Online bragging rights – Winnipeg Free Press
After a spirited affair in Regina over the September long weekend, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders reunite for the annual Banjo Bowl at IG Field on Saturday afternoon.
The Bombers (11-1) rallied in the Labor Day Classic last week, erasing a 14-0 lead over Saskatchewan en route to a 20-18 victory at Mosaic Stadium. The Roughriders (6-6) will look to avenge the loss, and will have to do so in enemy territory, in front of a sold-out crowd of 33,234.
Another week of rival prairie football, in front of a packed house, with bragging rights on the line. It doesn’t get much better than that.
“The rivalry, how important it is to the CFL,” O’Shea said when asked what made the Banjo Bowl a special moment of the season. “And when you kind of have a moment before the game, just to admire the fans, packed, how loud they’re going to be, with the anthem… it’s always impressive when it’s that loud.”
With that, here are five scenarios to watch for in Saturday’s game.
Banjo Bowl, Edition No. 18
This is the 18th annual Banjo Bowl, a tradition that began in 2004 after former Bombers kicker Troy Westwood called our neighbors directly to the west “a bunch of inbred banjo-pickin’.” An interesting, and somewhat predictable, note is that Saskatchewan greats, including those of the Roughriders, refused to acknowledge the name.
Nonetheless, the Bombers lead the Roughriders in the Banjo Bowl series, but not as much as one might think, winning 10 of 17 games played. Winnipeg has certainly dominated in recent years, winning in five of the last six meetings, including the last two.
Winnipeg has the chance to sweep the Labor Day and Banjo Bowl games for the second straight season and only the fourth time since the back-to-back series was formed years ago.
For the Bombers, a win this year would end the season streak against the Roughriders, who desperately need a win to stay competitive in the West Division. It would also move Winnipeg closer to first place in the division for the second straight season.
Lots riding on this one
The Roughriders are getting dangerously close to desperation mode. Once considered a lock for fourth place in the West, i.e. a crossover in the East, this is no longer the case.
With just two wins in their last six games, including four straight home losses, the Roughriders sit at .500. The schedule doesn’t get much easier for Saskatchewan in the final six games either, with a pair against the Bombers and Calgary Stampeders, as well as games against Edmonton and Hamilton.
The Ottawa Redblacks probably won’t catch the Roughriders, but at 3-8 after a two-game winning streak, Saskatchewan is no longer out of reach. The Rougenoirs also have a much easier road to travel, playing six of their remaining seven games against the lowly East, a division with a combined 16-29 record.
It might be premature to suggest this is a must-play game for the Roughriders. Facing another defeat, the hole to get out only gets bigger.
A man of Mark
What a game it was for Marc Liegghio on Sunday. The Bombers kicker not only scored a 55-yard field goal for what turned out to be game-winning runs, he also dodged a potential tackler on a first-half punt attempt that could have buried the Bombers’ chances of a comeback. .
Speaking of a comeback, Liegghio has recovered well from a disappointing appearance in Week 10, when he missed a pair of field goals that led to Winnipeg’s first loss. Since then, he’s been a perfect three-for-three on field goals and made his six converts in one point.
I’ve written at length this season about Liegghio’s struggles, so it’s time to praise the second-year kicker. You knew there was pressure to have a solid response after the loss to Montreal and proving he could fight a rowdy Mosaic crowd last weekend was a big step in that direction, while winning the confidence of his coaches and teammates.
Now is the time to run with that consistency, and what better time and place than this weekend. It should be noted that it was after the Banjo Bowl that Liegghio was finally replaced the following week by Ali Mourtada, who was later replaced by Sergio Castillo en route to winning a second straight Gray Cup.
Back to Grant
While Janarion Grant has been sidelined for the past two weeks with a groin injury, the Bombers tested a few new bodies in the return game. The mix of Nick Taylor, Evan Holm and Tyrell Ford produced mixed results, with solid returns mixed with some head-scratching decisions, especially when it came to giving up singles in the end zone.
That experiment is now over, with Grant healthy and back in training this weekend. The 28-year-old might not make the headlines every week, but he’s as dependable as any returner in the CFL, and just as dangerous.
Grant is the only CFL player to score a kickoff and kickoff touchdown this season, both having left IG Field. He is second in the league in average punt return yards (12) and kickoff return yards (29.7).
The starting position on the field is a part of the game as underestimated as it is crucial. The Roughriders have a strong special teams unit, much like the Bombers, and have had better starting positions in eight of their 12 games.
With a raucous crowd on their side, field position will be an important element in the Bombers’ pursuit of another victory. Having Grant should make access a bit easier.
The marine effect
The Roughriders finally came to their senses and released defensive lineman Garrett Marino. During a 15-game career spanning two seasons in the CFL, Marino was suspended once for four games, fined three times and expelled twice.
As it turns out, the straw that broke the camel’s back for the 28-year-old Californian was a late fourth-quarter hit last week that blindsided Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros. Collaros was rattled on the play, which didn’t draw a penalty flag, but didn’t appear to be getting any worse. Meanwhile, Marino is out of a job, with CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie bluntly telling league teams that he would not register another contract involving Marino.
It’s a notable loss for the Roughriders as Marino is a quality player and a key part of the club’s run defense. He’s also a lifted weight for the Bombers, who don’t have to worry about Marino doing something stupid, like he did the last Banjo Bowl, with his antics in a post-touchdown scrimmage. leading to his ejection from the game.
It will be interesting to see how Marino’s absence affects a dominant Roughriders D line, a unit that will be without Anthony Lanier for another week. The Bombers have moved up the rankings in rushing offense, ranking second in the league with an average of 106 yards per game, behind only Saskatchewan at 108.
After a series of injuries while playing hockey, including wrist, arm and collarbone fractures; a tear in the medial collateral ligament of both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff thought it was a good idea to take his interest in the sport off the ice and into the classroom.
Read the full biography