REGINA – The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will have to make do without two of their key offensive weapons when they face the red-hot Saskatchewan Roughriders to kick off Mark’s Labour Day Weekend on Sunday afternoon in Regina.
It will be a one-versus-two battle in the West Division when the Blue Bombers and Riders take to the field at Mosaic Stadium and both teams are in the midst of lengthy winning streaks.
However, the Labour Day Classic has not been friendly to the Bombers – Saskatchewan has won all but one game on the September long weekend since 2005, and the task will not be easy this time.
Streveler was able to help the Blue and Gold to a Week 11 victory over Edmonton, despite completing just seven passes for 89 yards and rushing for 95 more. The 24-year-old will benefit from having receiver Darvin Adams return to the lineup for his first action since Week 7.
“You’re always trying to find improvement and from every game there’s always things you can do better,” Streveler told BlueBombers.com. “There are definitely some things from the last game we want to clean up and continue to get better at, and that’s part of the process of the season.”
With Harris serving the first game of his two-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy, second-year Canadian Johnny Augustine is the only running back listed on the Bombers’ depth chart and is slated to make his first career start. The University of Guelph alumnus has only carried the ball 16 times over the last two seasons, averaging 6.9 yards per carry.
“It’s a big opportunity, but I try not to think about it too much, I am thinking of it as the next game,” Augustine said. “I’m not blind to it. I understand the situation that I’m in and I’m blessed and humbled about it. But, at the same time, I’m just going to go out there and play football and try to help my team win even with the whole Labour Day Classic and the theme that goes behind it.”
Augustine will have to face a fearsome Saskatchewan defence coming off a dominant performance against the Ottawa REDBLACKS. The Riders forced five turnovers last week (including interceptions on each of the first three REDBLACK drives) and notched three sacks. In fact, it was the first time in 10 years that a team has started a game by forcing three consecutive turnovers.
Cody Fajardo continued his impressive play, throwing for 241 yards and tossing a touchdown pass. The fourth-year quarterback improved his record to 6-2 and hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 11, a span of 129 pass attempts. However, the Labour Day Classic is going to be the biggest game of his young career thus far.
“I think it’s one of those well-known things – if you’ve been in this league long enough, you just understand how big this game is,” Fajardo told Riderville.com. “You understand what’s at stake, it doesn’t matter what the records are. Any rivalry game is going to be a slugfest.”
Sunday’s matchup will feature two of the league’s premier rushing quarterbacks. Fajardo and Streveler rank first and second in rushing attempts among pivots, with the former scrambling a league-high 58 times and scoring seven rushing touchdowns.
“He was a proven guy coming out of college and he just needed an opportunity,” Head Coach Craig Dickenson said when asked about Fajardo. “When we signed him, we told him he was going to be the backup, but we wanted to develop him and see if he could eventually become a starter. Didn’t envision it happening so soon, but he’s been all we expected and more.”
Running back William Powell enjoyed a bounce back performance last week against Ottawa. The veteran rusher found the end zone twice against his former team, one game after being held to just seven rushing yards by the Montreal Alouettes.
Powell will have his work cut out for him Sunday, as the Bombers front-seven is among the league’s best, allowing an average of just 69.1 yards per game, the lowest in the CFL. Adam Bighill is having another strong season, while Willie Jefferson has the most forced fumbles in 2019 with five.
Winnipeg has entered the Labour Day Classic with a better record 29 times, but has only emerged victorious in 11 of those games. The Bombers are looking to prove the history books wrong and increase their lead in the West on Sunday.
BY THE NUMBERS
56 – Sunday marks the 56th time the Riders and Bombers are meeting on Labour Day Weekend.
14 – The combined wins of both clubs in 2019 – more than any other Labour Day Weekend game in their history.
129 – Passes without an interception for Cody Fajardo.
35.3% – Percentage of Blue Bomber yards from scrimmage gained by Andrew Harris this season. Harris is currently serving his two-game suspension.
– With files from BlueBombers.com and Riderville.com.
AFI, Yare Media and the CFL
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