It’s nearly impossible to win a football game when you turn the ball over six times.
But if you have a historic defence like the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, you might just be able to get away with it.
That was the case in Sunday’s West Division final as the Bombers’ offence was in the holiday spirit, gift wrapping turnover after turnover for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros had three interceptions, receivers Drew Wolitarsky and Rasheed Bailey had fumbles, and a failed rushing attempt by punter Marc Liegghio led to a turnover on downs in the third quarter.
In the end, somehow, someway, it didn’t matter. The Bombers’ defence did everything they could to steer the team away from disaster by holding the Riders to 10 points off the mistakes. Seven of those points came from a William Powell rushing touchdown that was set up by a 94-yard fumble return by Elie Bouka.
“We believe in those guys every single time. It doesn’t matter how many turnovers, whatever it is, we’re gonna go out there and get the ball back and make the best of the situation,” said Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill.
“(We’ll) limit the points and give them opportunities because we believe we’ve got guys out there that will run through a wall, who are phenomenal.”
The Bombers’ defence, which gave up a league-best 13.4 points per game this season, saved their best for the end. The Riders trailed 21-17 with just over a minute left to play and faced a third and three at Winnipeg’s 32-yard line. Saskatchewan quarterback Cody Fajardo fired a pass at receiver Mitchell Picton, who was replacing star pass catcher Duke Williams who left the game late with an injury, but Bombers defensive back Nick Taylor stepped up and knocked the ball down in what was arguably the team’s biggest and most important play of the season.
“It’s one of those plays where it’s mano a mano and the game’s on the line, third and medium and we need it. And Nick is one of the best halfbacks in this game. He’s a vet and when it comes down to a situation like that — once again we’re talking about situational football — Nick understands what they’re trying to do,” said Bighill “Great feet, great eyes, it’s a great play, and that is stereotypical of the defence that we want to be, to understand what plays we need to make when we need to make them.”
The biggest difference on the night was the run game as the Bombers ran for 173 yards while the Riders had to settle for 53. A big reason for that was the Bombers’ ability to keep Fajardo, who rushed for 89 yards in the West Division semi-final victory over Calgary, in check as he only managed 21 yards on the ground on Sunday. Fajardo also fumbled the ball away in the third quarter on a sack by defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. The Bombers sacked Fajardo five times.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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