Zach Collaros and Matt Nichols appear ready to begin the CFL regular season.
Collaros tossed two touchdowns and Nichols had one of his own as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers rallied for a 35-29 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Thursday in the final pre-season game for both teams.
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“Overall, I liked my reads, I made some good throws,” Nichols said. “It’s important to throw with live guys around you – I got to throw with some adrenaline. Overall, it was awesome to be out there and knock some of that rust off and be ready for Week 1.”
Nichols completed 7-of-14 pass attempts for 163 yards in two quarters of play.
Collaros, like Nichols, saw his first exhibition action on Thursday. In his two quarters, he matched his counterpart with 163 yards on 10-of-15 passing.
“We just wanted to go out there and execute and I thought we did a pretty good job,” Collaros said. “There will be things to clean up and things to assess when we’re watching the film.”
Collaros did not dress for the Riders in their first exhibition contest, a 37-1 loss in Calgary.
He missed four games due to injury in 2018, though he passed for 2,999 yards and nine touchdowns. He missed 17 games between 2016-17 when with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Collaros’ health will be paramount should the Riders make a run in the competitive West Division, home to the likes of Bo Levi Mitchell, Mike Reilly and Trevor Harris.
Saskatchewan’s offence overall sputtered in 2018 and ranked seventh in the CFL in scoring, averaging just 19 points per game.
Veteran receiver Naaman Roosevelt, who caught four passes for 67 yards and a touchdown, is confident the Riders offence will have a better showing in 2019.
“We knew that wasn’t us last year. We know we need to step it up,” he said. “We know there are people talking about us and saying we can’t do this and we can’t do that. We’re definitely motivated to get back and I know I’m motivated to get back to being a 1,000-yard receiver. This offence has a chip on its shoulder.”
Nichols had a solid season with the Bombers, passing for 3,146 yards and 18 touchdowns. The Bombers averaged a league-best 28 points per game a season ago when Nichols led the team to a 10-8 record and a playoff berth. They lost to eventual Grey Cup champion Calgary in the West Final.
Nichols connected with speedster Lucky Whitehead on an 86-yard touchdown. Whitehead had two catches for 106 yards. Kenny Walker also hauled in an 86-yard touchdown pass from backup Bryan Bennett.
Both Bennett and Sean McGuire looked sharp under centre for Winnipeg. Bennett completed 5-of-7 attempts for 120 yards. McGuire was 6-for-8 for 77 yards.
Newcomer William Powell led the Riders with 55 yards rushing on seven carries.
The Riders will open the regular season June 13 at Hamilton. Winnipeg will take on the host B.C. Lions on June 15.
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