REGINA – Kory Sheets, Taj Smith and Geroy Simon all had a pair of touchdowns as the Saskatchewan Roughriders handled the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 48-25 Sunday afternoon in front of a sold out crowd of 44,910 at Mosaic Stadium.
Sheets finished with 91 yards on the ground on 20 carries, while quarterback Darian Durant finished 24 of 35 for 310 yards and 4 touchdown passes.
Winnipeg handed the ball back to Justin Goltz who after starting two games earlier in the season became the next option after injuries were sustained to Buck Pierce and Max Hall. Goltz finished 18 of 29 for 182 yards.
|Related: Bombers at Roughriders|
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» Images: WPG at SSK
» Video: Simon's Over-The-Shoulder TD Grab
» Video: Goltz Off and Running for 46-Yards
» Video: Goltz bolts for 7-Yard Touchdown
» Video: First of Two TDs for Taj Smith
» Preview: Bombers, Riders renew rivalry
All the talk heading in was how dominant the Roughriders have been in recent years, especially after last year’s 52-0 shutout at the annual game.
But it was the Bombers defence that was making the most noise early.
The Blue and Gold came out inspired, getting to Sheets early and containing Durant in the pocket.
With 6:19 left in the first quarter it was the Winnipeg defence that cracked a then-scoreless tie, forcing Sheets to the outside on a draw and tackling him for a loss in the endzone. Finished off by linebacker Henoc Muama, it forced a safety and the Bombers went up by a deuce.
However, just before the opening frame closed, the Riders put up the first major of the game.
Durant led a 9-play, 66-yard possession that was capped off by a 3-yard Sheets touchdown run to put the Riders ahead.
The Blue Bombers offence then awoke thanks to some razzle-dazzle. Goltz found Clarence Denmark for a 17-yard gain on a triple-reverse flea-flicker. The drive would not amount to much but they would make no mistake on the next possession when Goltz tried to stretch the defence and got a pass interference call. Newcomer Jason Boltus entered in short yardage and fell forward for the 1-yard major and gave Winnipeg a 10-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
Boltus, a former Hamilton Tiger-Cat, was added earlier this week when the Bombers felt they needed to increase depth behind centre.
With an offence that continues to battle to find consistency week in and week out, it was once again Muamba and the defence that came up big. Muamba hauled in a ball that was tipped by DB Alex Suber and returned it to the Saskatchewan 35 yard line.
A pair of facemask penalties against the Riders and a commitment to the run game advanced the ball into the redzone where Goltz sold a play-action handoff inside before bolting for the endzone to take a 10-point lead.
The Riders would answer however, as Durant found Smith down the sideline for an athletic 36-yard gain before spotting veteran SB Simon on a corner route in the back of the endzone for a 21-yard major.
After falling behind at halftime, Darian Durant and the Riders offence came to life out of the locker room, generating 4 second-half touchdowns.
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The Bombers took an 18-14 lead into halftime off the strength of a 151-yard passing performance from Goltz through two quarters. More impressive for the Bombers was the defence holding Sheets to just 18 yards on the ground in the first half.
As strong as Winnipeg was against the run in the first half, they had challenges against the pass when the third quarter began.
On Saskatchewan’s first drive of the new frame, Durant escaped the pocket and bought time before finding Chris Getzlaf open over the middle for a 43-yard gain that would set the Riders up inside the five yard line. Sheets would punch it in from one yard out two plays later and Saskatchewan was back on top 21-18.
After Chris Milo added a 48-yard field goal, the Riders opened up their biggest lead of the game as Durant marched an offence that seemed to find its groove in the second half.
First no. 4 found his go-to receiver Weston Dressler who made a tough 39-yard grab before connecting with Smith on a crossing route for a 12-yard touchdown.
Not to be outdone, however, Goltz would not let the 13-point advantage last for long. Shortly thereafter, Goltz picked up a botched snap, found a crease in the middle of the Saskatchewan ‘D’ and raced 46 yards untouched to the endzone to cut the lead to 31-25 with just over 10 minutes remaining.
Despite a valiant effort by Goltz and the Bombers, the Durant-Smith combination was just too much for Winnipeg to handle. The two hooked up for a second time for a 7-yard touchdown which finished off a quick drive set up by a Dwight Anderson interception.
Following another Milo field goal, the Riders would put the game out of reach inside the three-minute mark when Terrell Maze picked off Goltz and brought it inside the Winnipeg 15 yard line. Durant found Simon three plays later from 5 yards out for the touchdown.
The two teams will meet again next week in the first-ever 'Banjo Bowl' to be held at Investors Group Field.