The good, the bad, and the dumb of the Riders’ Labour Day Classic win over Winnipeg

Photo courtesy: Liam Richards/Saskatchewan Roughriders

Are you not entertained?

For the second game in a row, the Riders welcomed one of the best teams in the league to Mosaic Stadium and left with a big win. This time, it was an instant classic, a dramatic 32-30 overtime win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the annual Labour Day Classic in front of a sold-out crowd of 33,350.

We’ll be talking about this game for a while, both good and bad, but it was former Regina Ram and grandson of Rider legend Al Ford, Jaxon Ford, who had the last laugh. In the game due to an injury to safety Jayden Dalke, he tipped Zach Collaros’ two-point convert attempt in the first overtime and it landed short of the goal line to send the home fans into a frenzy.

This was a big win for the Green and White, as they now put pressure on the Calgary Stampeders to keep pace in the race for third in the West. It was also the Riders’ first win over the Blue Bomber since they acquired Zach Collaros from the Toronto Argonauts back in 2019.

Here’s the good, the bad, and the dumb of the Riders’ sixth win of the season.

The Good

There’s no question who the starting quarterback should be for the Riders until Trevor Harris returns.

The old saying that you don’t lose your job to injury is generally bologna, and this is now Jake Dolegala’s team for the time being. Results are what matters and Dolegala did what Mason Fine was unable to do, beating two of the best teams in the league in his first two starts.

Dolegala looked unfazed by an experienced quarterback-eating defence in Winnipeg. He finished the night 22-of-39 for 326 yards — the second-most yardage thrown by a Rider QB this year and the most by any pivot on the team in a victory. Only Trevor Harris’ 410-yard game against these same Bombers earlier in the season is higher, but that was mostly due to the Riders having to chase most of the night.

Most importantly, Dolegala again avoided making the big mistake and didn’t turn over the ball once.

The six-foot-seven pivot can make more throws than Fine, especially in tight windows. His height allows him to see more of the field and throw the ball higher.

Dolegala will eventually hit a bump in the road as coaches around the league learn more about him, but at this point, he should be the Riders’ guy until we see Harris again.

The Bad

For the first time this year, we saw a side of the Riders that we hadn’t in a while — and it was not a good one.

Last season, the Green and White were one of the most undisciplined teams in the league, so much so that it became a point of emphasis for Craig Dickenson this season. We’ll see in the coming days just how serious Dickenson is about that.

In the fourth quarter, defensive lineman Pete Robertson nearly cost his team the game when he head-butted Collaros long after the play. Not that there’s ever a good time to head-butt your opponent, but doing it so late after a play that would have ended a Winnipeg drive is pretty darn bad.

The Riders were lucky that Robertson wasn’t ejected from the game, because it was certainly warranted. Texas Pete will definitely be lighter in the wallet this week and might miss an entire game cheque next week as well. 

To the Riders’ credit, they battled their way out of it, but it was a moment that could have turned the season in the wrong direction.

It wasn’t just that play either, as the Riders were flagged 10 times to the tune of 115 yards. Outside of a weak pass interference call, all were justified.

Dickenson needs to make sure this was a one-off anomaly and not the start of a trend.

The Dumb

The start of this game should have been a sign that we were going to be in for a wild ride.

Over the years, special teams always seem to play a big role on Labour Day Weekend. I can remember in 2012 when the Riders recovered not one, but two kickoffs that Bomber returners inexplicably didn’t pick up.

We got a little taste of that off the top, though this time it was a perfectly executed onside kick from Brett Lauther and not a boneheaded error by the Bombers.

It was an incredible start to the game that allowed the Riders to steal a possession from the Bombers. I also really liked the call from offensive coordinator Kelly Jeffrey to go deep on the first play from scrimmage to try and capitalize on the momentum; it just didn’t work out.

It was a wild start to the game and a little foreshadowing of what was to come.

Joel Gasson is a Regina-based sports writer, broadcaster and football fanatic. He is also a beer aficionado.