REGINA — The Saskatchewan Roughriders’ hopes for a long playoff run were dashed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Sunday.
The Blue Bombers defeated the Riders 23-18 in the CFL’s West Division semi-final before 30,600 spectators at Mosaic Stadium. The Blue Bombers advance to the West Division final, Nov. 18 in Calgary against the Stampeders.
The Riders were forced to start Brandon Bridge at quarterback after Zach Collaros was sidelined with an undisclosed injury.
Bridge was the first Canadian quarterback to start a CFL playoff game since Gerry Dattilio in 1984 with the Montreal Concordes. The Concordes were beaten 17-11 by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the East Division semi-final.
Bridge started, but didn’t finish the game after absorbing a hit to the head by a Blue Bombers defender late in the fourth quarter.
Bridge enjoyed success on the Riders’ first possession, leading them on a five-play 45-yard drive that was capped by Brett Lauther’s 33-yard field goal at 3:35 of the first quarter. A key to the drive was a 31-yard scamper by Bridge that set the Riders up on Winnipeg’s 29-yard line.
The Riders scored on their next possession after the defence forced Winnipeg into a two-and-out. Bridge then guided the Riders on a six-play 47-yard drive that stalled at Winnipeg’s eight-yard line. Lauther bailed out the Riders with a 16-yard field goal, as the Green and White opened up a 6-0 lead at 7:56 of the first quarter.
The Blue Bombers narrowed the Riders’ lead to 6-3 after Justin Medlock connected on a 37-yard field goal at 12:11 of the first quarter.
Winnipeg tied the Riders 6-6 at 6:20 of the second quarter when Medlock connected on a 36-yard field goal.
The Blue Bombers jumped ahead after Kevin Fogg intercepted a Bridge pass and returned the pick to Saskatchewan’s 43-yard line. Four plays later, quarterback Matt Nichols completed a 20-yard touchdown pass to Drew Wolitarsky. Winnipeg led 13-6 at 12:01 of the second quarter after Medlock’s successful convert.
A 54-yard kickoff return by Loucheiz Purifoy set up the Riders on Winnipeg’s 44-yard line. Four plays later, Lauther connected on his third consecutive field goal — this time from 34 yards. The Riders trailed 13-9 at 13:12 of the second quarter.
Lauther added his fourth field goal of the game after a promising Riders’ drive stalled at the Blue Bombers’ 19-yard line. Lauther nailed a 27-yard field goal at 13:28 of the third quarter as the Riders trailed 13-12.
Winnipeg went ahead 16-12 at 7:39 of the fourth quarter when Medlock booted a 30-yard field goal.
Winnipeg fattened its lead after running back Andrew Harris scored on a two-yard run. The Blue Bombers led 23-12 at 8:42 of the fourth quarter after Medlock’s successful convert.
The Riders responded to Winnipeg’s touchdown with an eight-play, 46-yard drive that was capped by Nick Marshall’s one-yard one. The Riders weren’t able to score on the two-point conversion and trailed the Blue Bombers 23-18 at 12:24 of the fourth quarter.
Winnipeg then ran five offensive plays before punting. Saskatchewan scrimmaged the ball on its 34-yard line with 40 seconds left. Bridge ran three plays before being hurt. David Watford then threw an interception on the final play.