The Winnipeg Blue Bombers duel threat tailbacks teamed up for 241 combined yards and 3 touchdowns in a 30-26 season opening win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders Saturday evening at Mosaic Stadium.
Paris Cotton ripped off 108 yards on the ground and added 59 yards and a major through the air. His fellow running back Cameron Marshall added 2 majors of his own, one on the ground and one in the air.
It was the first Winnipeg win in Saskatchewan in 3,948 days after going 0-11 in Regina since 2004.
A long off-season for the Riders after exiting the playoffs in the first round was even longer for Darian Durant who spent the second half of the year on the injured list with a dislocated elbow suffered against these very same Bombers.What was a loss for the Riders was made even more troublesome given what happened to starting quarterback Darian Durant. The Riders leader sustained an injury just before halftime and was carted off the field.
Durant was 13 of 18 for 165 yards and 2 touchdowns before he left. Veteran backup Kevin Glenn entered for the remainder of the game.
Early reports indicated that he suffered an Achilles injury but nothing was confirmed immediately.
Durant joins a list of quarterbacks that have gone down in Week 1. The Toronto Argonauts started the season without Ricky Ray and the Alouettes lost Jonathan Crompton and Dan LeFevour. The Edmonton Eskimos look like they will be without Mike Reilly for some time after he too was carted off the field early in the day vs. the Argos.
After each offence felt each other out for most of the first half, the Bombers struck first when Willy led an impressive six-play drive where he completed passes to Nick Moore, Clarence Denmark and Justin Veltung before hitting Cotton on a screen pass for a 5-yard touchdown pass.
An early 7-0 lead was only briefly enjoyed however as the Riders countered with a score of their own as the second quarter began.
After RB Anthony Allen took a direct snap and rumbled for a 22-yard gain, slotback Taj Smith hauled in a Durant pass on crosser and out-ran the Bombers defence for a 36-yard touchdown to tie things up.
Smith is looking for somewhat of a bounce-back season after a stellar 2013 where he generated 1,007 yards and 7 touchdowns. An injury-plagued 2014 saw him only put up 397 and a trio of majors.
In what was a defensive battle early on quickly became an offensive showcase in the second frame.
First, the Bombers leaned on their two tailbacks to restore the lead as a 20-yard scamper by Cotton helped set up a 10-yard and 2-yard runs by Marshall who used the latter to put Winnipeg back up 14-7.
Like their previous lead, it was short-lived. The ensuing drive saw Durant step into a deep ball which fell right into the arms of sophomore receiver Ryan Smith who was in behind coverage. It was 52-yards later and Smith was in the endzone untouched.
Durant’s injury occurred on the Riders final drive of the half, one that had already lost veteran linebacker Shea Emry and started without receiver Weston Dressler who was a late inactive.
Enter the league’s most reliable insurance policy in Glenn who decided to match the dominant rushing attack of the Bombers. On the second play from scrimmage in the half, Glenn handed the ball off to Jerome Messam and the hulking veteran trucked down field 53 yards for a touchdown.
Durant Down and Out for the Season
Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant is carted off the field after sustaining an injury. He did not return and was seen on crutches as the second half started. After the game it was confirmed that he will miss the rest of the season with a ruptured Achilles ... Read More | Watch More.
Saskatchewan’s next drive saw Messam and Allen team up for 51 yards but it went for not as Chris Milo pulled a 35-yard field goal attempt wide right.
Cue the Bombers backfield who teamed up to tie the ball game once more. First, Cotton juked his way to a 31-yard scamper and then Marshall took a handoff 11-yards for a major. His 2-point conversion on the next play tied the game up at 23 near the end of third quarter.
A Milo field goal gave the Riders a 26-23 lead with just over 10 minutes remaining.
|The Bombers, however, just kept bouncing back.
Willy calmly led a critical fourth-quarter drive, connecting with Denmark and Darvin Adams for first downs before throwing a strike to Moore who dove to snag the 18-yard touchdown to lift Winnipeg to a 30-26 lead.
The big question mark for the Riders will be the quarterback situation which looks like it will rest in the hands of Glenn who prepares for the Toronto Argonauts.
The Bombers will head home to host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Investors Group Field.