Bombers look to avenge OT loss to Roughriders in Banjo Bowl tilt

WINNIPEG — Zach Collaros heard from Pete Robertson this week and doesn’t have any hard feelings toward him.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback was head-butted to the turf by Robertson after a play in what ended up being a Saskatchewan Roughriders’ 32-30 home overtime victory last Sunday.

The defensive lineman was suspended for one game on Monday by the CFL and will miss Saturday afternoon’s sold-out Banjo Bowl rematch.

“We spoke and it was good,” Collaros said of Robertson after his team’s Friday walk-through. “Cleaned it up real fast.

“Like I said earlier in the week, I don’t think Pete’s a dirty player. He just apologized and said, ‘I kind of just blacked out in that moment there.’”

The league’s back-to-back most outstanding player, who has a history of concussions, had to sit out three plays after the hit. The command centre assessed an unnecessary roughness penalty on Robertson.

Earlier in the week, Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson told reporters he didn’t condone what Robertson did and he was glad Collaros wasn’t hurt.

“We’re disappointed that he got suspended, but we’re more disappointed that he did what he did,” Dickenson said. “That’s something we don’t approve of and we certainly don’t want that to be part of the game and not part of what we do either.”

Dickenson predicted IG Field will be “crazy hostile” with 32,343 fans and the West Division-leading Blue Bombers (9-3) will be amped up for the rematch.

“They’re going to be highly motivated,” Dickenson said. “They’re going to make corrections on stuff that they need to make corrections on.

“They’ll come out really loaded for bear and ready for us.”

Saskatchewan (6-5) is riding a two-game win streak, with victories over Winnipeg and the B.C. Lions.

The season series between the Roughriders and Bombers is tied one game apiece. Winnipeg won the first game 45-27 in Regina.

The Bombers, who could clinch a playoff spot with a win, say they’re not looking for payback after Robertson’s hit and last week’s narrow loss.

“I don’t think any of us are really thinking of it as a revenge game at all necessarily,” Winnipeg running back Brady Oliveira said.

“Obviously, we know that we didn’t play our best. They made more plays than us. We do know we’re the better football team, though, and when we do play our best we show that.”

Oliveira leads the league in rushing and could reach a milestone in the game.

The Winnipeg-born tailback is 10 yards away from rushing for 1,000 yards for a second consecutive season.

“The fact that I’m 10 yards away and can hit it at home here in front of a sold-out crowd for the Banjo Bowl, it’s going to be special,” said Oliveira, who has six touchdowns along the ground and two TD catches.

“I never thought in a million years that I would hit it in 13 games so I’m blessed. I’ve got an amazing offensive line that has helped me along the way tremendously so credit to them.”

Oliveira rushed for 1,001 yards in 18 games last season, his first as the team’s starter.

The team record for fewest games to reach 1,000 rushing yards is 10 games, held by Willard Reaves and Robert Mimbs.

Quarterback Jake Dolegala will make his third start of the season for Saskatchewan and knows the crowd will try to get him off his game. He’s OK with that.

“Super excited,” he said. “We get another shot at them so it’s going to be fun.

“I know the crowd is going to be crazy again. It’s going to be loud and that’s obviously going to be a challenge, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Dolegala hasn’t thrown an interception in his past two games, a span of 68 passes.

Bombers cornerback Demerio Houston would like to change that.

Houston leads the league with seven interceptions but doesn’t have any in his last two outings.

“I look at it, but I don’t,” Houston said. “I kind of missed out on a lot of opportunities last week that I’m planning on taking advantage of (Saturday).”


Saturday, IG FIELD

GOOD TUNES: The Bombers are 11-7 in Banjo Bowl games, including winning six of the past seven.

RARE OCCURRENCE: Winnipeg hasn’t lost two consecutive games since the end of the 2021 season, when they rested some regulars for the playoffs. They last lost two straight in midseason in September 2019.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 8, 2023.

Judy Owen, The Canadian Press