Willie Jefferson gave people what they wanted in 2021 Banjo Bowl: ‘They wanted smoke, we gave them smoke’

Photo courtesy: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Winnipeg Blue Bombers star Willie Jefferson keeps proving the Saskatchewan Roughriders aren’t ready for his smoke.

The reigning Most Outstanding Defensive Player produced his best game of the 2021 season to date with three tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble in a decisive 33-9 Banjo Bowl win at a sold out IG Field.

“33,000 we gave them exactly what they wanted. They wanted smoke, we gave them smoke. They wanted action, we gave them action. Come on down to Winnipeg,” Jefferson said post-game.

“We want to entertain our fans. If our fans can come out and give us the noise that we need on defence, special teams and pump up our offence, we need that, keep on bringing it.”

Jefferson helps the Bombers sweep the Labour Day Classic and Banjo Bowl home-and-home series with their prairie rivals for the third time in history. Winnipeg did not allow Saskatchewan’s offence, led by quarterback Cody Fajardo, to score a touchdown in 120 minutes of football.

“That’s what you have to do as a dominant defence, you have to shut dominant offences down when it matters and not let them get in the end zone. We know Sask has a dynamic offence, a great quarterback, great receivers, a great mindset, being able to keep them out of the end zone, that’s big,” Jefferson said.

At the start of the third quarter, Jefferson sacked Fajardo to send the Riders offence off the field with a two-and-out while putting the franchise QB in concussion protocol. Fajardo did not return to the game after completing 11-of-17 passes (64.7 percent) for 169 yards and one interception.

“I put him on his back, clean hit — the ground is undefeated. He fell on the ground and my pressure on him might have been too much,” Jefferson said.

The six-foot-seven, 252-pound pass rusher was a major disruptive force in both games against the Roughriders. He recorded six tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble and constantly pressured Fajardo and Isaac Harker in the second half.

“Hard-nosed, grind football — period. We’re going to give you what you want, offence, defence, special teams, and we’re going to make you play your ‘A’ game. If you don’t come with your ‘A’ game, you’re going to be in for a long day,” Jefferson said.

For much of the current year, Jefferson has brought his ‘A’ game and he’s moved up the league’s sack list, four quarterback takedowns puts him second in the CFL, which adds to his MODP and arguably MOP resume to go along with leading the stingiest defence in the league.

“We made a statement that we play as a team. When you play against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, you gotta play all three phases of the game and if you slack on one, we’ll capitalize. That’s Winnipeg football, we play hard all three phases and all 60 minutes,” Jefferson said.

Despite being one of two teams to play six games, the Bombers have allowed a league-low 76 points, 12.6 per game. That difficult-to-score-against defence has been the foundation for Winnipeg’s 4-0 home record to start the campaign, which has led to a 5-1 mark overall — first in the West Division and best in the league.

“We’re gonna give them what they want, but we’re going to be poised, we’re going to be smart and we’re going to play Winnipeg football,” Jefferson said.

“We’re not going to do none of that dumb stuff. We just want to play tough, Winnipeg football.”

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.