By Jim Bender, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — A pair of Blue Bombers quarterbacks led the team to victory on Saturday.
Starting QB Zach Collaros completed 18-of-23 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns while Sean McGuire, his backup, scored three touchdowns as the Bombers trounced the Saskatchewan Roughriders 33-9 in a CFL slugfest.
The game was played before a sold-out Banjo Bowl crowd of 33,134 fully vaccinated fans at IG Field.
Collaros completed touchdown passes of 39 yards to wide receiver Darvin Adams and 52 yards to slotback Kenny Lawler in the fourth quarter.
“I felt pretty good while we were out there,” said Collaros. “We didn’t have a ton of snaps in the first half. Put together a couple of drives, I think we scored touchdowns there.
“But it was either we scored quick or we were two-and-out or four-and-out, something like that. But I felt like we were executing decently. Obviously, at the end did some good things, and hope to build on it moving forward.”
Saskatchewan starting quarterback Cody Fajardo was removed from the game midway through the third quarter due to concussion protocol after he was sacked by Winnipeg defensive end Willie Jefferson. Fajardo, who had completed 11-of-17 passes for 169 yards at the time, was replaced by Isaac Harker.
Fajardo did suffer a mild concussion, Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson said.
The game was also marred by a second-quarter brawl that resulted in two Roughriders getting ejected.
With back-to-back wins over the Riders, Winnipeg improved to 5-1 on the season and remained in sole possession of top spot in the West Division. Saskatchewan dropped to 3-2 and remained in second.
“I’m just really happy for the organization and for our fans,” Collaros said. “I know Labour Day and the Banjo Bowl are very important to the CFL, to this organization and to our fans, ultimately, and we feel that as players. We know that. We take it one game at a time, obviously, but it means a little bit more to win both of these.”
Collaros also joked about MGuire’s three TDs – all on one-yard sneaks.
“I thought Canada was a hockey country,” he said. “Like, how did everybody not throw their hats on the field. The hat trick, you know?
“But I’m really happy for Sean. Sean’s a great guy, great football player. He works his butt off. I think he’s going to be a great player in this league.”
Saskatchewan’s Harker completed 10-of-13 passes for 89 yards and ran for 14 on three carries after Fajardo was pulled out of the action.
The Bombers grabbed a 12-9 lead on McGuire’s second touchdown late in the first half. That’s when a brawl broke out with punches thrown, at least one facemask grabbed, players piling on top of each other and flags flying all over the end zone.
As a result, Saskatchewan defensive lineman Garrett Marino and defensive back A.J. Hendy were ejected from the game. No Bombers were ejected.
“The guys were a little bit fired up,” said Roughriders linebacker Micah Teitz. “It’s always testy down there and we felt like they were doing a little too much extra and you’ve got to stick up for your teammates when that happens. Unfortunately, we got some boys being ejected, which always hurts the team, so we can’t be doing that. That’s just football.”
Teitz was surprised no Bomber suffered a similar fate.
“That’s crazy,” he said. “Obviously, I didn’t get to see everything. I was in it. I don’t even know what to say about that. When there’s a huge thing like that, you obviously expect people on both sides to get gone and when it’s only us, it’s a tough one.”
Dickenson was also taken aback.
“It wasn’t good news when they (officials) told me that two of our guys got tossed and I asked how many of theirs and they said none,” he said. “We must have done something. They said punches were thrown, so I assume that our guys did it.”
That left Saskatchewan two starters short on defence.
“It’s super tough,” Teitz added. “I know we have to stick up for the boys but sometimes, throwing punches isn’t the answer. So, you’ve got to get them back on the field, so we’ve got to stop that.”
Saskatchewan placekicker Brett Lauther kicked field goals of 25, 24 and 30 yards, all in the first half as the Bombers did not allow a single point in the second half for the second straight game.
“Winnipeg is the class of the league right now,” Dickenson said. “I think they are better than the rest of us and I think it’s by quite a bit.”
Saskatchewan next plays host to the Toronto Argonauts on Friday while the Bombers travel to Edmonton to play the Elks on Saturday.