June 11, 2017

Roughriders tie Bombers in pre-season opener

The Saskatchewan Roughriders take on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in pre-season CFL action on June 10th, 2017 at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, SK. Derek Mortensen/Electric Umbrella

Brandon Bridge managed to pull one positive thing out of his CFL team’s tie Saturday.

“At least we didn’t lose; that’s the only positive behind it,” the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ quarterback said after a 25-25 pre-season draw with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Mosaic Stadium.

“I feel that we really should have blown them out. Our offence was rolling in the first half. We’ve got to limit the turnovers, the mistakes and the penalties. We’ve just got to put ourselves in better positions to win football games.”

The Roughriders recorded one touchdown and six field goals in front of 33,358 spectators. The last three-pointer — a 38-yarder by Quinn van Gylswyk with three seconds left in regulation time — pulled Saskatchewan even with the Bombers.

“You don’t go into a game to lose or tie — unfortunately, two bad things,” Roughriders head coach-GM Chris Jones said. “It’s not a win.”

It wasn’t a loss either — and it definitely could have been.

The Roughriders led 22-10 midway through the fourth quarter, but Dan LeFevour — the fourth Bombers quarterback to play in the contest — threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Lankford at 10:21 of the fourth. Felix Menard-Briere’s convert cut the score to 22-17.

Saskatchewan’s next possession lasted just four plays and ended when Roughriders quarterback Bryan Bennett was stripped of the football. Winnipeg recovered at the Saskatchewan 40-yard line.

Four plays after that, LeFevour threw a 24-yard TD pass to Justice Liggins. LeFevour then hit Larry Raper for a two-point convert that gave the Bombers a 25-22 lead with 1:44 left in the fourth quarter.

But the Roughriders rallied — aided by a 34-yard pass interference penalty against Matt Smalley that moved the ball to the Winnipeg 46-yard line. Three plays after that infraction, van Gylswyk hit the field goal that tied the game.

“We have to focus on why it was a tie,” said Roughriders defensive end Jonathan Newsome. “Why was it a tie? We dominated most of the game. We killed ourselves towards the end. We kept them in the game with turnovers and stuff.

“It’s cool because we were doing well and then we had those mistakes. It’s good that we get them out during the pre-season so that, during the regular season, it’s smooth and we’re not making those silly mistakes that keep people in games.”

Saskatchewan opened the scoring at 9:42 of the first quarter when Bridge connected with Duron Carter on a seven-yard touchdown pass — the first major scored by a Roughrider in new Mosaic Stadium. Tyler Crapigna’s convert gave the Roughriders a 7-0 lead.

The Roughriders’ next possession resulted in a 15-yard field goal from Crapigna that gave the home team a 10-0 lead at 2:34 of the second quarter. Bridge was 5-for-6 for 58 yards on the drive.

Crapigna connected again from 15 yards out at 8:25 of the second quarter to make it 13-0 for the Roughriders. A 12-yard field goal by Winnipeg’s Justin Medlock at 13:41 of the second quarter completed the first-half scoring.

Van Gylswyk’s 34-yard field goal on Saskatchewan’s first possession of the third quarter made it 16-3 for the Roughriders.

Quincy Walden set up Saskatchewan’s next points with an 87-yard return of a missed field-goal attempt. Five plays later, van Gylswyk kicked a 23-yard field goal to put the Roughriders ahead 19-3.

The Bombers got their first touchdown of the game at 13:42 of the third quarter, when Dominique Davis hit T.J. Lowder with a 39-yard scoring pass. Menard-Briere kicked the convert to cut Saskatchewan’s lead to 19-10.

Van Gylswyk connected again at 7:32 of the fourth quarter, this time from 45 yards away. That was followed by the Bombers’ late rally — and Saskatchewan’s last-minute comeback.

Bridge finished with 20 completions in 26 pass attempts for 201 yards. Bennett was 7-for-15 passing for 82 yards, while Marquise Williams was 5-for-6 for 38 yards.

Antwane Grant was Saskatchewan’s leading receiver with 63 yards on three receptions. Cameron Marshall led the Roughriders’ ground game with 31 yards on four carries.

The game was the first CFL contest played at new Mosaic Stadium. The Roughriders will officially open the facility on July 1, when they play the first game of their regular-season home schedule against Winnipeg.

Saskatchewan’s next pre-season game is Friday in Vancouver against the B.C. Lions.