Sunday, September 5, 2010

Roughriders work their way to Labour Day Classic win over Winnipeg

The Saskatchewan Roughriders went up against a determined Winnipeg Blue Bombers squad today in the annual Labour Day Classic at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan and another sell-out crowd of 30,048 watched the Riders prevail 27-23.

Saskatchewan took the opening kick and moved to around centre field, where the drive stalled. Eddie Johnson came on and booted a 68 yard punt single 1:30 in, giving the Riders a 1-0 lead.

Another Saskatchewan possession later in the first moved deep into Winnipeg territory, before stalling at the 10, thanks in part to an offsides penalty. Luca Congi came on to kick an 18 yard field goal with 4:55 left in the first, extending the lead to 4-0.

The Bombers next possession featured a huge gadget play, a double-reverse flea flicker, with Buck Pierce hitting Adarius Bowman with a 63 yard bomb. Winnipeg, who leads the CFL in big plays, would subsequently turn the possession into 3 points, as Justin Palardy kicked a 28 yard field goal with 2:43 to go in the first, slicing the Rider lead to 1, at 4-3.

Early in the second quarter, Lance Frazier intercepted a pass at his own 21, returning it to the Bomber 45. A pass to Andy Fantuz got the ball down to the 2, then Wes Cates powered home from there two plays later. Congi's convert with 12:43 left in the first half, put the Riders by 8 at 11-3.

A pair of Palardy field goals, the first from 26 yard out, the second, on the heels on a Brandon Stewart interception, came from 9 yards out on the final play of the first half, cutting the Saskatchewan lead at two quarter time to 11-9.

A Palardy miss from 43 yards away on the opening possession of the second half gave Winnipeg a single point  with 3:30 gone and the Rider lead, which was 8, was down to 1, at 11-10.

After holding Saskatchewan to a 2-and-out, the Bombers got the ball back in their half of the field. On the second play of the possession, Pierce stepped up out of pressure and, untouched, dropped the ball. Barrin Simpson recovered at the Winnipeg 31, and the Riders were in business. Durant completed passes of 17 yards to Prechae Rodriguez, 11 yards to Cates, and, after an incompletion, Durant hit Chris Getzlaf for 14 yards, to the Blue Bomber 3. Cates went in standing up on the next play for the second time in the game and, with the Congi convert with 5:27 to go in the third, the Saskatchewan lead was back to 8, at 18-10.

Winnipeg picked up a first down on the ensuing possession yielded little and they were forced to punt. Dominic Dorsey dropped the ball at his own 21, where it was recovered by Alex Suber. Two plays later, Fred Reid punched it in from the 3 and with Palardy's convert, it was an 18-17 Rider lead with 2:10 to play in the third.

The Bombers got the ball back at the Saskatchewan 45 early in the fourth, when Don Oramasionwu recovered a Durant fumble. Winnipeg did nothing with their third take-away, and were forced to punt the ball back to the Roughriders.

Saskatchewan took the ball at their own 19 and drove to pay dirt, with Durant scampering around right end for the final 11 yards and the major score, capping a 8 play, 91 yard, 4:30 drive. Congi converted with 6:29 left, then Johnson blasted the kickoff to the end line for a 94 yard kickoff single and with 6:08 to play in regulation time, the Riders were up by 9, at 26-17.

Penalties and defense forced the Bombers deep into their own territory. Pierce, working out of his own end zone, was knocked down and suffered a possible right elbow dislocation when he tried to brace himself as he hit the turf. Winnipeg punted the ball back to the Green-and-White. Johnson would boot a 40 yard punt single for a 27-17 Saskatchewan lead.

Former Rider quarterback Steven Jyles came on and led the Blue Bombers to a major score, passing 7 yards to Bowman, capping a 5 play, 60 yard, 40 second drive. The convert blew up on Winnipeg, as Mike Renaud let the ball go through his hands as he tried to spot it. Renaud picked up the ball, rolled to his right and flung the ball into the end zone as he was belted to the ground. The ball fell uncaught with 10 seconds left on the clock.  Rodriguez tipped the onside kick, Durant kneeled twice and Saskatchewan escaped with the 27-23 win.

Rider Head Coach Ken Miller was understandably happy after the game. "I'll tell ya what," Miller said, "I'm so pleased being in the locker room, I'm so pleased for our fans, it was a great win for us against a highly motivated and well-coached Winnipeg team." Miller explained that he thought the difference in the game was how his defense played. "Our defense played lights out, Eddie Johnson kicked the ball out of the yard, just did a wonderful job with that, and really our offense really looked like our Rider offense in that really good drive we had in the fourth quarter." Coach Miller summarized the afternoon by saying "There's some bright spots, there's some plays that aren't so good, but we're gonna build on those bright spots and be better this coming week."

Darian Durant was 23-of-35 passing for 301 yards and 1 interception, Weston Dressler caught 5 balls for 77 yards, Wes Cates caught 3 passes for 37 yards and ran the ball 7 times for 15 yards and 2 touchdowns, Luca Congi kicked 1 field goal and 3 converts and Eddie Johnson had a kickoff single and a punt single for the Riders. Buck Pierce was 21-of-29 passing for 243 yards and 1 interception, Steven Jyles was 4-of-4 passing for 43 yards and a touchdown, Mike Renaud was 1-of-2 passing for 27 yards, Adarius Bowman caught 8 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown, Fred Reid carried 13 times for 43 yards and a touchdown and Justin Palardy kicked 3 field goals, 1 convert and 1 single on a missed field goal for Winnipeg.     

Saskatchewan had 323 total yards, 14 first downs, allowed 3 sacks, turned the ball over 3 times, and were penalized 4 times for 40 yards. The Blue Bombers had 383 total yards, 16 first downs, allowed 1 sack, turned the ball over twice and were penalized 8 times for 83 yards.

With the win, the Riders improve to 6-3, while the loss drops Winnipeg to 2-7. The Bombers host Saskatchewan next Sunday, September 12th at CanadInns Stadium in the annual Banjo Bowl game. Kickoff on 620CKRM and the Rider Radio Network is set for 1:00pm EDT.

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