Winnipeg Blue Bombers down Saskatchewan Roughriders in preseason closer


REGINA — Five quick takes on Thursday’s final pre-season game in Regina against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, from Ed Tait of

1. Pre-season football has often been likened to watching paint dry, but the Bombers and Riders served up an entertaining final dress rehearsal on a windy night at Mosaic Stadium.

Six different quarterbacks combined to throw for five touchdowns, with the Bombers delivering two spectacular long strikes — both covering 86 yards — with Matt Nichols connecting with Lucky Whitehead and then Bryan Bennett to Kenny Walker for highlight-of-the-night plays. Sean McGuirescored the game-winning TD on a one-yard plunge with 2:15 remaining.

Zach Collaros and Isaac Harker threw TD strikes for the Riders. The Bombers also got three Gabriel Ortiz field goals.

Just FYI, the Bombers hadn’t gone 2-0 in the pre-season since 1995.

Cut-down day now looms, with all CFL teams needing to make their roster decisions by 10 p.m. ET Saturday night.

2. Matt Nichols started, and after not playing in last week’s pre-season contest, took his first game snaps since last fall’s West Final in Calgary. He played until late in the first half and completed 7 of 14 for 163 yards with one touchdown – a spectacular 86-yard strike to Lucky Whitehead – before being replaced by Bryan Bennett. The numbers were solid for Nichols, but it was the mobility he showed moving around the pocket that was especially encouraging for the Bombers attack.

With Chris Streveler dressing, but just handling the holding chores on placekicks, Bennett and Sean McGuire split the rest of the work under centre. Bennett was 5 of 7 for 120 yards; McGuire – who was at the controls of the offence for his game-winning TD – finished 6 of 9 for 77 yards.

3. Earlier this week in our 48-Hour Primer we highlighted some of the starting positions that were still to be determined heading into this matchup with the Riders, including both cornerback positions, one receiver spot, the main kick-returner job, the centre and right guard positions along the offensive line and the No. 3 quarterback.

Chandler Fenner seems a lock at the field cornerback position, and while he was injured and did not make the trip, expect Winston Rose to open the regular season at the other spot if he is healthy. Fenner certainly locked down his spot at corner with a first-quarter interception.

The Bombers rotated a ton of bodies through the offensive line. For what it’s worth, the starting O-line featured Stanley Bryant at left tackle, Geoff Gray at left guard, Michael Couture at centre, Cody Speller at right guard and Jamar McGloster at right tackle. That unit played a good chunk of the first half before the other O-linemen here – Israel HelmsTanner Farmer, Delroy Baker, Jr, Drew Desjarlais and Tui Eli – all rotated in for significant snaps.

4. The player who might have helped himself the most Thursday night was receiver/returner Lucky Whitehead – although he had already done a ton of work to be considered a front-runner for the main returner job. Whitehead’s 86-yard touchdown catch highlighted everything that makes him such an intriguing offensive threat. Whitehead pulled down a bullet from Nichols and then made a sharp cut before sprinting — and we mean sprinting — away from anyone in pursuit.

Kenny Lawler had one catch for five yards and was seen as the leading candidate for the one available receiver spot, but Whitehead’s speed could offer the offence a threat the club has been seeking for a couple of years. Kenny Walker certainly jumped off the page late with his long-bomb TD.

5. With their pres-eason now in the rear-view mirror, the Bombers will now turn their attention to their regular season opener on Saturday, June 15th in Vancouver against the new-look BC Lions. The Bombers have a bye after Week 1, and will then face the Edmonton Eskimos in their home opener on Thursday, June 27th

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