CANADIAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Bombers get their revenge on Roughriders
WINNIPEG — All week Moe Leggett talked about how badly he wanted a chance to punch back at the Saskatchewan Roughriders after his Winnipeg Blue Bombers took a licking in the Labour Day Classic.
Leggett wound up connecting on some haymakers when the two teams met in an intense rematch Saturday afternoon at Investors Group Field.
“We get hit in the mouth, we just hit harder back,” Leggett said.
The veteran dime back did a big chunk of the damage for the Bombers in a 48-28 win in the annual Banjo Bowl before a sellout crowd of 33,134.
He had a franchise-record 97-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter and a 54-yard interception return for another major in the third quarter.
Leggett said he couldn’t recall if he’d ever had a bigger game, but he’s sure he’ll have this one in the memory bank.
“Oh yeah, this is a great game to remember,” Leggett said. “This is the first game my mom has actually seen me play in Canada, so it’s a pretty special thing to remember. This is the first time she’s been in Canada since I was like three.”
It was an important win for the Bombers, who avenged their 38-24 loss from last week, improved to 8-3 on the season and now have a bye week to rest up before heading into the final stretch drive.
“It’s huge, it’s huge,” Leggett said. “We have this offweek just to relax and feel good as opposed to having the sad face. We can enjoy our families a lot better.”
The Bombers got stellar performances from receiver Clarence Denmark (five catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns), quarterback Matt Nichols (282 yards passing, 53 yards rushing and three touchdown passes) and rookie linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox (four defensive tackles and an interception).
“I felt like from the beginning we had the edge,” Denmark said. “We made up our minds early that we were gonna come out and play — we want to respond for our team, our fans and this whole city. Just to show what type of team we are. And I think we did that.”
The win gives the Bombers the season series against the 5-5 Riders (two wins to one) and leaves them six points ahead (seven with the tiebreaker) in the tight West Division standings.
“I imagine we’re going to see them again in the playoffs,” Bombers coach Mike O’Shea said of the Riders. “They’re a good football team. They’re tough.”
It was an intense game right from the beginning, with a huge crowd trying to outperform the Riders faithful on the TSN decibel meter and some lingering tensions from Labour Day.
Riders receiver Duron Carter said a Bombers fan spit on him last week and called Winnipeg fans the worst in the league. The Bombers also accused the Riders of faking injuries to slow down Winnipeg’s no-huddle offence on Labour Day.
Carter did his best to silence the crowd, scoring an 88-yard touchdown in the first quarter to tie the game at 7-7, but only had one catch the rest of the way for eight yards.
Carter’s touchdown was one of two big explosion plays — the other was a 75-yard touchdown pass from Kevin Glenn to Namaan Roosevelt — that made the Bombers defence look bad. The Bombers wound up allowing 471 yards of opposition offence, but also took the ball away three times.
“We scored more points and that’s the name of the game,” Leggett said. “Offence stepped up and helped us out. We’ve got to do a better job of helping the offence out and we understand that but we’ve got each other’s back.”
WINNIPEG — Chris Randle followed his leader — even when he made a costly mistake — and came up with a big play to bail him out.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive back intercepted Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Brandon Bridge in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 48-28 win, just moments after his QB Matt Nichols coughed up a fumble.
Nichols put the ball on the turf at the end of a gritty 41yard run with 4:56 left in the game and the Bombers leading by 20.
It gave a last bit of life to the Riders, but Randle snuffed it out on the very next play.
“I told him I was feeling bad for him that he didn’t get an interception earlier in the game and I wanted to give him that opportunity,” Nichols joked, then turned serious. “That’s actually one that’s going to eat at me. I felt I played a very good game. But we preach ‘Hold onto the football late in games like that.’”
Nichols finished the game with 53 rushing yards and didn’t seem interested in sliding at the end of any of the runs. He put his head down and tried to run over defenders.
“He’s our leader man,” Randle said. “When we needed a drive, when we needed that clock to go, he made a play, running guys over. That got us hyped on the sidelines, so even though he fumbled, he set the tone.
“Him running it and setting the tone for our team, what we’re about ... it set the tone for me to go out there and make a play for him.
“He said he gave me an opportunity to make a play and I thanked him for it.”
Winnipeg Blue Bombers Ryan Lankford (left) and Weston Dressler jump in the stands after a touchdown during the Banjo Bowl against the Saskatchewan Roughriders yesterday.