GASSON: Riders intercept their way to fourth straight win

I had a column written for this game but it was intercepted before I could file it to 3DownNation. So, you’ll have to settle for this one instead.

In recent years, the Labour Day Classic has been owned by the Roughriders but the Banjo Bowl has been where the weird stuff truly comes out. If there’s one thing we have come to learn about the Banjo Bowl it is to expect the unexpected and this year’s edition was absolutely no different.

I honestly struggled with what to write about this game. It was something else.

Both teams combined for six interceptions, three of them returned for touchdowns, and one fumble. The Bombers were especially bad at turning over the ball as five of those six interceptions were thrown by the home team. There were even a few more interceptions that were taken off the board by penalty.

Both defences came to play, the quarterbacks did not have their finest hour and neither starting pivot finished the game for different reasons.

Both teams took more than 100 yards in penalties, an official took a shot to the face. Matt Nichols made some bizarre decisions with the football.

There was so many “what the” moments that I’m probably forgetting a few.

The game was hardly a masterpiece for either team. You could argue that either team could have won. You could argue that either team could have lost. For the first time possibly ever you could say maybe this game should have ended in a tie. Perhaps that would have been a fitting outcome for a strange game.

That said, the Riders found another way to win and if you’re on the team or a fan, that’s all that matters.

Game Thoughts

The biggest question in Saskatchewan over the next few days will be the status of quarterback Zach Collaros. His concussion history certainly doesn’t make this look good but he did return to the sidelines after leaving the field. The offence isn’t great but without their starting pivot, it’s even worse.

Offensive coordinator Stephen McAdoo may say he trusts Brandon Bridge publicly but actions speak louder than words. Bridge found himself in a similar spot as Collaros late in the game this week as Collaros did last week. Bridge had a second down in field goal range and McAdoo called a run play when they needed eight yards for a first down. Yes, Tre Mason was running well, but a week ago Collaros completed a 39-yard pass to essentially end the game. Game situations are different and all that, but clearly McAdoo’s thinking does change with Bridge at the controls.

It was nice to see Mason have his breakout game. It felt like he’s been close a few times. The former NFLer finished the night with 117 yards on the ground and allowed the Rider offence to wear down the Bomber defence a little bit as the game went on. Enough to eat up some much-needed clock in the second half.

Every week the defence continues to astound. There’s no question they can keep the opposition out of the end zone but the pace they are scoring touchdowns at is simply insane. I keep waiting for the regression and it just hasn’t happened yet.

Linebacker Sam Eguavoen was all over the field on Saturday.

Defensive end Willie Jefferson reminded everyone that he’s a game changer as well. It’s been the Charleston Hughes show for the most of the season but Jefferson’s interception return touchdown was simply an outstanding athletic play. The premature celebration might have been a bit much for some but when you’re that good, I’m fine with it.

Speaking of celebrations, the Riders going up the stairs like the Bombers do in the one end zone was simply outstanding. I laughed pretty hard.

Dare to dream? The Riders might have actually got their best outcomes this week. They distance themselves from the crossover spot and keep Calgary within striking distance. Odds are they are going to be fighting Edmonton for second anyway, might as well hope for a shot at the top.

Apparently, the Riders didn’t get the Banjo Bowl trophy.

I guess it’s just a prop for Winnipeg and not an actual trophy.

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