WHO’S UP?

Jones keep­ing quiet on Rid­ers’ start­ing quar­ter­back

Winnipeg Sun - - SPORTS - MUR­RAY MCCORMICK mm­c­cormick@post­media.com @mur­raylp

REGINA — Chris Jones re­mained stead­fast in his re­fusal to tell the me­dia who will be the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers’ start­ing quar­ter­back in Sun­day’s West Divi­sion semi­fi­nal.

The Rid­ers’ head coach and gen­eral man­ager stressed nu­mer­ous times on Satur­day that the team was pre­par­ing both Zach Col­laros and Bran­don Bridge to play against the vis­it­ing Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Jones, how­ever, re­fused to dis­close his start­ing quar­ter­back.

“We’re just pre­par­ing two quar­ter­backs to play be­cause that way if you need one or the other, you’ve got them,” Jones said.

Adding to the in­trigue was a post ear­lier Satur­day on the Rid­ers’ Twit­ter ac­count that Col­laros “will make his 15th start” on Sun­day. The post was deleted af­ter the me­dia avail­abil­ity.

Some of the in­trigue stems from Col­laros miss­ing the fi­nal three quar­ters of the Rid­ers’ 35-16 win over the B.C. Li­ons on Oct. 27 — the reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale for the Green and White. He left the game af­ter ab­sorb­ing a hit to the head by Li­ons de­fen­sive end Odell Willis. Bridge took over at quar­ter­back with Col­laros out of the game and pre­served the vic­tory.

Col­laros said Satur­day that he felt fine and wasn’t deal­ing with any resid­ual ef­fects from the tackle. Col­laros added that he knew who was start­ing on Sun­day, but de­clined to say who that might be.

Col­laros has been the Rid­ers’ start­ing quar­ter­back when healthy. He missed four reg­u­lar-sea­son games ear­lier in the sea­son while deal­ing with con­cus­sion and neck is­sues. Bridge filled in for Col­laros over that span.

Based on the depth chart that was is­sued Satur­day, Col­laros is listed as the start­ing quar­ter­back, fol­lowed by Bridge, David Watford and Drew Tate. It’s un­likely that the Rid­ers will dress all four quar­ter­backs.

Jones, how­ever, feels it’s pru­dent to have more than one quar­ter­back ready to play.

“You have to have them both ready to play in case one of them can’t play,” Jones said. “Quite hon­estly, you’re a play away from that hap­pen­ing ev­ery week. You had bet­ter have two pre­pared.”

Col­laros wasn’t sur­prised that much of Satur­day’s at­ten­tion was fo­cussed on the iden­tity of the Rid­ers start­ing quar­ter­back.

“(The me­dia) has a job to do and it’s what moves the nee­dle,” Col­laros said. “It’s what on TV when you turn on the CFL and it’s pretty much the quar­ter­back.”

Saskatchewan’s of­fence has been in­con­sis­tent re­gard­less who starts at the quar­ter­back. The Rid­ers are last in the CFL with 25 of­fen­sive touch­downs, com­pared to the Blue Bombers who led the CFL with 53 of­fen­sive touch­downs.

Col­laros com­pleted nine touch­down passes against 13 in­ter­cep­tions. The Rid­ers were still 10-4 in games that Col­laros started or fin­ished.

Bridge was 2-2 while fill­ing in for the in­jured Col­laros. He com­pleted just one touch­down pass while serv­ing up three in­ter­cep­tions. In 2016, Bridge came off the bench as a change of pace when starter Kevin Glenn strug­gled or was in­jured.

Bridge was ef­fec­tive in that role, com­plet­ing 10 of the Rid­ers’ league-lead­ing 35 touch­down passes. Bridge also threw four in­ter­cep­tions.

Cen­tre Bren­don Labatte wasn’t too con­cerned about who starts at quar­ter­back.

“We’ve had sev­eral in­stances this year where we’ve had both of them back there,” Labatte said. “From what we hear in the hud­dle, there isn’t any dif­fer­ence in the tone of the voice and that’s re­ally where it ends.

“In terms of play call­ing or any­thing like that, we don’t tai­lor any­thing to one quar­ter­back ver­sus the other. Re­gard­less of who’s back there, we know what we have to do to ex­e­cute.”

Sun­day’s game marks the first post-sea­son con­test at Mo­saic Sta­dium since the fa­cil­ity opened in 2017. The Rid­ers are ex­pect­ing a lot of sup­port for their ra­bid fans.

“This is what the fans have been wait­ing for,” said Rid­ers de­fen­sive back Ed Gainey.

“It’s the sec­ond year in a new sta­dium and we get to host a home play­off game and I ex­pect ev­ery­one to be loud and bois­ter­ous. If there are some Winnipeg fans, I’m sure that they will be get­ting into it too.

“It will be fun. Hope­fully we can han­dle busi­ness and walk out of this sta­dium with a win.”

We’re just pre­par­ing two quar­ter­backs to play be­cause that way if you need one or the other, you’ve got them. Chris Jones

rick elvin/the Cana­dian PRESS

Saskatchewan head coach Chris Jones wouldn’t say at prac­tice yes­ter­day if it would be Bran­don Bridge or Zack Col­laros (in­set) start­ing at quar­ter­back for the Roughrid­ers to­day.

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