Two weeks after allowing a stunning 48 points in a loss to Hamilton, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defence looked like its usual self again Friday night.
The Bombers forced six turnovers and Zach Collaros had four touchdown passes en route to a 31-13 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in front of a sold-out crowd at IG Field.
The win moves the Blue and Gold to 13-2 on the season, and a step closer to clinching the West Division.
It was Winnipeg’s third win against Saskatchewan this month and the victory assured the Bombers of a home playoff game in November.
Saskatchewan drops their fourth straight game, now 6-9 on the season, and will be battling to stay in the crossover spot for the rest of the year.
The Riders had an early field goal, but the Bombers scored a touchdown on their very next drive, and held onto the lead for the rest of the game.
The Bombers didn’t have a single first down the entire third quarter and the Riders climbed within four points to start the fourth, but the Bombers soon added two quick TD’s to end any chance of a comeback.
“When things go bad, you got to have a short memory,” said Demski. “And go back out there and re-group and we all relied on each other to go out there and do our job.
“It was messy at times, but at the end of the day we did what we had to do, and we got the win.”
It was a bounce back effort by the defence after surrendering 48 points in their last outing.
“We executed pretty good on second down,” said linebacker Adam Bighill. “Our efficiency is pretty good. We had Cody (Fajardo) running all over the place. We made some big plays on third down, some takeaways which we’ve lacked a little bit in the last bit, but it’s much more up to par.”
Rookie receiver Dalton Schoen went over the thousand yard mark for the season with 125 yards on the night. He also scored his 11th touchdown of the year to set the team record for most receiving touchdowns in a single season by a rookie.
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“That’s not really something I think about or given thought to,” said Schoen. “It’s a honour and it’s really humbling to have that happen. And it’s really special in hindsight.”
The win guarantees the Bombers a home playoff game for a second straight season, but they still have some work to do to host the Western Final.
“To lock up that home playoff game that obviously means a lot for us in there,” said Demski. “And for everybody in the community and all of Bombers nation.”
After the Riders opened the scoring on a 25-yard Brett Lauther field goal, the Bombers offence drove 70 yards for the game’s first touchdown, capped off by a 36-yard pass from Collaros to Rasheed Bailey.
It was Bailey’s third straight game with a touchdown and his sixth of the season, a CFL career-high for him.
The score remained 7-3 heading into the second quarter, where less than a minute in, Bombers kicker Marc Liegghio made a 22-yard chip shot field goal to extend the lead to 10-3.
It stayed that way until late in the quarter when Bombers defensive back Jamal Parker intercepted Riders QB Cody Fajardo and returned it to the Saskatchewan 37. A few plays later, Collaros found Nic Demski in the back of the end zone for a 25-yard score with 19 seconds left to give the Bombers a 17-3 lead at the half.
The Riders drove down the field to begin the third quarter but Fajardo bobbled a snap at the Winnipeg 20 which was recovered by the Bombers.
On their next possession however, the Riders kept it together and Fajardo was able to find the end zone on a run from seven yards out to cut the lead to 17-10 midway through the quarter.
The game moved into the fourth quarter, where the Riders again put together a solid drive, that ended with a 14-yard Lauther field goal and it was 17-13.
But then the Bombers offence, which had a very quiet third quarter, turned it on the fourth as Collaros found Demski for a 42-yard touchdown, and then on the next drive, Collaros hooked up with Dalton Schoen for a 64-yard major.
Demski now has nine touchdowns on the season and has scored in five straight games, while Schoen now has 1,113 receiving yards.
Next up for the Bombers is another game at home, next Saturday night against the 4-10 Edmonton Elks. The pregame show begins on 680 CJOB at 4 p.m., with kickoff just after 6 p.m.