BY: Rod Pedersen
Voice of the Riders
Talk about roughing somebody up and taking their lunch money.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders put an end to their league-high (low) five-game losing streak with a convincing 52-0 blowout of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Labour Day Classic XLIX Sunday at Mosaic Stadium.
For a change everything that could go right, did. It was evident the football gods were going to smile on the Riders when Sandro Deangelis's first field goal attempt to cap Saskatchewan's opening drive clanked off the right upright and fell through the posts for an early 3-0 lead. Who would have thought that's all the offence the Riders would need on the day?
As it turned out Saskatchewan built up 10-0, 28-0 and 42-0 leads by quarter on their way to an eighth-straight victory on Labour Day weekend.
So what changed? How could this team be so proficient after five straight weeks of losing and playing frustrating football. The Riders will tell you nothing changed and that they just kept working hard each day with the faith that things would eventually turn around.
They did, but Sunday's result wasn't a fluke and it certainly wasn't a coincidence. The Riders added Joe Lobendahn at middle linebacker and he's a run-stopping specialist. That helped a lot and so did the insertions of defensive back Milt Collins and receiver Brooks Foster, both of whom were making their Rider debuts. And, for reasons we're still not sure of, leading returner Tristan Jackson was a game time scratch and was replaced by Weston Dressler and Jock Sanders.
Other than that, nothing changed.
"Nope, not a thing," smiled Rider running back Kory Sheets who had his first 100 yard rushing game in the CFL. "Actually we did change one thing. We finished."
They sure did, notching 20 of their points off of an array of Blue Bomber turnovers.
"I'll tell you what, I told the guys this is the biggest win of my career," said a relieved Rider coach Corey Chamblin after the match. "Even bigger than the first one. It seemed like everything went right. After five weeks when everything goes wrong, thank God things went right today."
It was sweet for the many former Blue Bombers now wearing green and white as well.
"It feels great!" gushed Rider lineman Brendon Labatte, who played four seasons for Winnipeg. "This is the first Labour Day I've ever won and what do they say? If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. This is the Rider team you can expect the rest of the way. We're a good squad with a lot of talent and if we keep playing this hard we'll be alright."
For the Riders' sake, let's hope so. Although, and I'm the last to admit this, the win came over a Blue Bomber who looked like they wanted to be anywhere else but Regina on the weekend. After two blown fourth-quarter leads, this broadcaster wasn't even comfortable when the Riders were up 42-0 after three quarters. However after Saskatchewan's Paul Woldu recovered a fourth quarter kickoff, it was clear that the Bombers had packed up and gone home.
But will they be a different team in Sunday's ninth annual Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg? That remains to be seen. The Riders certainly expect more of a fight the second time around.
"Winnipeg will make some adjustments next week and we have to be prepared," Chamblin warned. "We don't have enough wins to get too high. We need to stay on an even keel.
"(The Labour Day Classic) was just one of those days. We kept working hard and I believed things would turn around. Now I hope it continues."