Final nail in coffin?

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

The place was rockin' as the contest entered the fourth quarter.

The new running back, Joe Smith, just scored on a one-yard run to put the Winnipeg Blue Bombers up 31-14.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders looked like they were going to go gently into the cool, late-summer night.

Winnipeg's season was about to turn around with the win. The solid chunk of 29,770 spectators who were Bomber fans could feel it.

Then they played the final 11 minutes of the fifth annual Banjo Bowl at Canad Inns Stadium.

STUNNING

They were 11 minutes that will go down as one of the worst 11-minute spans in Bomber franchise history.

Backed by the arm of Roughriders quarterback Michael Bishop, Gang Green scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and might have hammerd the final nail into the Bombers' coffin for 2008.

Luca Congi's 29-yard field goal as time expired lifted the Roughriders to a stunning 34-31 victory. Bishop set up the winning play with a 45-yard pass to Gerran Walker, who was making his CFL debut yesterday, on the play before.

Bombers head coach Doug Berry kept the post-game message remarkably positive, at one point telling they players that they should be proud of how they hung with the best team in the league.

"Coach is the optimist," defensive end Tom Canada said in a dead silent locker-room. "He's like the most positive person I've ever met.

"If I were the head coach, I would've come in here and, I don't know, probably killed someone, probably strangled somebody or used helmets to bash people's faces in. But he comes in every bit more positive than he was last week."

Saskatchewan, which beat Winnipeg 19-6 in last weekend's Labour Day Classic, improved to 8-2. The Bombers fell to 2-8 and shouldn't be suprised if more big changes, like last week's Charles Roberts-for-Smith trade, occur in the next few days.

The Bombers, however, are still only four points out of second place in the East Division. They will visit the team they're chasing, the Toronto Argonauts (4-6), on Friday.

If you looked up implosion in the dictionary, it would tell you to go find a stronger word to describe what happened to the Blue and Gold yesterday.

Bishop, who completed 24 or 30 passes for 370 yards, first hit Weston Dressler with a 45-yard touchdown bomb with 10:53 left in the fourth quarter and then found Vincent Marshall for a 32-yard strike that made it 31-28 with 4:50 remaining.

The Riders got the ball back and tied it up on Congi's 17-yard field goal with 1:14 to go. After Winnipeg receiver Derick Armstrong dropped a pass on second-and-four with 50 seconds remaining, the Bombers had to boot it away again.

Alexis Serna didn't help matters by punting a 26-yarder to Saskatchewan's 28-yard line, and three plays later Bishop hit Walker.

'ESCAPED US'

Congi then finished off the reeling Bombers, who fittingly had too many players on the field for the deciding play.

"I can't remember a game more important in the regular season to a team that was struggling like we are ... and letting something get away like that," defensive tackle Doug Brown said. "We needed this win so bad, and it escaped us.

"It's crushing. It's the worst feeling in the world, to have that opportunity right in front of you and to just see it slip away."

Smith saw limited action and had 33 yards on 11 carries in his Bomber debut, and Brown said maybe it's the defence's turn for a shakeup.

"You hate to say it, but our offence responded when we had that change, and our defence gave it up today," he said. "What are we going to do? How are we going to argue whatever moves they may or may not want to make."


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