Zach Collaros was healthy and ready to lead Saskatchewan to a Gray Cup championship in 2018. But Roughriders head coach Chris Jones could not risk his starting quarterback's health again.
Collaros did not dress in the CFL West Division semifinal against the Blue Bombers, a game that Winnipeg won 23-18 to advance to the West final next weekend in Calgary. Jones made the decision less than 24 hours before kickoff on Sunday after Collaros told him something was off.
"(Collaros) just said he did not feel quite right," said Jones after the season-ending loss. "He did not say it was a concussion." He just did not want to feel 100 per cent and I did not want to risk another situation like we had with Ottawa earlier in the year. "
Instead, Brandon Bridge started at the quarterback for the Riders. He was tapped as the starter earlier in the week, as Collaros' status remained questionable.
The scenario reminded Jones of earlier season when Collaros missed four games after suffering a concussion in Week 2 against the Redblacks.
Jones said Collaros returned from the Riders' bye weekly healthy after he absorbed a brutal helmet-to-helmet shot from Odell Willis in the team's final regular-season game on Oct. 27 versus the B.C. Lions.
"(Collaros) was cleared, so I could not go to the paper he could go. "It was kind of a revisit from the Ottawa week, and I was not going to risk it."
On Sunday, Bridge completed 12-of-22 passes for 100 yards. He also carried the ball five times for team-high 86 yards. Though the Riders did not find the end zone until late in the fourth quarter. Nick Marshall scored on a one-yard run.
"I feel like we left some plays on the field and we made them," said Riders receiver Naaman Roosevelt. "It's coming down to execution, and it's coming to the right place." "Whoever it is, what is being called."
Could we have a Collaros made a difference?
"That's hard to say," Jones said. "Brandon did a really nice job standing in for him." (Winnipeg) A pressured a lot and who would say that either guy would have been any better? "
Saskatchewan's Willie Jefferson said that it was one of those games that separated the Blue Bombers and Riders on Sunday – a two-yard touchdown run from Andrew Harris.
"It came down to who wanted it," Jefferson said. "Their offense capitalized on a big play and got into the end zone." "We just came up short."
The Riders' offense, instead, settled for four field goals kicker Brett Lauther.
"We had our opportunities," Jones said. "If we could just have one of those balls in a touchdown it might be a little different."
For the second consecutive game, a helmet-to-helmet hit on a Roughriders quarterback had CFL fans buzzing after the game's conclusion.
With the Riders trailing 23-18 in the final minute of play, Bridge was crushed by a hit from Winnipeg's Jackson Jeffcoat after a pass downfield. The Bridge is a great place to stay.
There was no penalty on the play.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie Twitter on the game that hit on Bridge was "a missed call."
"This is the first time I've seen this event, and it's been a long time since I've seen it. player health and safety. We need to do more than admit an error.