Riders loss sends Bombers to Grey Cup
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 108th Grey Cup after beating Saskatchewan 21-17 in the CFL West Final on Sunday.
Turnovers were the story of the game but, in the end, not the difference. The Saskatchewan Roughriders defence created five turnovers in the first half alone, six in total, but they could only turn one of them into points.
“You should win when you get six (turnovers),” head coach Craig Dickenson said. “I felt like Winnipeg did a good job of pounding the ball. We hung with them. A play here or there and maybe it’s a different game.”
Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros was intercepted by Ed Gainey, Nigel Harris and Nick Marshall in the first half. The Riders also forced fumbles by Drew Wolitarsky and Rasheed Bailey. All of those turnovers resulted in just ten points -- including a two yard touchdown run by Riders running back William Powell and a 16-yard field goal from kicker Brett Lauther. The Bombers responded with a touchdown by Rasheed Bailey with four minutes to play in the first quarter.
“I’m really proud of the guys, the way they fought. We took every blow and we fought back. That’s what happens when you play a really good football team is it comes down to the wire.” Fajardo said after the game.
Blue Bombers star and 2018 Grey Cup MVP Andrew Harris, who was a game-time decision, was a force on the ground. Harris ran for 136 yards on 23 carries and one touchdown for Winnipeg.
“They can run the ball and they can control the pace. It’s hard to score when you don’t have (the ball),” Dickenson said.
In the second half, the Bombers took the lead on a one-yard Harris touchdown. The Riders replied on the final play of the third quarter, when Cody Fajardo connected with receiver Duke Williams, who took the ball 67 yards to the house to restore the lead at 17-14.
Winnipeg quarterback Zach Collaros then proceeded to lead a six minute drive culminating in a quarterback sneak into the end zone by back-up Sean McGuire.
With the Bombers leading 21-17, the Riders offence proceeded to march downfield. Fajardo converted a long third down pass to Williams, which was reviewed but was ruled a catch. Facing a second third, Fajardo tried to hit Regina product Mitchell Picton, but the pass was broken up, ending the team’s season. Picton was in the game in place of Williams, who was injured and could not return to the field.
“Nothing against Picton, but he’s been standing on the sideline the entire game, then he has to go in and make the biggest catch of the game. That’s just a tough situation for him. I have all the faith in the world in him and that’s why I threw it to him, but its hard when you lose your biggest receiver.” Fajardo said.
Fajardo finished the game with 265 passing yards, completing 19 of 27 attempts, and one touchdown. Collaros completed 17 of 21 passes for 229 yards and one touchdown. He also threw three interceptions.
The Riders’ biggest offensive weapon was Williams. The 28-year old caught four passes for 108 yards despite suffering from a case of turf toe that almost held him out of Sunday’s West Final.
Thirty-one thousand fans showed up to support their teams despite temperatures hovering around minus 20 degrees Celcius with the wind chill.
The Bombers will take on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at the Grey Cup in Hamilton on Dec. 12.