Weston Dressler is once again a Roughrider, but the fan favourite's return was a footnote on a Labour Day Classic dominated by Saskatchewan's ground attack.
Running back Anthony Allen's 15-yard touchdown run with 28 seconds remaining in the game proved to be the crucial score for the Riders in their 35-30 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Sunday at Mosaic Stadium.
"It's probably not very pretty and it has a lot of people saying our offence is sputtering, but a win is a win," said Roughriders left guard Brendon LaBatte, whose team's sixth win in a row moved them into a three-way tie for first place in the West Division with a 7-2 record.
"We're doing what we need to do to get a win, and if that means running the ball then we'll do that. We have the group here to get that done."
Winnipeg's Lirim Hajrullahu kicked a 41-yard field goal with three minutes to go in the fourth quarter that gave the Bombers a slim 30-28 advantage. It was Hajrullahu's third field goal of the quarter and one that forced the Riders to come up with a late score to appease the 33,427 fans in attendance.
Allen, Darian Durant and Jerome Messam all rushed the ball on the decisive scoring drive. Durant put the ball in the air just twice, but otherwise leaned on his offensive line and stable of running backs to get the job done.
"It meant a lot for me for the coaches to trust me in that situation by giving me the ball," said Allen, who was bumped on the depth chart after a fumble earlier in the season.
"We know we have a great quarterback and he told us to keep being patient and that this game would eventually come to us. He would put the ball in our hands when the time came and for me that time came late in the fourth quarter."
Saskatchewan head coach Corey Chamblin admitted he was looking to exhaust the clock and maybe win the game with a last-second field goal.
Riders rushing game chips in
The Riders rushed for 160 yards in the game, led by Messam's 64 yards. Allen chipped in with 38 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, with 23 yards coming on the final drive. Allen's first touchdown was a three-yard run in the third quarter. Dressler, meanwhile, had three catches for 28 yards as the Riders eased the slotback back into the lineup following his return Thursday from NFL training camp with Kansas City.
"This is what this group is all about," LaBatte said. "When the game is on the line, whether it's running out the clock or driving for the win, we're getting stronger as the game goes on.
"We took the game over along the ground. That's always our goal."
Durant finished 14-for-26 passing for 204 yards and a touchdown, while Blue Bombers quarterback Drew Willy went 15 for 23 for 171 yards and one interception.
Winnipeg (6-4) trailed 14-7 at halftime and 21-7 midway through the third quarter before it rallied with a Willy touchdown run, followed by a 64-yard punt return for a touchdown from Troy Stoudermire. The Blue Bombers then assumed a 27-21 thanks to field goals from Hajrullahu.
Saskatchewan responded with a 59-yard touchdown strike to receiver Taj Smith that put the home team back in front 28-27 with 5:33 remaining in the fourth quarter. Hajrullaha struck again from 41 yards out with 2:58 to go, setting the table for the Riders' offence.
The Riders defence limited Nic Grigsby, the CFL's leading rusher, to 68 yards rushing and one touchdown on 15 carries.