Blue Bombers dominate Roughriders to secure post-season berth

WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Blue Bombers punched their ticket to the post-season and avenged their Labour Day Classic loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders with a 51-6 win on Saturday at IG Field.

The Blue and Gold had a perfect first half, scoring a touchdown on all six drives with both the running and passing game causing problems for the Roughriders on their way to a 42-6 lead at the half. The Bombers then went into cruise-control mode in the final two quarters as they secured their 10th win in 2023.

Winnipeg is now guaranteed a playoff spot with 20 points, four more than the West Division second-place BC Lions and 12 more than the Calgary Stampeders in fourth place.

Quarterback Zach Collaros completed 18-of-21 passes for 316 yards and five majors, all in the first half. Collaros’ touchdown passes went to Dalton Schoen (three), Kenny Lawler and Brady Oliveira. The latter also added 154 yards on 18 carries for a now 10-3 Blue Bombers.

Backup Dakota Prukob added a rushing touchdown and kicker Sergio Castillo made all three of his field goal attempts in the winning effort for Winnipeg.

Roughriders’ quarterback Jake Dolegala was under pressure all afternoon and finished 15-of-21 for 113 yards and kicker Brett Lauther made two of three field goal attempts as Saskatchewan dropped to 6-6.

The visitors started things off with a long drive. A short kick positioned the Riders at midfield and Dolegala completed a couple passes to Schaffer-Baker to position Saskatchewan within Lauther’s range. The veteran kicker split the uprights for a 3-0 lead early in the first.

The Bombers answered by going down the field and scoring a major. Oliveira had 23 yards on the ground and 10 through the air and Prukob finished the job with a sneak on third down to conclude a 70-yard march for the home team, 7-3.

Two drives later Oliveira broke a 36-yard run to put the Bombers in position to score. That’s exactly what they did when Collaros tossed the ball forward for his running back who took it all the way to the end zone for a 17-yard score. Sergio Castillo made it 14-3 with the extra point with 3:12 left in the first quarter.

Back-to-back passes to receiver Rasheed Bailey got the ball rolling for Winnipeg again early in the second quarter. Collaros then found Lawler who broke a couple tackles to force his way into the end zone and push the lead to 21-3 with the point after.

Saskatchewan responded with another field goal by Lauther to cut the lead to 21-6 with 8:41 left in the half.

Oliveira got the Bombers across midfield once more with a run through the middle and Collaros threw a perfectly-place back-shoulder pass to Dalton Schoen all the way to Saskatchewan’s 16-yard line. The home team finished things off with another 16-yard Collaros-Schoen connection for their fourth major of the first two quarters.

Winnipeg continued a dominating first half by stopping the Roughriders on third-and-one at midfield and scoring their fifth touchdown in five drives with a 31-yard bomb from Collaros to Schoen. The Bombers led 35-6 with 1:46 left in the half.

That was enough time for the home team to get another chance to showcase their explosive offence. Collaros found Lawler deep down the left sideline for 60 yards before throwing another touchdown pass to Schoen to go into halftime up 42-6 with the point after.

Winnipeg’s pivot finished the first half 16-of-17 for 285 yards and five touchdown passes and both Schoen and Lawler combined for nine catches, 208 yards and four majors. Oliveira added 160 yards from scrimmage and another score as it was all Blue Bombers in the first two quarters.

The Bombers kept pressing in the second half and forced a fumble on Dolegala to take the ball away from the visitors on their first possession of the third quarter. It almost led to another touchdown for Winnipeg but a deep pass from Collaros to Lauther fell incomplete and Castillo scored his first field goal of the afternoon.

Castillo scored a second one early in the fourth as the Bombers pushed the lead to 48-6.

Running back Johnny Augustine gashed 34 yards through Saskatchewan’s defence in the fourth quarter to set up Castillo for the final score of the game, 51-6.

It was the fourth straight time the Bombers won the rematch after OK Tire Labour Day Weekend and the sixth win in seven seasons for the Blue and Gold.

The Riders return home in Week 15 to host the Edmonton Elks on Friday, September 15, while the Bombers go on the road to face the Tiger-Cats in Hamilton on Saturday, September 16.

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