WINNIPEG -- The Bombers and Riders are likely riding different emotions coming into Sunday’s rematch of Labour Day at Canad Inns Stadium, but they’re both fighting for the same two points.
For Darian Durant’s Riders, Sunday will be about building momentum off last week’s win and getting right back in the mix of things in the West Division standings.
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For the Bombers, while they also have a chance to earn two big points and move up in the standings, the thoughts of their 52-0 loss are still very much lingering in the back of their minds.
It was a game running back Chad Simpson and his teammates won’t soon forget.
“This is a true measure of a man,” Simpson told the Canadian Press on Saturday, after the team walk-through which drew a few hundred fans for the annual Fan Appreciation Day.
Simpson didn't grow up knowing about the fierce rivalry between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders, and the Bombers rookie running back also isn't really sure how the Banjo Bowl between the CFL clubs got its name.
But that doesn't stop the Miami native from really, really wanting to beat the Riders on Sunday.
“We took a defeat last week by a great, great deficit and we're going to have to show that we're a better team,” said the 27-year-old running back, who has 388 yards this season and a 5.3 yards per carry average.
This will be the ninth edition of the Banjo Bowl, with the series split in half at four games apiece coming in. But as if it were even possible, this year’s battle could ramp up the rivalry even more after last week’s game.
It was the first time a Bombers team had been held scoreless since 1969, and the margin of defeat was fourth widest in club history.
Winnipeg only managed 102 net yards offence, had a total of 10 first downs and only possessed the ball for 20:54 in the 60-minute tilt.
The Bombers also racked up 101 penalty yards, turned the ball over five times and allowed the Riders to rack up 422 net yards offence. The victory ended a five-game Saskatchewan losing streak.
Winnipeg safety Ian Logan said he's never been on the losing side of a scoreless game in his amateur or professional football careers.
“It hurt,” said Logan, who’s in his seventh season with the Bombers. “It's hard to believe.”
But he and his teammates are focusing on Sunday's game and visualizing what they have to do to redeem themselves.
“You've always got to prepare mentally like that and envision yourself winning and making plays,” Logan said.
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“Especially under the circumstances of playing the same team, it's a lot easier to picture those images in your head turning out quite differently in a more positive way.”
Simpson is imagining his first 100-yard game this season. He had eight carries for 34 yards last week and 73 for 388 yards overall.
The 27-year-old was supposed to be the starter after Chris Garrett tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during a training-camp practice. Simpson then injured a leg and missed the first three games.
“I'm very hungry. I haven't had a 100-yard game yet and I'm not used to that,” said Simpson, who had 91 yards in his first career start, which stands as his highest total this season.
“I've been playing this sport since I was seven so I'm definitely going out there with a different type of chip on my shoulder.”
The Riders know if they want to come out of the unfriendly confines of Canad Inns, they’ll have to raise their intensity another notch too.
The Green and White looked like a different team last week than the one that lost five straight games, and a players only meeting led by Durant seemed to help get his team back on track.
“It was just a feeling I had,” Durant said after Wednesday's practice. "You could kind of sense that the mood of the locker room wasn't where it needed to be. I just wanted to make sure that guys knew that we were in this together.”
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Kory Sheets ran for a season-high 106 yards to take over the league rushing lead, while Darian Durant went 13-19 for 168 yards and two touchdowns in just over a half of work as the Riders dominated the Bombers, 52-0 at Mosaic Stadium. Tyrone Brackenridge continued his stellar year for the Riders, blocking a punt and scooping it up for a touchdown in the first half, while adding an interception. The Riders defence, meanwhile, held the Bombers' passers to just 96 yards through the air, while also stopping the rushing attack in its tracks.
“In order for us to win, we have to stay together,” he added. “We all have to have one mindset and we all have to be focused. That's the main thing I wanted to relay to everyone.”
Durant had 168 yards and a pair of touchdowns before leaving the game early in the second half with an injury, and as he returns this week, he’s ready to help his team pick up right where it left off.
That’s good news for the Riders, considering Durant is now one of the most experienced players left on the Riders offence. The 30-year-old knows what this rivalry’s all about, and is certainly prepared for the emotional ups and downs along with all of the trash talking that comes with it.
This year though, Durant will be joined by Odell Willis, who in the past has been a rival of the quarterback’s.
Both will have different emotions going in, as Willis plays his first game back in Winnipeg, while Durant raised the ire of Winnipeg’s fans and the blood pressure of former head coach Ken Miller when he got involved in some trash talking towards the end of a 45-23 victory over the Blue Bombers in 2011.
Durant said he will not allow that to happen again.
“I won’t fall into the trap that they set for me last year,” Durant said Friday. “It was a trap that was laid out there and I just stepped right into it. It was fun while it lasted. You can ask other guys around the league. I think (B.C.’s) Arland Bruce tweeted something about Winnipeg fans a couple of weeks ago when they were out there. I won’t fall into it. I know what they’re trying to do and I won’t let them.”
The Riders have had no shortage of exposure to emotional highs and lows this season, after starting the season with three straight wins then following that up with a five-game losing streak.
And with all of the focus on the Bombers, and how Tim Burke’s team will respond to last week’s loss in Saskatchewan, the Riders find themselves flying under the radar this weekend.
On the inside, though, they know they have just as much to prove coming into this game as the Bombers do.
“I know they’re dealing with some things over there, but it’s not like we’re 11-and-0. We’re fighting for our lives to get back in the hunt in the West,” said first-year head coach Corey Chamblin, who secured his fourth win of the season a week ago.
“I think we have something to prove, too.”
Kickoff is at 1:00 P.M. ET, and can be seen on TSN or followed live via Game Tracker on CFL.ca and CFL Mobile.
- With files from Postmedia and The Canadian Press.