Winnipeg Blue Bombers defeat Saskatchewan in high scoring affair

REGINA — The Winnipeg Blue Bombers deployed their vast offensive arsenal in an explosive 45-27 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium on Friday.

Janarion Grant returned a punt for a score, quarterback Zach Collaros scored three total touchdowns and backup pivot Dru Brown added a pair of short-yard majors to push the Bombers to 2-0.

Wide receivers Dalton Schoen and Drew Wolitarsky ended with a score each as Winnipeg’s offence dominated for most of the evening.

Quarterback Trevor Harris connected for a trio of touchdowns with wide receiver Samuel Emilus, as the Riders hung with the Bombers in a back-and-forth affair until late in the fourth quarter to drop to 1-1.

Collaros and the Bombers had a discrete opening drive after the Riders forced an incompletion on second-and-six for a two-and-out for Winnipeg.

Harris’ first drive was an eventful one. First he found Jake Wieneke over the middle for the first new set of downs of the game before finding Tevin Jones twice in a row for another couple of firsts. He then tried going to Emilus deep down the left side on second down but was almost intercepted. Backup quarterback Shea Patterson came in for a third-and-short and was stuffed over the middle by the Bombers for a turnover on downs.

Collaros and the offence went to work in the following drive, rushing for a first down before finding receiver Nic Demski over the middle on a curl route to advance into Saskatchewan’s territory. A third straight pass attempt to No. 10 ended up with an offensive pass interference call on the wide receiver, prompting third down and a Sergio Castillo opening field goal.

The Riders offence came back onto the field and Saskatchewan’s pivot immediately found Shawn Bane Jr. for a first down. Then, on second-and-five, he completed a bass to Juwan Brescacin for another four yards. Patterson came back in and this time found a gap in the line for a new set of downs.

That was the spark the Riders needed, as in the very next play Harris found Jones streaking down the right side for a first down inside the Bombers’ 10-yard line. The quarterback then found Emilus in the back of the end zone on a play-action call to take the lead over the Bombers, 7-3.

Both teams traded punts before the Bombers put together another scoring drive. It started with Grant returning a punt 17 yards to the Riders’ 38-yard line, then it was running back Brady Oliveira carrying the rock through Saskatchewan’s defence for a first down, before finally Collaros found Schoen for a major to take a 10-7 lead for the Bombers.

Harris took the field once more and almost put his team in scoring position. It began with a scramble by the veteran quarterback that gained first-down yardage, followed by a 14-yard reception by Emilus on first-and-15. Running back Jamal Morrow then rushed for a first, before defensive linemen Celestin Haba and Jake Thomas sacked Harris on first and second down respectively to force a long field goal try by Brett Lauther. Saskatchewan’s kicker missed and Grant returned it all the way to the 40-yard-line to set up Winnipeg’s next drive.

A holding penalty on second down put the Bombers behind the sticks, but Collaros found Schoen for a 22-yard gain and a new set of downs. The veteran then scrambled and found Wolitarsky for another first down. Oliveira found some room for five more yards before Winnipeg’s pivot connected with Wolitarsky again for another chunk play to Saskatchewan’s 20-yard line. The two-time MOP then called his own number for 13 more yards to set up first-and-goal, capping the drive off with a rushing score to extend the lead to 17-7.

The teams traded punts with under three minutes to go in the half, but there was still time for Harris and the Riders to put together a scoring drive. A Mario Alford punt return put Saskatchewan in Winnipeg territory and a catch by Bane Jr. moved the ball to the Bombers’ 38-yard line. Harris then found Emilus in the right sideline before the wide receiver made a diving catch in the end zone to cut the lead to 17-14 going into halftime.

With under 30 seconds to go, Grant gave the Bombers great field position once more, returning the kickoff all the way to his own 50-yard line. No. 80. then moved it into Saskatchewan’s territory on a reverse sweep, but a hands to the face penalty pushed Winnipeg back with under 10 seconds to go, ending both the drive and the half.

Harris started the second half by putting one in the bucket for Bane Jr. for a big gain. He then found Morrow out of the backfield to make it first-and-goal. A Riders penalty pushed them back but did not stop them, as Saskatchewan’s pivot connected with Emilus on the next play for his third touchdown of the game to push the home team ahead, 21-17.

Trailing for the first time since the first quarter, Collaros and co. marched down the field once more. The quarterback spread the ball to receivers Carlton Agudosi, Schoen and Wolitarsky on the drive, moving the ball all the way to Saskatchewan’s 10-yard line. Faced with a third-and-two, the Bombers went for it and got the conversion on a defensive pass interference. From there it was Brown punching it in to regain the lead for the visitors, 24-21.

A two-and-out by the Riders meant a punt return by Grant, who returned it all the way for a score before a block in the back penalty negated the touchdown. Head coach Mike O’Shea challenged the ruling on the field and the call was overturned, extending Winnipeg’s lead to 31-21.

A Patterson third-and-one conversion in the next drive for Saskatchewan ignited another scoring drive. Harris connected with Brescacin to the Winnipeg 22-yard line, but the drive stalled as the Bombers defence forced two straight incompletions. Lauther made it a one-score game by splitting the uprights, 31-24.

The following drive had the Bombers faced with a second-and-11, but Collaros found Schoen over the middle for the conversion. A pass-interference penalty on Saskatchewan moved the ball to their 21-yard line and a catch by Wolitarsky inside the 10 put Winnipeg in scoring position. And score they did on another quarterback scramble by Brown on third down. A miss by Castillo made it 37-24.

Harris and the Riders would not go quietly into the night. The pivot found Jones for a big gain to Winnipeg’s 34 and Morrow added another explosive play of his own to set up first-and-10 from the 11-yard line. After an incompletion on first down, Alden Darby Jr. almost came down with an interception on second, but was unable to catch Harris’ pass, allowing Lauther to kick his third field goal of the game.

The Bombers offence took the field leading by 11 with under six minutes to go looking to kill the clock to put away any chance of a comeback but ended doing more than that. A Collaros scramble, a connection with Schoen, and finally a Wolitarsky catch in the end zone extended the lead to 45-27.

The Bombers go back to Winnipeg in Week 3 to host the BC Lions on Thursday, while the Riders travel to Calgary to play the Stampeders on Saturday.

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