WINNIPEG — Coaches can usually find mistakes even after their team wins a game.
That wasn’t the case with head coach Mike O’Shea after the Winnipeg Blue Bombers hit all the right notes in a 51-6 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Saturday’s Banjo Bowl game.
“It’s going to be hard to find any fault in this game,” O’Shea said. “It’s as clean a game as you would hope for. You’d like to be able to duplicate those.”
Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros threw five touchdown passes in the first half, including three to Dalton Schoen, and running back Brady Oliveira went over 1,000 yards rushing for the season with 154 yards on 18 carries and also caught a 17-yard TD pass.
Backup Dakota Prukop scored on a quarterback sneak in the opening half to give the Bombers a six pack of TDs.
The Roughriders were held to a pair of Brett Lauther field goals from 27 and 39 yards in the first half. He missed a 41-yard attempt with 1:36 left in the game.
The victory in front of a sellout crowd of 32,343 at IG Field avenged Winnipeg’s 32-30 overtime loss to Saskatchewan in last weekend’s Labour Day Classic.
The Blue Bombers lead the CFL West Division with a 10-3 record and clinched a playoff spot with the win. The Roughriders fell to 6-6. Winnipeg also wins the season series 2-1.
Saskatchewan head coach Craig Dickenson said the Bombers came out with more energy.
“I felt like we had a good week of practise,” he said. “I did not anticipate us getting beat like we got beat today.
“And (the Bombers) executed outstanding. They only punted one time and it was at the end of the game. The difference was they just got rolling and we couldn’t find a way to stop them and we weren’t able to match the momentum when we got the football.”
Collaros completed 16 of 17 pass attempts for 285 yards in the first half, and finished the game 18-of-21 for 319 yards with the five majors and no interceptions. He was replaced by Dru Brown early in the fourth quarter.
Kenny Lawler also caught a TD pass for Winnipeg. Placekicker Sergio Castillo made field goals from 40, 24 and 18 yards, and all six of his convert attempts.
Collaros described it as an “efficient day” for the offence.
“It is a rivalry,” he said. “It's just what you're supposed to do for the Banjo Bowl. We're supposed to win that game. Our fans are unbelievable.”
Winnipeg is now 12-7 since the Banjo Bowl rematch began in 2004.
Saskatchewan quarterback Jake Dolegala was 15-of-21 passing for 113 yards and no picks.
Dolegala, who was sacked three times, said the pressure from Winnipeg’s defence wasn’t different than he felt in last week’s game.
“They do a really good job and we just weren’t passing it off like we were last week. That had a little to do with it.
“Part of it falls on me, too. I’ve got to get the ball out quicker. Like I said, it’s a collective effort and I just don’t think collectively we did enough to move the ball like we wanted to.”
Oliveira needed 10 yards to pass the 1,000-yard milestone for the second consecutive season. He continues to lead the CFL in rushing with 193 carries for 1,144 yards through 13 games. He also had four receptions for 57 yards with the one TD in the game.
“I wanted to take my game to that next level, and that next level is starting to break the long runs, show that I can make people miss, get those 30-, 40-yarders,” said Oliveira, who had a 36-yard gain.
“I owe it to my teammates, though. Receivers did an incredible job of blocking on the perimeters allowing me to get those long runs. And the offensive line just kept dogging them all night. It was a fun game to be a part of."
Winnipeg led 14-3 after the first quarter, 42-6 at halftime and 45-6 heading into the final quarter.
Collaros completed his first nine passes for 109 yards with two TDs.
Schoen caught three consecutive touchdowns to end the second quarter, including one after a Saskatchewan turnover on downs.
Castillo had a field goal in the third quarter and a pair in the fourth to wrap up the scoring.
Former Bombers backup QB Chris Streveler was in Winnipeg to visit friends and signed autographs for a long lineup of fans before the game.
Streveler became a fan favourite after helping Winnipeg win the 2019 Grey Cup. He celebrated in the parade wearing a fur coat and no shirt while chewing on a cigar. It was his first time back in the city since hoisting the trophy.
He signed with the Arizona Cardinals in 2020 and was recently waived by the New York Jets after injuring a thumb in a pre-season game. He plans to pursue more NFL opportunities this season.
The Roughriders host the Edmonton Elks on Friday, while the Bombers travel to Hamilton to play the Tiger-Cats on Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2023.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press