CFL Pass

Vanstone: Banjo Bowl seldom bowls anyone over

Robservations …

• The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are about to play their second consecutive game without star tailback Andrew Harris, who is completing a CFL-issued suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. Stay tuned for the Banned-jo Bowl!

• Yes, that was awful — arguably worse than any number of Banjo Bowls.

• Obscured by all the hype surrounding Saturday’s Banjo Bowl between the Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders is the reality that, in most cases, the game proves to be unexceptional. Fifteen Banjo Bowls have yet to produce a game for the ages — something that resonates like any of the best Labour Day Classics.

• Last year’s Banjo Bowl — won 32-27 by the Roughriders — went down to the wire, but it was a shoddy spectacle. Four passes resulted in touchdowns, but three of them were scored on interception returns. The starting quarterbacks had (d)efficiency ratings of 59.9 (Zach Collaros, Saskatchewan) and 15.6 (Matt Nichols, Winnipeg). Neither player finished the game.

• Sandro DeAngelis kicked a 40-yard field goal on the final play to give Saskatchewan a 25-24 victory in the 2012 Banjo Bowl. After Winnipeg’s Mike Renaud punted for a single — Bombers head coach Tim Burke controversially opted against attempting a 43-yard field goal with an advantageous wind — Drew Willy moved the visitors 43 yards in three plays to set up the climactic kick. The game, as a whole, was what one would expect from a quarterbacking duel between Willy and Joey Elliott. Saskatchewan’s Darian Durant left the game early in the first quarter after suffering a hip injury. Weston Dressler was also sidelined. You get the idea. Next …

• The uncontested best Banjo Bowl was played in 2008, when Luca Congi kicked a 28-yard field goal as time expired to give Saskatchewan a 34-31 victory in Winnipeg. Congi’s decisive kick was set up by a 45-yard pass from Michael Bishop to Gerran Walker. The Bombers led 31-14 with 11 minutes left before Bishop threw two TD passes and Congi kicked a pair of field goals. But the one game that was a classic exhibition of three-down football was played 11 years ago. It has seldom been mentioned since then. If the comeback had been guided by a member of Roughriders royalty, such as Durant or Kerry Joseph, the 2008 Banjo Bowl would be widely and affectionately remembered. Bishop, for all his brilliance in that 2008 visit to Winnipeg, was unceremoniously dumped at season’s end, following an ugly playoff defeat.

• The Roughriders should wear their retro jerseys, which were on display during Sunday’s 19-17 victory over the visiting Blue Bombers, for every home game. The typical green-on-green look is a wardrobe malfunction.

• Chris Jones was in charge of the Roughriders’ football operations when they squandered the first-overall draft pick on offensive lineman Josiah St. John in 2016. Once you get past that ill-advised selection, though, the Roughriders actually drafted quite well under Jones. The last three first-rounders — linebacker Cameron Judge (2017), guard Dakoda Shepley (2018) and receiver Justin McInnis (2019) — all started on Sunday. So did guard Dariusz Bladek, a second-rounder in 2017.

• What happened to all the critics of Roughriders offensive co-ordinator Stephen McAdoo? (Yes, I was one of them. Roll credits …)

• Nice people who deserve a plug: Dr. Maryam Al-Hayki, Amanda Mahoney, Andrew Hamilton, Mason Harris, Ben Berger, Josh Donnelly, Sam Varao, Marg Hryniuk, Jan Hanson, Greg McCulloch, Wanda Harron, Austin McKee, Scott Johnston, Andrew Raczynski, Lee Jones, Taylor Rattray, Heather Anderson, Bryn Hadubiak, Alex Palandri, Kaylor Coons, Betty Lou Gaudette, Jean Freeman, Matt Mosewich, Jon Ryan and Ella Denzin.


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