By Jeff DeDekker, The Canadian Press
Winnipeg kicker Marc Liegghio showed why his teammates believe in him when he drilled a 55-yard field goal late in Sunday’s game to give the Blue Bombers a 20-18 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Liegghio, who also handles the punting duties, was relieved of the kicking role midway through last season and replaced by veteran Sergio Castillo. Liegghio returned to both roles this season but has struggled at times. In a 20-17 loss to the Montreal Alouettes on Aug. 11, he missed a 32-yard field goal on the final play of regulation and a 37-yard field goal in overtime.
His 55-yarder on Sunday, which is the longest of Liegghio’s career, came with three minutes left in the game and gave the Bombers their first lead of the tense CFL game.
“We believe in Legs. We believe more in him than he believes in himself, he gets down on himself. But as teammates, as his friends, we tell him to keep trying because we’ve got your back,” said Bombers defensive lineman Willie Jefferson.
“Don’t look in the past, look to the future, look forward and it’s all going to be good. He did his routine, he put it up and put it through.”
Winnipeg won the coin toss at the start of the game and elected to take the wind in the second and fourth quarters. The Bombers went on to score all of their points with the wind, 17 coming in the second quarter and Liegghio’s winning field goal in the fourth.
“He hit a bunch going in that direction in warm-up. He was accurate and hitting them well, so you know that he already feels good about that, from that spot anyway,” said Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea. “We got it when we needed it, it was a beautiful kick. I’m very happy for him.”
After Liegghio’s field goal, the Riders drove deep into Winnipeg territory and looked to be on the verge of regaining the lead. Starting on their own 40-yard line, the Riders moved 44 yards on three plays and a Winnipeg offside penalty.
On the Winnipeg 26-yard line with 1:55 to play, quarterback Cody Fajardo threw a pass in the middle of the field to running back Frankie Hickson. The ball went through Hickson’s hands and Winnipeg’s Nick Hallet was in the right place at the right time to make the interception on the 14-yard line.
Some thought Jefferson tipped the pass but he said his contribution to the play was in forcing Fajardo’s hand.
“I think we made Cody throw the ball a little bit earlier than he wanted to. We had the opportunity to get our hands on it and we came down with it. Nick came down with it and I wish he would have finished it but it’s all good, it gave our offence the opportunity to go out there and sell it, to do what we had to do,” said Jefferson.
The victory clinched a CFL playoff spot for the 11-1 Bombers who are favoured to win their third consecutive Grey Cup.
Winnipeg quarterback Zach Collaros credits the impressive run of success to a never-quit attitude.
“I think it speaks to just the love we have for each other. We’re sticking together and believing in each other. It’s something that is built into the culture here. So no matter what the score is, we believe that we have an opportunity win a football game,” said Collaros, who finished 15-of-24 passing for 214 yards and two touchdowns.
“All three phases tonight did a great job of sticking together and came out of here in a hostile environment and getting the win.”
The 6-6 Riders have struggled with penalties this season and Sunday’s game was no exception as they took 12 penalties for 99 yards.
The most-costly penalty occurred during a drive early in the fourth quarter with the game tied 17-17. Starting on their own nine-yard line, the Riders moved into Winnipeg territory. Kyran Moore caught a seven-yard pass at the Winnipeg 44-yard line and was forced out of bounds at the Saskatchewan bench.
The Riders received an objectionable conduct penalty on the play after Duke Williams, who is out of the lineup with an ankle injury, was penalized for yelling at a Winnipeg player.
One play later, following a holding penalty, the Riders were forced to punt.
Riders head coach Craig Dickenson didn’t hold back when asked about the penalty to Williams.
“I can tell you this much, moving forward there will be no players on the bench area that aren’t either playing or thoroughly involved in coaching because that was very disappointing. That hurt us and it hurt us bad,” said Dickenson.
“It was a stupid penalty and Duke feels bad about it and he should. Hopefully he’s expressed that to his teammates.
“He’s an emotional guy and his emotions got the best of him. I think they called it pretty tight. I don’t know what he said to the guy but it wasn’t complimentary. I’ll talk to (Riders GM) Jeremy O’Day and see what we can do. That hurt our team. He feels bad about it and he should.”
Nick Demski and Dalton Schoen had touchdown receptions for the Bombers while Liegghio added two field goals.
Fajardo scored on a one-yard sneak for Saskatchewan. Brett Lauther had three field goals while punter Kaare Vedvik had two singles.