Despite wearing different coloured jerseys, Brandon Bridge and Dan Lefevour have a lot in common these days.
Bridge is vying for the back-up quarterback job with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, while Lefevour is battling for the same gig with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Both have CFL experience and both made strong cases on Saturday to solidify themselves within their respective depth charts after a 25-25 pre-season tie at new Mosaic Stadium.
“I wanted to show consistency and show that I know where to go with the ball and show that I’m ready to lead this offence,” Bridge said after the game in which he completed 20-of-26 pass attempts for 201 yards and one touchdown.
Bridge spent time with the Riders in 2016 and received an opportunity late in the season to showcase his skillset. In the regular season finale against the B.C. Lions, Bridge threw for 120 yards and rushed for a touchdown in limited action.
He impressed the Riders’ coaching staff then, and he did again on Saturday.
“You evaluate what you see at practice, but when the lights come on that’s when the true evaluations are made,” head coach Chris Jones said. “That’s two times where Brandon Bridge has had an opportunity to play with our offence – last year in B.C. he played very well for a quarter. Brandon did a very good job and scored some touchdowns.
“Here was another opportunity on a big stage, opening the new stadium, where he played very well.”
It was Bridge who guided the Riders to a 13-3 lead the halftime. He connected with Duron Carter on a seven-yard touchdown for the first score at the new home of the Riders. But it was Bridge’s counterpart, Lefevour who rallied the Blue Bombers in the fourth quarter.
In limited action, Lefevour completed 7-of-9 passes for 88 yards and pair of late touchdowns, the second of which pulled Winnipeg ahead 25-22 with less than two minutes remaining in the contest.
Lefevour connected with Ryan Lankford for his first major and later with Justice Liggins to push the Bombers ahead.
“Dan had a spark and he certainly moved the offence and created some points for us,” said Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea.
“He’s experienced. He goes in and he’s calm and he runs the offence. We’ll have to see if the execution is there, but I’m sure it was. He moves well in the pocket, too, and gives us a different dimension there as well.”
Lefevour is battling with Dominique Davis for the back-up job behind Matt Nichols, who played sparingly on Saturday. Nichols was 5 for 8 passing for 32 yards.
Meanwhile, Bridge is in a tight competition with Bryan Bennett and the Riders’ marquee free-agent acquisition, Vince Young, for the back-up spot behind starter Kevin Glenn.
Neither Glenn nor Young played on Saturday. Young suffered a strained hamstring earlier in the week at practice.
Bennett, however, did play and was shaky. He completed 7-of-15 attempts for 82 yards, and fumbled three times.
“Today I thought he was a little bit shaky at times. His body language wasn’t great,” Jones said. “There will be another game next week that he’ll get a chance to play in and we’ll see if he maybe settles in.”
Young’s injury will have him playing catchup when or if he returns to the practice field. The former NCAA and NFL star, who is 34, hasn’t played professional football since 2011.
“It’s tough to make the football team if you’re hurt,” Jones told the media earlier in the week. “It’s tough to get evaluated if you’re not playing. Vince is up against it. He has been around football before and he knows exactly what he has to do to get back out there and healthy and start to compete.”
The Riders’ kicking game on Saturday was a perfect 6 for 6 in field-goal attempts. Quinn Van Gyslwyk kicked four field goals, with his fourth, a 38-yard boot, tying the score with three seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Tyler Crapigna had two field goals.
The Bombers did not dress a number of their regulars, including running back Andrew Harris, receivers Weston Dressler and Darvin Adams and defensive end Jamaal Westerman.
The Riders will conclude the pre-season schedule next week when they visit the B.C. Lions. The Blue Bombers will host the Edmonton Eskimos.