WINNIPEG — Julian Feoli-Gudino’s 37-yard touchdown reception late in the third quarter gave the Winnipeg Blue Bombers the spark they needed to down the Saskatchewan Roughriders 22-7 in the 12th rendition of the Banjo Bowl on Saturday.
Matt Nichols’ first touchdown pass as a member of the Blue Bombers and Khalil Bass’ 59-yard interception for a touchdown capped off 22 straight points for the club after the Riders grabbed an early 7-0 lead that held true until late in the third quarter.
The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Bombers, who improved to 4-7 in the 2015 CFL season. Nichols was 21 for 30 for 283 yards with a major and an interception.
The Riders dropped to 1-10 after claiming their first victory of the year in last week’s Labour Day Classic over the Blue Bombers. QB Brett Smith went 13 for 28 for 114 yards, with a touchdown and two picks.
The Bombers trotted out their eighth different quarterback in their eighth straight Banjo Bowl Saturday, and it didn’t look good early on as Nichols’ night started out on the rough side.
The former Edmonton Eskimos pivot was decimated by the Riders defence, evidenced by two fumbles and an interception committed in the first half alone.
Winnipeg turned the ball over three times in the first 15 minutes — five total in the half — producing just 14 total yards on offence.
The Bombers had a glorious chance early on in the first quarter after Riders’ punter Ray Early netted just four yards on a shank off the outside of his foot.
But with Winnipeg on second down in the red zone, defensive end John Chick split the offensive line of and strip-sacked Nichols, who watched helplessly as Jeff Knox Jr. pounced on the loose ball.
The comedy of errors continued at the end of the Bombers’ next drive as kicker Lirim Hajrullahu failed to handle the snap and was sacked deep in Winnipeg’s end.
The turnover proved costly two plays later as Smith found receiver Rob Bagg in the back of the end zone for a 6-0 lead. Paul McCallum missed the ensuing convert.
The Bombers got on the board late in the second quarter after stalling just inside the red zone. Hajrullahu split the uprights from 25-yards out to cut the Riders lead to 7-3 heading into the half.
Winnipeg’s first three points in the second half came following a 64-yard gain that led to a 31-yard field goal from Hajrullahu.
Nick Moore, who had a 32-yard reception leading to the Bombers’ second field goal, finished the game with three catches for 103 yards before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with an upper-body injury. He did not return.
Hajrullahu missed a golden opportunity on a 22-yard field goal to take a 9-7 lead but the blunder still tied the game as the ball sailed soundly through the end zone.
Scott Billeck, The Canadian Press