It’s certainly not a stretch to suggest that Roughriders might have got away with another one, but once again, they found a way to win a football game.
If you looked at the numbers after the first half, without looking at the score, you’d probably think that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were in control of this year’s Labour Day Classic. The Bombers 230 yards of offence dwarfed the Riders mere 97 yards. The Bombers most important player, Andrew Harris had rushed for nearly 100 yards in the opening two quarters, as a team Winnipeg gashed the Riders defence for 132 yards along the ground.
It should have been all Bombers.
It was only 17-14 at the half.
The Riders were able to hang around thanks to a few big plays – an interception from Matt Elam, a blocked field goal by Zack Evans and a punt return touchdown by Kyran Moore.
Those three plays kept the Green and White in this game and allowed them to find their legs in the second half. The Bombers only managed 61 yards rushing in the second half, a far cry from their half-time total. The Bombers only managed two field goals in the third and fourth quarters, while the Riders offence found some life at the right time with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to claim their sixth victory of the season.
It might not be too much to suggest that their second half might have been their most complete team effort of the season.
If there’s one trait of good teams, they find ways to win games. The Riders might be the best at doing that right now. A few more and a home playoff game could be theirs.
I have to give some credit where it’s due, Riders offensive coordinator Stephen McAdoo has taken a lot of heat around Saskatchewan, including in this space and on the Green Cast. I won’t stand here and say the offence is fixed and expect big things going forward but he did make one heck of a call late in the fourth quarter. I fully expected a handoff on second and three at the Winnipeg 42 with just over two minutes to go. There would have been nothing wrong with that call, in fact, it still might have been the smarter decision. It’s certainly within McAdoo’s conservative nature to do it. Instead, we saw Zach Collaros connect with Jordan Williams-Lambert for a 39 yard completion eventually leading to a touchdown that sealed the win. They decided to play to win and it paid off. Which, as many of you know, is how I like to see football played.
Charleston Hughes continues to marvel. Not only did he set a new team record with a sack in his eight straight game, he knocked down a Matt Nichols pass attempt at an important point of the game. It was extra impressive as Hughes had a Bombers o-lineman all over him. Hughes just might win defensive most outstanding player. Hughes was fired up before the game too having some fun with fans, he definitely enjoyed his first experience at this Labour Day Classic.
Nick Marshall is an interesting player to watch (duh). He’s certainly generating plenty of praise for his six touchdowns this year, including five on his first five touches but he’s given up a lot too. His objectionable conduct penalty was not smart and he’s seemingly been beaten on just about as many touchdowns as he’s scored. Overall, there’s a net positive and I imagine as he gets more comfortable on defence, the big plays against will start to drop.
Dear Rider fans who start the wave while the team is on offence: stop. It happened again this week in the fourth quarter. Even kicker Brett Lauther was pleading with fans from the bench to stop. I know people in Saskatchewan feel they’re above signage on the jumbotron on when to be quiet but this is becoming a trend.
I guess Chris Jones will be wearing green for at least one more week. The players haven’t let Jones change his game day attire since this now three-game winning streak began with the team’s Diversity is Strength game. Obviously, the team’s recent success isn’t due to the shirt, but it’s fun none the less.