Taylor Shire, Regina Leader-Post
The Saskatchewan Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers put the classic in Labour Day Classic, as the Riders came away with 32-30 overtime victory on Sunday evening at Mosaic Stadium.
“I think that was everything that everybody asked for,” said Riders’ quarterback Jake Dolagala. “Obviously overtime, came down to the wire, couldn’t have dreamt it up any better.”
In front of a sellout crowd of 33,350, Dolegala — who picked up his second win in his second start of the season — threw for 326 yards, including 34 in overtime, which set up a one-yard touchdown plunge by backup QB Antonio Pipkin.
Dolegala then connected with receiver Shawn Bane Jr. for the two-point convert to put the Riders in front 32-24.
After Bombers’ quarterback Zach Collaros connected with Kenny Lawler for a 35-yard touchdown on Winnipeg’s overtime possession, Riders’ safety Jaxon Ford tipped Collaros’ pass on the two-point convert attempt, to clinch the Saskatchewan victory, as they improve to 6-5, while Winnipeg drops to 9-3.
“Just a rush of energy,” said Ford, who was pressed into the game in the second half due to an injury to starter Jayden Dalke. “Just ran off the edge there, did my best and made a play.”
However, it took a while for both offences to warm up in the 58th edition of the Labour Day Classic.
After Riders’ defensive back Nic Marshall intercepted Collaros in the first quarter, Saskatchewan kicker Brett Lauther split the uprights with a 43-yard field goal to open the scoring.
The Green and White then increased their lead with the first touchdown of the night in the second quarter with an eight-play, 106-yard drive. After Dolegala connected with Tevin Jones for a 64-yard gain, the Riders went into the red zone after Dolegala hit Mitch Picton for a 37-yard gain . From there, Pipkin would rush it into the end zone to make it 10-0 with the convert.
The Bombers wasted no time responding. First, Collaros connected with Dalton Schoen for a 20-yard gain before Nic Demski made a spectacular one-hand catch for 46 yards. The three-play, 100-yard drive was capped off with Collaros hitting Drew Wolitarsky, who made a 34-yard catch in the end zone for the touchdown to make it a 10-7 Saskatchewan lead with the convert.
The Riders added a field goal as Lauther connected on a 27 yarder, as Saskatchewan led 13-7 at the half.
In the second half, Lauther added another field goal, this time from 30 yards out, to make it 16-7, before the Bombers added another touchdown. Collaros hit Demski for a 52-yard gain before running back Brady Oliveira punched it in from two yards out. The convert trimmed the lead to 16-14.
The teams traded field goals before Saskatchewan scored a single point on a rouge to make it 20-17 in the fourth quarter.
Winnipeg would march down inside the red zone and while the Riders defence had looked to stop the Bombers on second down, Riders’ defensive lineman Pete Robertson took an unnecessary roughness penalty after head butting Collaros after the play.
“I’ve just got to learn to control myself a little bit,” Robertson said after the game. “You can’t really do extra with the quarterback.
“I realize what I did. I’m a grown man so I know when I make a mistake.”
Winnipeg quickly made him pay as Oliveira punched it from two yards out. With the convert, Winnipeg took their first lead of the game, 24-20, with 3:50 to go.
After another Riders’ single-point rouge made it 24-21, Saskatchewan’s defence forced a two-and-out, leaving Dolegala and the Riders with two minutes to try and generate a tie or potentially go ahead.
Dolegala connected with running back Jamal Morrow for two straight first downs to get Saskatchewan to the 10-yard line, but the Riders could not punch it in from there, as Lauther came on to kick an 18-yard field goal — his fifth of the night — to tie the game 24-24 with 34 seconds left.
From there, the Riders were able to secure the victory in overtime, the first time the Labour Day Classic has went to extra time.
“It was a rollercoaster,” said Dolegala. “I told the guys in the huddle, let’s just take it one play at a time, especially at the end there.”
The victory for Saskatchewan marks their 15th win in the past 18 Labour Day Classic games between the two teams. The Riders’ all-time record in the series improves to 38-20.
“That will go down as one of the more enjoyable wins in my coaching career,” said Riders’ head coach Craig Dickenson.
These two teams will face off again on Saturday at IG Field in Winnipeg (2 p.m., TSN). That game will also decide the season series, after the Bombers beat the Riders 45-27 back in Week 2.
“That was a big win for our team and a big win for our season,” said Morrow, who had 113 combined receiving and rushing yards. “It’s a huge sigh of relief but we know we’re not satisfied.
“We’ve got them next week.”