Ed Gainey was at it again.
Two weeks ago, the Riders defensive back was busy catching a franchise record with four interceptions in one game. He went quiet last week against Edmonton — at least in the interception department — but came roaring back with two more Sunday afternoon as the Riders beat the Bombers 38-24.
The first interception shut down Matt Nichols and the Bombers offence early in the game. Gainey ran it back 30 yards to put the offence on the four-yard line. The second put an end to a late game Bomber drive that could have made the game a little too close for comfort.
“I’m just having fun out there,” Gainey said about that final interception. “I kind of looked to their sideline to give them a little gesture like ‘you all ain’t getting anything over here,’ trying to get them to throw it my way —and they did, and I was able to be on top of my game and just make the play.”
But he wasn’t the only one at the top of his game.
Kevin Glenn shone brightly in his 200th career start, going 26 of 36 for 386 yards and three touchdowns.
Bakari Grant, Naaman Roosevelt and Duron Carter all caught for over 100 yards each.
“We throw the ball a lot,” Glenn explained after the game. “When you throw the ball a lot, you get those sorts of numbers … I’m a firm believer in my ability, but I’m also a humble person where I understand it’s not just me.”
It was an effort that had all three phases of the game firing on all cylinders — from the high-flying offence to an impressive return by Nic Demski and, of course, the hawk-eyed Gainey.
But it all started with a high scoring first half. By the time it was over, the Riders were up 34-16 on their rivals.
The Riders opening drive started with quick passes to Roosevelt and Demski but stalled on the 42-yard line bringing in Tyler Crapigna to kick the first field goal of the game. Crapigna was good from 50 yards out to make it 3-0.
The Bombers responded with a field goal of their own after their drive stalled on the Rider 38-yard line.
On the next drive, a busted coverage play by the Bombers left Roosevelt wide open and he caught a 25-yard pass and ran another 28 straight into the end zone.
The point after was good, putting the Riders up 10-3 with about five minutes left in the quarter.
But it didn’t stay that way for long. No sooner than Nichols gets the ball back, he throws it into the arms of Gainey for his fifth interception of the season.
Gainey landed on the Bombers four-yard line and, after a three-yard scamper by Marshall, Vernon Adams Jr. Came in for short yardage and found the end zone.
With three minutes left in the quarter, the Riders were up 17-3.
And they didn’t stop there. Nic Demski, who later ended up leaving the game injured, ran back the punt return 63 yards to end up on the Winnipeg nine-yard line. Glenn connected with Rob Bagg for the third Rider touchdown of the first quarter.
The Bombers got the ball back to start the second and, after having a Timothy Flanders touchdown pass called by for an illegal block, Nichols went back to him again — this time the touchdown counted.
With 11 minutes left in the half, the Riders were up 24-10.
After pinning the Riders in their own end, a no yards penalty started the Bombers drive on the Riders 38-yard line. However, the green and white defence was able to hold the line and Winnipeg settled for a field goal.
That’s when the Rider offensive onslaught continued. Glenn tossed a perfect seven-yard pass to Bakari Grant, which he ran another 43 yards. Glenn found a wide open Carter next for the Riders fourth touchdown of the half, and Carter celebrated with a robot dance in the end zone.
The Roughriders forced a two and out on the Bombers, and Glenn got the ball back with time to march the offence back down the field.
Despite being aided by a 48 yard rush by Marshall, the Riders missed on their first attempt to find the end zone and Glenn was sacked by Sam Hurl on the second.
Glenn was visibly angry on the sidelines, and he was pointed about the play in his post-game interview.
“Winnipeg never stopped, never stopped fighting — no matter what the score was,” explained Glenn. “You have to produce touchdowns instead of field goals.”
Fortunately, Crapigna was good from 20 yards out, making it 34-13 with roughly two minutes left in the half.
The Bombers answered with a 53-yard field goal of their own. The Riders offence strung together a couple of catches to run the clock out and the Riders took a 35-16 lead into halftime.
After forcing a Bombers two and out, the Riders went on a five-minute march down the field, which included another appearance from Adams Jr., but the drive ended with a 21-yard field goal.
The Riders were up 37-16 with about eight minutes left in the third.
The quarter ended without any further scoring. In fact, the Riders only scored four points in the final two quarters of the game — something both head coach Chris Jones and Glenn found concerning.
“We didn’t play great football, we played good football. When you give up 400 yards offence, you can never say you played great,” Jones said.
“You’ve got two halves to play,” he added. “Unfortunately, we’ve yet to figure that out.”
The Bombers showed some of the same end-of-the-game fight they usually do, and took advantage of excellent field position. Nichols found running back Andrew Harris for their second major of the game.
Just as it looked like the Bombers were going to come back for one more, Ed Gainey got his mitts on his second interception of the game, sealing it for the green and white.
“As a leader of the team, you let the guys enjoy it. But when you come back to watch the film, we need to focus on (closing out football games),” Glenn said.
For now, there’s a lot to enjoy. The Roughriders are now in fourth place in the west division, and if the playoffs began tomorrow, they are in place to earn the crossover bid.
The Roughriders have Monday off before returning to practice on Tuesday.
The green and white travel to Winnipeg to complete the home and home series on Saturday.
ODDS AND ENDZONES
Cameron Marshall and Nic Demski left the game with injuries Sunday afternoon. Jones said one has an ankle injury and the other a knee. Both are doubtful next week.
Henoc Muamba and Erick Dargan lead the defence with seven defence tackles each.
Willie Jefferson registered the Riders only sack of the game.
Tyler Crapigna kicked a season high field goal, find the uprights from 50 yards out. He made two others from shorter distances.
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