WINNIPEG — Sandro DeAngelis’ 40-yard field goal with no time remaining capped off an eventful afternoon at Canad Inns Stadium, as the Roughriders took the 2012 edition of the Banjo Bowl 25-24 over the Blue Bombers on Sunday.
Backup QB Drew Willy came up big in a relief effort for the injured Darian Durant, completing 17 of his 23 passes for 188 yards and one touchdown pass in just under three quarters of action for the Riders.
The Bombers entered Sunday afternoon’s matchup hoping to exact some revenge over their prairie rivals. Last week, the Blue and Gold came out on the wrong end of a 52-0 thrashing at the hands of the Roughriders, in a game where they were outplayed on all areas of the field.
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With the outcome of the Labour Day Classic still sitting fresh in the front of their minds, the Bombers were hoping to get off to a fast start on the offensive side of the ball.
But it was the Riders who made the early statement, as cornerback Terrell Maze forced a fumble on the first play from scrimmage immediately following a Terrence Edwards catch.
The ball was recovered by former Bomber Odell Willis, who was making his first appearance in Winnipeg since being traded during the off-season.
Fortunately for the Bombers, the Roughriders were unable to reach the endzone, and were forced to settle on a 34-yard field goal by Sandro DeAngelis.
However, the Bombers would answer back on their very next possession.
Quarterback Joey Elliott put the first drive behind him and orchestrated an impressive six-play, 60-yard drive that was highlighted by a 44-yard strike to a wide open Edwards near the sidelines.
Three plays later, Winnipeg equaled the score as Justin Palardy split the uprights from 22 yards out.
Last week, one of the main reasons for Winnipeg’s disappointing outing was their play during the first quarter. The offence was unable to generate any traction with the ball, while the defence was victimized for 10 points against.
This week, however, it was a far different story.
While the offence was on the sidelines trying to figure out a way to break through the league’s second-best defensive unit, the defence and special teams were busy making their marks.
After the Bombers defence held the Riders to a second-straight two-and-out, forcing the Roughriders to send out Chris Milo for his second punt of the quarter, it was time for Washington to cement his name in Banjo Bowl lore.
The first-year Bomber ignored a no yards flag and returned Milo’s offering 82 yards for a touchdown for his second punt return major of the season.
The score gave Winnipeg their first touchdown since their Week 9 loss to the Lions. It was also the first opening-quarter touchdown for the Bombers this season.
However, Winnipeg’s lead was short-lived, as the Riders answered back in the finest of fashions.
With Durant on the sidelines because of a hip flexor injury, Saskatchewan inserted backup pivot Drew Willy into the ball game for his second appearance in as many weeks.
Willy would waste no time getting the Green and White back into the game, connecting with Kory Sheets for a 33-yard catch-and-run touchdown, one that saw Sheets rumble his way through the defence as he made his way towards the corner of the endzone.
Things almost went from bad to worse for the Bombers soon after, as it appeared as though the Riders found the endzone for a second time when Willy connected with fullback Scott McHenry in the endzone for his first career touchdown.
However, a forward pass interference penalty on Riders receiver Chris Getzlaf negated the score, forcing them to settle on a another DeAngelis field goal, this time from 23 yards out.
Prior to Sunday’s matchup, Winnipeg head coach Tim Burke made a gutsy move with respect to his defensive personnel.
|Willy the Winner|
Coming in for relief of the injured Darian Durant, Drew Willy completed 17 of his 23 passes for 188 yards and one touchdown in Saskatchewan’s wild win.
Burke moved last season’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player Jovon Johnson away from his usual post on the corner into the sam linebacker spot, paving the way for Brandon Stewart to take over at cornerback.
The move immediately paid dividends for Burke and the Bombers, as Stewart registered his first interception of the season, jumping in front of a Willy pass that was intended for receiver Weston Dressler.
Winnipeg would even the score three plays later, as Palardy connected on his second field goal of the half from 32 yards out.
The Bombers’ prowess on the defensive side of the ball must have translated into some momentum during their time with it. On Winnipeg’s ensuing offensive possession, it looked as though they had finally found their stride, with tailback Chad Simpson busting through the trenches for a 42-yard romp that brought the drive inside the Saskatchewan 30-yard line.
However, they were unable to translate the big gain into any big points, as the Riders conceded a single point after Palardy missed his field goal attempt.
The second half got underway with the defences tightening up against the offensive attacks.
After Saskatchewan received the ball to start the third quarter, Jason Vega and the Bombers defence forced them to another two-and-out, one that was highlighted by Vega’s six-yard sack on Willy.
The QB takedown was Vega’s third of the season.
Not to be outdone, the Riders defence also flexed their muscle during their next drive, as defensive back Milt Collins factored into two-straight plays, registering a hard hit on Cory Watson on the first, and registering a knockdown on a pass intended for Kito Poblah on the other.
Saskatchewan’s success on the defensive side of the ball seemingly rubbed off on their offence, as the Riders would take the lead on their very next possession.
After it was announced that they would be without Durant for the remainder of the game, Willy connected on a 28-yard strike to Dressler that brought the drive to the two-yard line.
Sheets would give the Green Riders a six-point lead one play later, as he trotted into the endzone untouched from two yards out.
The well-documented animosity between the two clubs would begin to show its true colours soon after the Sheets major, as both teams would land their respective big hits in the late stages of the third quarter.
First, former Blue Bomber Joe Lobendahn would register a crushing blow to Simpson, one that sent him airborne and head-over-heels, but the Bombers would respond when James Green ignored the no yards area of the field on a punt and plowed through Jock Sanders just as he fielded a Palardy punt.
Green would be flagged for no yards, in addition to being called for unnecessary roughness for the hit.
On that possession, the Riders would add to their lead with Milo sending a booming 73-yard punt into the endzone for a rouge. However, the Bombers would begin to claw away at Saskatchewan’s lead, as Palardy made up for his earlier miss, splitting the uprights for a 19-yard chip shot.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Bombers would receive another jolt of momentum from their special teams unit, as Milo would fumble the snap on the punt attempt, giving the Bombers excellent field position to begin their next possession.
The Bombers would continue to cut into the Riders’ lead, as Palardy would boot his fourth field goal of the game, bringing the Bombers to within one point of a tie with just over 10 minutes to go in the game.
With the fourth quarter winding down, both teams would squander opportunities to add points onto the scoreboard. The Riders missed a chance to extend their lead to four when DeAngelis missed a 40-yard field goal attempt, while the Bombers failed in their shot to take the lead, when Palardy’s field goal attempt was blocked.
However, Winnipeg would finally regain the lead with just under three minutes remaining in the final frame, as Palardy kicked his fifth field goal of the game to give his team a 23-22 lead.
The Bombers would increase their lead on their next drive, when Burke opted to punt for the corner instead of kicking a field goal with less than one minute remaining. However, the Mike Renaud would miss the coffin corner, as his punt sailed into the endzone, giving the Bombers a two-point lead.
On Saskatchewan’s next drive, Willy would orchestrate a veteran-like possession, leading the Roughriders into field goal range with four seconds remaining in the game.
One play later, DeAngelis would connect on a 40-yard field goal to give the Riders an improbable 25-24 win.
Next Week for Winnipeg: The Bombers travel to Calgary to take on the Stampeders. BUY TICKETS
Next Week for Saskatchewan: The Roughriders will gun for their third-straight win, as they take on the Alouettes. BUY TICKETS