Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Justin Goltz celebrated his two rushing touchdowns by taunting the fans in the north end zone at Mosaic Stadium.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders chose to let their play do the talking.
Kory Sheets, Taj Smith and Geroy Simon scored two touchdowns each as the Roughriders improved to 8-1 for the first time in their 103-year history with a 48-25 win Sunday in the Labour Day Classic over the feisty Blue Bombers.
Simon’s second score, on a 10-yard pass from Darian Durant, capped a furious second-half rally that saw Saskatchewan overcome an 18-14 halftime deficit by outscoring Winnipeg 34-7 the rest of the way.
“We’re a winning team and we play football the right way,” said Simon. “Winning teams do things the right way whether you’re winning or you’re losing. We’ll take care of our business and let them do whatever they want.”
With their seventh straight loss, the league-worst Blue Bombers dropped to 1-8 for the first time since 1997.
Sunday’s game produced just the second and third touchdowns of the season for Simon who, until his injury-shortened 2012 season, hadn’t caught less than six in a year since 2002.
He entered the game fifth on the team with 219 receiving yards, putting him on pace for his worst year statistically in 12 seasons.
“I’ve been in this league for a long time and the ball just finds a way to get to me,” Simon said. “I’m in a new offence, I’m with a new quarterback and with new receivers. And we’ve got a running back that’s pretty frickin’ good. He’s getting the ball 25 times a game so the ball can’t go everywhere.
“I know that it’s gonna come and I just (have to) be prepared when it comes.”
Sheets was held to under 100 yards rushing for just the second time this season but came up big when it mattered, scoring on a three-yard pitch from Drew Willy in the first half to get the Riders on the board. He added a one-yard TD run on the opening series of the third quarter to put Saskatchewan ahead for good.
It was that drive, which was led by three catches from Chris Getzlaf for 71 yards, that gave the sellout crowd of 44,910 - the second largest ever for a football game at Mosaic Stadium - some life.
The Roughriders didn’t let off the gas either.
Chris Milo kicked his longest field goal of the season, from 47 yards, to make it 24-18 after the third quarter.
Durant threw a 40-yard pass to Weston Dressler on the first series of the fourth quarter, which led to an 11-yard TD grab by Smith and a 31-18 lead.
Goltz tried to make it interesting when he blew by Saskatchewan defensive back Dwight Anderson to complete a 46-yard touchdown run, but Anderson intercepted him on Winnipeg’s next possession which led to Smith’s second touchdown of the game and a 38-25 lead.
“I don’t think that anyone’s lost any confidence in this team at any point in time,” said Getzlaf, who finished with seven catches for 112 yards. “There’s no point in time where anyone has given up the fact that we could win a football game.”
Things went from bad to worse for the Blue Bombers when Mike Renaud’s punt was blocked by Spencer Moore, setting up a 23-yard field goal from Milo.
Prince Miller finished off Winnipeg when he returned another Goltz interception 41 yards to set up Simon’s second touchdown.
“Our defence really stepped up in the second half too and as a whole team the second half was pretty good football,” said Getzlaf.
Winnipeg linebacker Henoc Muamba kept the Riders’ offence in check for most of the first half by containing Sheets, who entered the game as the CFL’s leading rusher with 1,058 yards.
Muamba twice tackled Sheets for a loss, including once in the Saskatchewan end zone leading to a safety and the first points of the game.
Sheets finished the first half with 25 rushing yards after averaging over 130 per game through the first eight weeks of the season.
Muamba also became the first player to intercept a Roughriders pass all season when he picked a throw intended for Dressler.
But the good news ended there for Winnipeg, which built its slim half-time lead on a one-yard TD run by backup quarterback Jason Boltus, a six-yard scoring run from Goltz, Muamba’s tackle for a safety and two punt singles from Renaud.
Saskatchewan also scored in the first half on a 21-yard touchdown pass on a corner route from Durant to Simon.
“The testament of this team is ... when people do things to us in the first half we’ve been able to make some adjustments and come back solid in the second half,” said Roughriders head coach Corey Chamblin.
“The second half, like I said, when we’ve settled down you have to stay steady in the first half and in the second half you have to be able to win games.”
Durant finished 24 for 35 for 310 yards while Goltz was 18 for 29 for 182 yards.
Sheets finished the game with 91 yards rushing on 20 attempts. It was only the second game of the year he failed to reach the 100-yard plateau.
“As far as making history, I think that’s something that we’ll always remember and it gives guys something to play for,” said Chamblin. “And at the same time it puts us in a pretty good position after nine games.”
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