Green has suddenly become the colour of success for Chris Jones.
Traditionally, the Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach/GM has donned black apparel on the sidelines. But the Riders have reeled off three straight wins since Jones began wearing the club’s green "Diversity is Strength" T-shirt.
So it’s no surprise Jones will again be clad in green Saturday when the Riders (6-4) visit the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (5-6) in the annual Banjo Bowl, the completion of their home-and-home Labour Day series.
Saskatchewan has been resourceful over its win streak, getting points from its offence, defence and special teams. Defensive back Nick Marshall, who played quarterback at Auburn, has scored four rushing TDs in the Riders’ last three games.
Starter Zach Collaros has been a tidy 62-of-96 passing (64.6 per cent) for 735 yards with two TDs and two interceptions over that span. Collaros completed 18 of 30 passes for 250 yards with a touchdown and interception in Saskatchewan’s 31-23 home victory over Winnipeg on Sunday, its 13th in 14 Labour Day contests versus the Bombers.
Winnipeg’s Andrew Harris ran for a game-high 158 yards on 15 carries (10.5-yard average). Harris leads the CFL in rushing with 963 yards (6.2-yard average), but didn’t practise Wednesday.
Saskatchewan’s defence held Winnipeg starter Matt Nichols to 14-of-26 passing for 166 yards. Nichols had a touchdown pass but also threw two interceptions as the Bombers suffered their third straight loss.
Nichols has come under fire in Winnipeg, which is 4-4 since his return from a knee injury. Although Nichols has completed 62 per cent of his passes, that’s down from 71 per cent last season when the Bombers (12-6) secured a home playoff game by finishing second in the West Division.
If the CFL playoffs were to begin today, the Bombers would cross over and become the No. 3 seed in the East Division and have to secure two road wins to advance to the Grey Cup game. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing considering Winnipeg is 4-2 versus Eastern clubs and just 1-3 versus Western rivals.
However, Nichols is 3-0 in the Banjo Bowl and Winnipeg has won the last three games and four of the past five. The Bombers also lead the Banjo Bowl series 8-6 overall.
Saskatchewan will be chasing its seventh sweep of the home-and-home series but first since 2014.
Ottawa Redblacks versus B.C. Lions (Friday night)
At Vancouver, Ottawa (6-4) looks to rebound from its 21-11 home loss to Montreal on Friday night. After three straight 300-yard games, quarterback Trevor Harris threw for 270 yards and had two picks. B.C. (3-6) is coming off the bye but has lost two straight and will be without receiver Manny Arceneaux (knee). There’s also talk running back-returner Chris Rainey, the CFL’s all-purpose yardage leader (1,525), could be benched.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats versus Toronto Argonauts (Saturday afternoon)
At Toronto, Jeremiah Masoli and the Ticats (5-5) look to make it two straight against the Argos (3-7) following their 42-28 home win Monday night. Masoli threw for 385 yards and three TDs as Hamilton erased a 28-21 deficit to improve to 5-0 at Tim Hortons Field on Labour Day versus its chief rival. The Double Blue desperately needs the win to have any shot at the playoffs, putting a lot of pressure on a defence that allowed 543 offensive yards against Hamilton.
Calgary Stampeders versus Edmonton Eskimos (Saturday night)
At Edmonton, Calgary (9-1) looks for a home-and-home sweep. Calgary ran its Labour Day win streak to seven straight when Rene Paredes connected from 43 yards out with no time remaining for a 23-20 decision Monday at McMahon Stadium. The Stampeders improved to 6-0 at home despite losing receiver Kamar Jorden (leg). Starting quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell suffered a knee injury but returned. The Eskimos (6-5) have lost two straight.
Last week: 3-1