference call and it probably should have been an interception, so we got away with that one. As a whole I thought we did a good job execution wise – the name of the game is scoring touchdowns and for the most part we’ve done a good job when we get down close to the end zone to get it in this year.”


Roughrider QB Trevor Harris was listed as a ‘GTD’ – game time decision – on the depth chart after suffering a hip pointer in their win a week ago in Edmonton. But the veteran pivot was deadly in a losing cause by throwing for 428 yards and three TDs on 29 of 41 passing.

All three of his TD passes went to Samuel Emilus. The Blue Bombers brought pressure, sacking him three times, and dropped people into coverage but he was still able to dissect the defence.

“They came out swinging and they got a bunch of yards on us,” said safety Brandon Alexander. “They came out with a good gameplan and he was good out there. He was definitely good out there.

“At the end of the day, whether it be ugly or pretty, we ask everybody to play a full four quarters and that’s what we did tonight.”


No question it was the Grant TD – and the challenge that helped keep it alive.

“I played with Brandon Banks and Brandon Banks was unbelievable,” said Collaros. “We’ve seen Janarion do it how many times now, and in the biggest moments too. I think he stiff-armed the entire unit. We were just sitting there going, ‘Oh… there’s another one. He might score. Oh my God.’

“The fact that he still had something left in the tank toward the end to have the wherewithal to then cut it back, I don’t know who was down there blocking for him, but it was just an unbelievable effort by the entire unit.”


Points scored by the Blue Bombers in their first two games of the season.


Janarion Grant: So many candidates on a night like this from Collaros to Schoen, to Malik Clements – five tackles and a sack – but Grant’s effort on that return is legendary.


  • The win was the 84th for O’Shea as Blue Bombers coach, moving him closer to Cal Murphy for second spot in franchise history. Bud Grant is the all-time leader at 102. The result also moved him into a tie with Tom Higgins for 12th on the CFL’s all-time list.The 288 yards passing by Collaros moved him past Tom Burgess into 10th place on the Bombers all-time passing yardage list.

NEXT: The Blue Bombers are home next Thursday, June 22nd, to the B.C. Lions, with a 7:30 p.m.