Post-Game Locker Room - Zach Collaros 8 - Dru Brown 6 - Dakota Prukop 12
It was a football masterpiece, with all the colours, shapes and strokes combining for an enthralling and mesmerizing portrait of a complete and thorough beatdown.
And while it’s true the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ 51-6 blowout of the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 19th annual Banjo Bowl may have lacked for edge-of-your-seat drama – it was essentially akin to having a tiger pull down a wounded antelope in a couple of strides and then watch it meticulously pick the carcass clean for three hours – certainly no one in Bomberland is complaining.
Not one iota.
The Blue Bombers not only exacted a measure of revenge from last week’s 32-30 overtime loss to the Riders in the Labour Day Classic in front of a capacity crowd of 32,343 at IG Field, but they also improved to 10-3 and punched their ticket to the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season.
“It’s going to be hard to find any fault in this game,” said head coach Mike O’Shea afterward. “It’s as a clean a game as you would hope for.
“Listening to the (assistant coaches) in the headset in every game there’s ‘wrong depth’ or ‘missed a block’ or ‘missed a tackle’… there’s always corrections going on in the headset. This time the headset was real quiet throughout the entire game – an indicator the guys were executing at a very high level.”
Here’s how high that level reached:
- The Blue Bombers scored touchdowns on all six of their possessions in the first half in building a 42-6 lead at the intermission. Winnipeg, in fact, scored points on nine of their 10 possessions – including three field goals in the second half, and Jamieson Sheahan didn’t have to punt until there were less than 40 seconds left in the game.
- Winnipeg cranked out an incredible 603 yards of net offence, including 263 yards along the ground.
- Zach Collaros took a scalpel to the Roughrider defence like a surgeon, completing 18 of 21 passes for 319 yards and five touchdowns – all in the first half – with three scoring strikes to Dalton Schoen and singles to Kenny Lawler and Brady Oliveira.
- Oliveira was in full beast mode himself, rushing for 154 yards on 18 carries while pulling in four passes for 57 yards, giving him over 200 yards from scrimmage.
- Not to be overlooked, the defence forced two turnovers, registered three sacks and limited the Riders to just 204 yards of net offence.
“It was our focus throughout the week – at practice, at meetings – and everything that goes into playing a game,” said Collaros, who tied a career high with his five TD passes. “Playing a game is the fun part. The nitty-gritty stuff you’ve got to do during the week to get to that level… I thought all three phases had a really good week.”
Asked if this felt personal after last week’s OT loss and the head-butt/suspension of Roughrider defensive end Pete Robertson, Collaros added:
“It is a rivalry. I just think this is what you’re supposed to do for the Banjo Bowl. I think we’re supposed to win that game. Our fans were unbelievable. The atmosphere was second to none. It’s a weird start time, the 3 p.m. compared to the 7 p.m.’s that we’re accustomed to.
“I was a little groggy this morning, but as soon as I stepped out for warmups I was like, ‘Oh, wow… there goes the adrenaline. It was pretty unbelievable the whole time.”
More from our view in the press box on the Blue Bombers blowout Banjo Bowl win…
START FAST… AND KEEP THE PEDAL ON THE FLOORBOARD
The Blue Bombers tied a club record for points in the first half with 42, matching a mark set previously three times, with the latest coming in 2003. It was the fifth highest total all-time for any club.
One more from CFL stats guru Steve Daniel – the six TDs in six first half possessions was the first time a team had accomplished the feat since he started tracking offensive possessions in 2007.
“It goes back to obviously watching that (Labour Day Classic) film, making the corrections and then coming back here and having a solid week of preparation,” said Oliveira. “We knew what we needed to do to go out there and be successful and it’s staying on the field, start fast, play an entire 60 minutes and we did that from start to finish today.
“We executed on drives, we were scoring points on damn near every drive, so it was good. We learned from our mistakes, went out there and performed.”
— CFL (@CFL) September 9, 2023
PLAYOFF BOUND/BOUNCE BACK
Not a word was mentioned by anyone within the organization about this following Saturday’s win, but the result improved the Blue Bombers to 10-3 and means they are headed to the Grey Cup derby for a seventh consecutive season – their longest run since a 17-year streak ended in 1997.
Winnipeg has also posted a winning record for a seventh straight season, matching the club record set over a span from 1956-62.
Also, the Blue Bombers have not lost consecutive meaningful games – not including the two losses at the end of 2021 in which starters were rested – since September-October of 2019.
Just to hammer that home: in the games after the three losses this season the Blue Bombers have won by 14, 14 and now 45 points.
Winnipeg defence was superb in bringing heat and were also exceptional in tackling. Coming off a game in which they surrendered over 300 yards through the air, they limited Jake Dolegala to just 113 yards passing.
The Riders managed just 14 first downs and were just five-of-16 (31 percent) on second-down conversions. The Blue Bombers, by comparison, were 13-of-20 (65 percent) on second-down conversions.
“It’s nice when we can pin our ears back and just play our game,” said defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. “It’s fun when our offence gets out there and just starts scoring and scoring like that. We work together well.”
THE BIG MOMENT
It came early, obviously.
The Riders opened the scoring with a Brett Lauther field goal on their first possession, taking a 3-0 lead with just under 12 minutes remaining in the first quarter.
And then the Blue Bombers offence took to the field and began beating up the Riders like a superheavyweight working on a featherweight. Leading 7-3, the Blue Bombers took a 14-3 lead on this dandy piece of work by Collaros and Oliveira:
𝐄𝐥 𝐦𝐚𝐠𝐨 🪄
— CFL (@CFL) September 9, 2023
THE BIG STAT: 51
Who doesn’t like a 50 burger?
The Blue Bombers cranked out over 600 yards offence and hit the 50 points scored mark for the second time this season, including a 50-14 win over B.C. back on August 3rd.
Zach Collaros, QB: At his MOP best, throwing for five TDs and over 300 yards and then stepping aside for Dru Brown in the fourth quarter.
Honourable mention: Brady Oliveira, RB: Huge numbers from the homegrown back. His 154 yards along the ground is a CFL season high.
The Blue Bombers have now won four straight Banjo Bowls and are now 12-7 in the club’s marquee game.
The Blue Bombers hit the road to Hamilton next week, facing the Tiger-Cats at Tim Hortons Field on Saturday, September 16th with a 3 p.m. CDT start. They’ll then enjoy their second bye week of the season before Andrew Harris and the Toronto Argonauts pay a visit on Friday, September 29th, with a 7 p.m. CDT start.