Winnipeg Blue Bombers blank Saskatchewan Roughriders in big home win

WINNIPEG — Matt Nichols and the Blue Bombers have been rolling since coming off of their most recent bye week, and the rolling continued on Saturday against the Roughriders as they won their fourth game in a row with a 31-0 victory.

The shutout would be Winnipeg’s first since 2006, and the first time that the Riders have found themselves on the losing end of a shutout since 2014.

Saskatchewan dug their hole early on in the first quarter and the wheels continued to wobble as their game plan went downhill against Winnipeg at Investors Group Field. It marked the second consecutive week that Chris Jones’ offence has failed to score a touchdown as Saskatchewan came short of earning the sweep against the Bombers this season.

The win for Winnipeg helps them improve their chances of securing a playoff spot in the West Division. Saskatchewan, had they won, would have secured a home playoff date in the opening round of the playoffs.

Adam Bighill was a large contributor in the defensive success for the Bombers, registering three quarterback sacks and a forced fumble to go with his eight tackles on the night

The tilt had either quarterback making their 62nd career start in the CFL. The comparison between Matt Nichols and Zach Collaros have been fairly similar with just four wins separating the two in favour of Nichols.

The league’s leader in forcing two-and-outs, Saskatchewan’s defence held up in containing Matt Nichols in the pocket while also shadowing Andrew Harris out of the backfield early on.

Unfortunately for the Saskatchewan defence, their offence couldn’t keep their end of the bargain as the Blue Bombers defence stepped up to force a fumble on the ensuing drive, as Anthony Gaitor scooped up the loose ball and ran it in along the sideline for the 45-yard return touchdown.

As the first quarter continued on, the Winnipeg defence continued to force mistakes by the Roughriders offence. Taylor Loffler gave Winnipeg their second defensive turnover after stepping in front of the passing lane, ultimately intercepting a Zach Collaros pass intended for Kyran Moore.

On just his second completion of the game, and his first for positive yardage, Matt Nichols found the inside shoulder of Darvin Adams downfield as the Winnipeg receiver split the Riders coverage, heading to the end zone untouched to put the Blue Bombers ahead 14-0 with two minutes remaining in the opening quarter.

Feeling lucky again, Nichols let it fly on the follow-up drive on offence when he saw a wide-open Drew Wolitarsky running deep. Nichols would be unable to connect however as he overthrew his target that could have easily put Winnipeg ahead by three touchdowns.

The Roughriders continued to look for answers on how to solve the Bombers defence, however, in the hands of Loffler certainly wasn’t the way to go about it as Collaros was intercepted for the second time in the first half at Investors Group Field.

Winnipeg quickly took advantage of the field position, ditching the ball off to Weston Dressler for a 20-yard gain after the turnover. Sticking to the ground, Harris rumbled the ball down to the Saskatchewan 14-yard line off of two carries. A sack coughed up by Nichols to the league’s leading defence in the respective category forced the Bombers to settle for a field goal. Justin Medlock tallied his 40th field goal of the season, putting the Bombers up 17-0 halfway through the second quarter.

Already dealing with injuries across their offensive line, Saskatchewan’s Dariusz Bladek looked to have his left leg rolled up on during a designed run play. The injury resulted in Bladek getting carted off as Josiah St. John, a former 1st overall draft pick, checked in as his replacement.

Offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice was hoping to catch the Riders off guard on a short-yardage play. With Chris Streveler in at quarterback, Saskatchewan likely would expect the rookie pivot to lunge forward on a designed sneak. Instead, Streveler dropped back and found Dressler for a diving catch across the goal-line and the third touchdown in the first half for Winnipeg.

Winnipeg continued to operate their dual-quarterback offence as Streveler took reps on the next offensive drive as well which would lead to yet another score for the Bombers thanks to the scrambling of Streveler. Following a play in which Streveler faked a handoff to Andrew Harris before dashing his way down to the 1-yard line, No. 17 plunged his way for his eighth rushing touchdown of the season.

At halftime, Saskatchewan had been blanked by the Blue Bombers as they trailed 31-0 after the first 30 minutes of play.

Zach Collaros remained at quarterback for the Roughriders for their first offensive drive of the third quarter, however, Brandon Bridge would then replace him after the Riders opened the half with a two-and-out.

Collaros finished the day throwing for just 69 yards and two interceptions.

As the Bombers continued to run down the clock as Saskatchewan continued their offensive woes, Mike O’Shea elected to allow his starting quarterback to grab his jacket and call it a day as Winnipeg maintained their 31-0 as the fourth quarter rolled around. As a result, Chris Streveler took over the offence.

Nichols finished his afternoon passing for 155 yards while completing 10 of his 18 pass attempts and a touchdown. As for Streveler, the rookie scored his tenth passing touchdown and his eighth rushing score of the season while combining for 89 yards of offence.

The only blemish on the Bombers performance on Saturday had little to no impact on the end result, as Streveler would throw an interception in the fourth quarter as O’Shea began to turn to sit the rest of his remaining starters.

Defensively, the Bombers would snag one more interception before capping off the perfect game, blanking the Riders as the final seconds ticked off the clock at Investors Group Field.

Winnipeg will have their final bye week of the season in Week 19 as their win draws them closer to contending for second place in the West Division. Chris Jones and the Roughriders will hope to right their ship and defeat the league-leading Calgary Stampeders. Saskatchewan handed the Stamps their first loss of the season back in Week 10 in a 40-27 decision at Mosaic Stadium.

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