(Regina) The Winnipeg Blue Bombers defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders 20-13 on Sunday in the Western Division final and advanced to the Gray Cup final.
The Bombers will face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats next Sunday in Calgary. The Ticats crushed the Edmonton Eskimos 36-16 earlier Sunday in the Eastern Division final.
"We are getting closer to our ultimate goal," said Blue Bombers head coach Mike O'Shea. I do not think they will be happy with their performance and we will not be happy either until we win the trophy. "
Kenny Lawler grabbed a touchdown pass and Justin Medlock scored four kickoffs to help the Blue Bombers win.
Roughriders kicker Brett Lauther also scored four defeats.
The Saskatchewan squad dominated the West in the regular season with a 13-5 record, ahead of the Calgary Stampeders (12-6) and Bombers (11-7).
The Blue Bombers will be competing in the Gray Cup final for the first time since 2011 when they lost 34-23 to the BC Lions. The Winnipeg squad has not raised the precious trophy of the Canadian Football League since 1990.
Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros completed 17 of 25 passes for 267 yards through the air and also launched a touchdown pass. It was his third start in the Bombers' uniform after being acquired from the Toronto Argonauts on Oct. 9.
Collaros was the starter of the Tiger-Cats in 2014, when they were beaten by the Stampeders. Five years later, he will have the chance to play in the Gray Cup final against his former team.
"My first three years I thought I was going to do this every year," Collaros said after the victory.
"I quickly realized that not everyone was lucky enough to do that. It is precious and you must cherish the moment. It's not easy to go there. It's hard to put words on how I feel, but it's an exciting feeling. "
Roughriders starter Cody Fajardo played Sunday's game as he was injured in an oblique muscle. Which explains why he could not move the ball as aggressively as if he had been in good form. He did 27 of his 41 passes for 366 yards.
"As an attack, we do not deserve to win this match," said Fajardo. We positioned ourselves three times between the five-yard line and the end zone and were unable to score a touchdown. "
Collaros's complicity with ground-attacking quarterback Chris Streveler, who helped the Bombers win against the Calgary Stampeders, was not exploited so much on Sunday because of Streveler's foot injury.
Streveler, who had 82 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Stampeders last week, kicked an incomplete pass in his only appearance of the first-half match.
The Roughriders' defense was ready to see Streveler run in the second half and limited him to 10-yard gains in four carries.
As they trailed 20-13 with three minutes left, the Roughriders missed two golden opportunities that could have given them the win.
With his team on the eight-yard line with four seconds to go, Fajardo tried to join one of his players in the pay zone. The ball hit the horizontal bar of the post in the end zone.
"It really makes my heart ache. Just the fact that I did not have the chance to do it properly, explained Fajardo. When you hit the post like that, it's dead. I felt we had a well positioned guy. "
Earlier, with 2: 37 remaining, Winnipeg's defense pushed Fajardo away as he attempted a quarterback at the line of a yard.
Trailing 17-7 early in the fourth quarter, the Roughriders placed third quarterback Bryan Bennett in the center to attempt a touchdown. A lack of communication between the players, however, deprived the premises of a major and they had to settle for a placement of 12 yards.
Fajardo found his pace late in the fourth quarter and led a 94-yard attack that was stopped close to the pay zone.
Collaros led the Bombers to their touchdown on a 107-yard offense. It was the longest CFL playoff heat since the Western Final in 2011, while the Eskimos went on a 108-yard run over the Lions.