If you check our Sept. 8 City Events Listings you’ll see that I predicted the Riders would lose today’s Labour Day rematch in Winnipeg against the Blue Bombers and be 2-8 heading into their Sept. 17 game at Mosaic Stadium against the Toronto Argonauts.
It’s not that I didn’t expect the Riders to play well. Or that I regarded Winnipeg as invinceable. It’s just that on the back end of the Labour Day Classic, even in years when they were clearly superior to the Bombers (like last year, when they got steam-rolled 31-4), the Riders just haven’t tended to perform well.
Building on the momentum of their 27-7 thrashing of the Bombers on Labour Day though, and with receivers Andy Fantuz and Cary Koch back in the line-up, the Green-and-White prevailed today 45-23.
Here’s a link to the TSN report.
After being felled for two days by the same cold that decimated Steve last week, I had some running around to do today, so only saw bits and pieces of the game. The Bombers started strong, roaring out to a 10-0 first quarter lead. At that point, I imagine, a lot of Rider supporters were bracing for the worst. But then the TSN Turning Point (in my estimation, anyway) occured. Blizting from the left side of the line rookie Canadian safety Craig Butler (pictured) destroyed Bomber QB Buck Pierce with a thunderous hit that popped his helmet off. Pierce hung onto the ball, but for the rest of the game he was clearly rattled.
The Riders ended up with five picks (two by Butler, one by last week’s CFL defensive star Jerrell Freeman, and a late theft by Chris McKenzie that he returned 42 yards for a TD). Once on offense, the Riders were able to capitalize on the turnovers. Darian Durant had another solid outting, throwing one end-zone interception, but going 14-27 otherwise for 230 yards, and throwing TD passes to Chris Getzlaf (two), Weston Dressler and Neil Hughes.
Fantuz had two receptions for 47 yards. But his value to the team went far beyond that. Many defenses, when they play the Riders, seem to gear up to stop Fantuz. If you put your best DB on him, and double-team him a lot, that can be done. But that opens up a whole pile of territory for other Riders receivers to roam and have big games.
If there was a second TSN turning point (at least that I saw) it came at the start of the fourth quarter. The Bombers were still in it at that point, trailing 31-16. After a coffin corner punt, they had the Riders hemmed deep. On a second down play the refs missed an obvious holding call against the Bombers’ left end (Odel Willis?) and Durant was able to complete a 20 or so yard pass and give the Riders some breathing room. The Bombers took a holding penalty on the subsequent punt and ended up scrimmaging from their 16. So it was a pretty big swing.
But the Riders were full marks for the victory. Next up are the Argos, who did lose (28-6) in B.C. on Saturday and are 2-8. Having parted ways with starting QB Cleo Lemon after their Labour Day loss to the Leos, the Argos are a team in turmoil. With a full game under his belt, though, new QB Steven Jyles should be sharper than he was against the Lions. But at this point, a W for the Riders looks like a lock.
I’ll be at the game, and will be filing pre and post-game reports. Game time on Saturday is 2 p.m.