Another edition of the Labour Day Classic is in the books and with its conclusion, and the onset of fall, that sound we hear rumbling towards us, is the train that is the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The 31-23 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Sunday's Labour Day Classic is the Green and White's third straight victory, pulling the Riders into a tie for second with Edmonton and sitting a full game up on Winnipeg for third in the CFL's West Division.
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Matt Elam’s early interception led to a touchdown, then newcomer Kyran Moore’s 65-yard punt return for a touchdown and Zach Evans blocked field goal all kept the Riders in the game in the first half.
They needed the big plays because both the offence and defence were getting punched in the mouth.
The offence barely broke the 100 net yard mark in the first half while the defence saw Andrew Harris put up over 100-yards helping the Bombers to the 17-14 halftime lead.
The game was a stalemate until a six-play, 75-yard drive that finally saw the Riders take the lead at 24-20. It was bolstered by Zach Collaros completions of 15, 13, 13 and finally the 25-yard touchdown to Marcus Thigpen.
66 of Collaros’s 250 passing yards came on that drive and may be one of the best of the season for the Saskatchewan Roughrider offence.
That might be the turning point the offence needs as the second half of the season is in full gear and a home playoff spot is in sight.
There were many names to add to Labour Day Classic lore, but the name that may go down as having the biggest contribution: Marcus Thigpen.
He has been known as the Riders homerun hitting running back, but in this game, he was more of the regular, every-down back.
His 92-yards from scrimmage (55 rushing, 37 receiving and a TD) was tops for the Riders. Thigpen looks more like a traditional second-down running back that can either pick up a crucial first down on the ground or through the air.
Labour Day Classic report:
- After a career year with 10 interceptions, it took Ed Gainey until Sunday’s 10th game of the season to pick up his first of 2018.
- Charleston Hughes picked up his 13th sack of the season and is quickly running away with the league title.
- Andrew Harris is the first 100-yard rusher against the Riders this season. It’s also his 4th 100-yard game of the season and puts him 37-yards from breaking the 1,000-yard mark this season.
- The Riders are still without a 100-yard rusher or 300-yard passer in 2018.
- Sunday’s win was their 13th in the last 14 Labour Day Classics.
- Monday’s Labour Day game between Edmonton and Calgary has ramifications across the West Division. With a victory, the Eskimos would climb within two points of the first place Stampeders with a chance to tie them a week later in the rematch in Edmonton.
A loss would mean Edmonton drops to third and the Stamps would have a three-game lead on the Riders for first in the West.
- In the East, the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats are battling it out for second in the East. Toronto could climb into a tie with Hamilton with a victory in the day’s late game.
- What do you do if you were Alouettes head coach Mike Sherman? Antonio Pipkin wasn’t great in Montreal’s 21-11 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks, but he was still able to keep things in line -- enough for the Als.
His 242-yards passing, and two interceptions were not by any means world-beating but when Johnny Manziel is cleared to play, would you stop whatever momentum Montreal has with Pipkin at the helm of the Montreal offence? Stay tuned.
The defending Hardy Cup champion, Calgary Dinos got off on the right foot at Mosaic Stadium. They racked up 599-yards of total offence in the 49-35 victory over the Regina Rams.
Adam Sinagra threw for 444-yards and three touchdowns with both Hunter Karl and Dallas Boath picking up 100-yard receiving nights.
On the Rams side of things, Noah Picton surpassed the 10,000 yard career passing mark. He is the first Canada West pivot to accomplish this feat and by year’s end will be the USports all-time leading passer.
In Saskatoon, a team the whole country is sleeping on woke everyone up. The University of Saskatchewan Huskies were great on all sides of the football, slamming the Alberta Golden Bears 42-0. Kyle Siemens and Mason Nyhus combined for 300-yards through the air, while the Huskie defence held Alberta to under 300-yards total offence.
The final game of the weekend was one that was tighter than many thought it would be. The UBC Thunderbirds held off the Manitoba Bisons 30-20.
The Bisons were able to roll-up 500-yards of offence, but it wasn’t enough for the road victory.
Canada West Week Two:
Friday, September 7th
UBC at Calgary 5:30 (MDT)
Saskatchewan at Manitoba 7:00 (CST)
Regina at Alberta 7:00 (CST)
No one can stop the Saskatoon Hilltops. The nation’s top junior football team continues to steamroll their opponents, this time it was the Winnipeg Rifles on the road 38-8.
The undefeated Hilltops have outscored their opponents 138-16 so far in 2018.
After a season opening loss to the Hilltops, the Regina Thunder are now 2-1 with their 28-17 victory over the Edmonton Huskies at Clarke Stadium in Edmonton.
It was a huge victory for the Thunder, handing the Huskies their first loss of the season and taking over second in the PFC.
The final game of the week was the week three opener. The Edmonton Wildcats grabbed their first win of the season trouncing the Calgary Colts 48-0.
PFC Week Four:
Sunday, September 9th
Edmonton Huskies at Regina Thunder 1:00pm Mosaic Stadium
Canadian to watch in the NCAA
Running Back – Ohio University
High School – WJ Mouat Secondary
After redshirting in 2017, running back Malik Irons returned to the Ohio Bobcats offence. In their opening week 38-32 victory over Howard University, Irons carried the ball nine times for 52 yards.
He is a part of a strong core of Canadians at Ohio University that includes quarterback Nathan Rourke.
Irons was the 11th ranked overall and second ranked running back available in the 2019 CFL Draft by the CFL Scouting bureau.