Andrew Harris made an impact in his first injury return game, scoring a touchdown and rushing 136 yards in the victory. Receiver Rasheed Bailey and quarterback Sean McGuire also scored major runs for the Bombers while defensive back Nick Taylor pulled off the key reversal on third down late in the fourth quarter to seal the deal for Winnipeg.
The Riders recorded six turnovers in the game, including three interceptions from Ed Gainey, Nick Marshall and Nigel Harris.
Zach Collaros had 17 of 21 passes for 229 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Cody Fajardo completed 19 of 27 passes for 265 yards and a touchdown.
Now Winnipeg travels to Hamilton for a 107th Gray Cup rematch against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on December 12.
»Boxscore: Riders, Bombers in figures
»Through the lens: Riders at Bombers
Watch: Runners strike first after dropping their own goal line
Collaros and the Bombers offense opened the fight and moved the chains across the field to goal position. As the home side threatened to score, the Roughriders defense had other plans. Collaros looked for Nic Demski in the end zone, but the ball went out of the receiver’s hands and straight into Ed Gainey’s hands for the first turn of the game.
After the Winnipeg defense forced the Riders offense to push the ball back in the visitor’s first possession of the game, the Bombers had an excellent field position, starting at the Riders 21-yard line. Demski refused to be eliminated on the first play of the drive, pushing for an 11-yard gain and a first down. But Saskatchewan’s defense once again had an answer as Winnipeg threatened to score. Collaros completed a pass to Drew Wolitarsky and Loucheiz Purifoy forced the fumble at the goal line.
Elie Bouka picked it up and sent it back 94 yards inside the Bombers’ 20-yard line. That turnover set up a one-yard touchdown executed by William Powell for the afternoon’s first score. With the convert over, Saskatchewan took a 7-0 lead.
Winnipeg responded to the Riders’ score on their next possession with Rasheed Bailey’s second effort, an 11-yard touchdown. Collaros used Harris, Demski and Bailey on the drive, moving 71 yards in six plays to set up the middle finger. With Sergio Castillo’s convert completed, things were tied 7-7 with three and a half minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Saskatchewan’s defense continued to force turnovers as Nick Marshall caught Collaros’ pass to Lawler in the opening play of the second quarter.
Jamal Morrow started the Riders’ start with a 23-yard catch and run followed by back-to-back runs from Powell of eight and two yards respectively. A detention penalty set the Riders back 10 yards, but defensive pass interference called up Bombers linebacker Kyrie Wilson to move Saskatchewan to the Bombers 16-yard line.
However, Saskatchewan couldn’t find the end zone and had to settle for three points as Brett Lauther netted his 16-yard field goal giving his team a 10-7 lead.
Nigel Harris took part in the turnover action for the Roughriders, knocking out Collaros as the Bombers led the field on the ensuing possession of the blues and golds. The interception was the Riders’ fourth first-half turnaround, bringing Fajardo and his offense back on the pitch, starting at their own 34-yard line with less than five minutes to go in the quarter. The Riders, however, were unable to take advantage of the turnover and had to push the ball away.
With less than a minute to go in the second quarter, Collaros and the Winnipeg offense were shaking the chains hoping to score before half-time. But it was the Saskatchewan defense that was still there, registering its fifth half-time turnaround as Bailey fumbled and Deon Lacey pounced on to retrieve the fumble. They couldn’t score any points on turnover and headed for the locker room with a 10-7 lead.
Winnipeg managed the turnovers to start the second half, scoring their first of the game. Jackson Jeffcoat sacked Fajardo to force the fumble and Jake Thomas picked him up to end the Roughriders’ impressive opening practice in the third quarter.
But another turnover went in the direction of the Riders after Marc Liegghio was unable to kick the punt on the drive that followed and knocked the ball over the downs. It was Saskatchewan’s sixth overall game turnover.
Lauther missed a 36-yard field goal attempt and Janarion Grant took him out of the end zone and rushed onto the field for a 58-yard return to Winnipeg’s 40-yard line.
Practice began with a 21-yard run from Harris, followed by another three-yard run by Demski. Kenny Lawler hung on for a 26-yard catch where he took a big shot from Gainey and a shovel pass to Demski (12 yards) brought the offense back to the Riders’ five-yard line. Harris had a two-yard rush to finish second and goal before diving for the three-yard touchdown.
With the convert over, Winnipeg took a 14-10 lead, their first lead of the game, with just over a minute left in the third quarter.
The advance did not last long, however. In practice after the Riders, Fajardo broadcast it to Duke Williams, who rushed onto the field for the 67-yard touchdown. Lauther’s convert was good and the Riders regained the lead (17-14) at the end of the third quarter.
After moving to the Riders ‘one-yard line on the Bombers’ next possession, Collaros was stopped on a stealthy QB on his first attempt. Then Sean McGuire came in second to try to squeeze QB and succeeded, diving into the end zone to immediately regain the lead. After the convert was finished, Winnipeg returned to the 21-17 top. The 10-point campaign covered 72 yards as momentum again shifted in favor of the home team.
With less than three minutes to go, Fajardo and the Riders had the ball in hand, led by three points. On the third down, Fajardo joined the injured Williams for a gain of 31 yards. After being examined, he was found to be a trap and continued the conduct of the Riders.
After a six-yard catch from Lenius and a two-yard run from Fajardo, the Riders tried again on the third down. Powell found the advantage and got the necessary two yards and more (gain of six yards) for another series of downs.
Saskatchewan tried again on the third down, but this time unsuccessful as Nick Taylor had the knockdown with one minute left and a four-point lead.
That would be it since the Bombers have booked their trip to the 108th Gray Cup.