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Visiting Green Nation stunned

Even some Blue fans surprised by big upset

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Winnipeg fan Shayne Montpetit (left) and Saskatchewan fan Don Gerlach face off before the Bomber-Saskatchewan game Sunday.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

Winnipeg fan Shayne Montpetit (left) and Saskatchewan fan Don Gerlach face off before the Bomber-Saskatchewan game Sunday.

Call it shock and awe.

Stunned football fans filed out of the Banjo Bowl in silence Sunday after the worst team in the CFL beat the best 25-13.

"It's crazy," said Saskatchewan Roughriders fan Kyle Lakness after attending his fifth Banjo Bowl.

"It hurt my feelings," said the sullen Regina man, still wearing a disposable white jumpsuit with green handwriting on it after his beloved Roughriders were bested by the troubled Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

"It's surprising," said Niki Hatchett from Regina, decked out in all her Riders regalia. She was at last weekend's Labour Day Classic in Regina and was expecting Saskatchewan to lay a similar whupping on Winnipeg as the 48-25 result last week.

Bombers fans also seemed dazed and confused by their team's win, only their second in 10 games.

"It wasn't the game I was expecting," said Jacob Love. He figured fans leaving the stadium were quiet because they'd screamed themselves hoarse during the game. "I'm losing my voice," said Love.

"It was loud," said his friend Ryan Henrie, 21. The Bombers' defence was definitely something to cheer about, holding the Roughriders' offence in check, Henrie said.

'They (Bombers) were driven to win. It's going to be a long ride home for Rider fans'

-- True Blue fan Don Peleck

Winning at home -- with so many Saskatchewan fans in the house to heckle -- was also a cause for raising glasses and voices, Corey Collins said.

"It was a lot of good-natured banter."

Four young women from Regina wearing green jerseys and matching eyeshadow agreed, saying the Manitobans they met all lived up to their friendly licence-plate logo.

"It was a good atmosphere," said Ashley Franke.

"The fans were pretty respectful," said Nicole Ward.

They were shocked, however, by the lack of fan fashion statements in Winnipeg.

"We were at the mall before the game and saw only one Bomber jersey," said Ward. In Regina, everyone shows their Rider pride on game days by wearing green, she said.

"You have to wear green to work," said Kaley Stallard.

Ward, Stallard, Franke and friend Meagan MacDonald discovered their Rider pride attire wasn't welcome at most nightclubs when they hit the town Saturday.

"They won't let you in," said Ward, who was told their green jerseys might incite a fight. The young women didn't think the lacklustre Winnipeg fans cared enough about their team to fight for it. Still, they said they'd return next year for more shopping, partying and Banjo Bowling. They were impressed by the big-city feel of the place and the new Investors Group Field.

"Your stadium is beautiful and it's huge -- like something from the NFL," said Ward.

On Sunday, for once, fans stayed put in it until the end of the game, said season-ticket holders Neil and Chris Murdoch. They're used to seeing people file out of Investors Group Field five minutes before the clock runs out on the losing home team.

That didn't happen Sunday.

"Nobody left," said a pleased and relieved Chris Murdoch.

Jamie Lauber happily stayed until the game ended.

"I expected a blowout," he said at a tailgate party near the stadium at the University of Manitoba campus.

But, for once, it wasn't a bitter end for Bomber fans like Lauber.

"We beat those Rider fans out of the stadium."

The taste of victory was sweet. A woman wearing Bombers gear handed out homemade, celebratory sugar cookies shaped like footballs to everyone -- including Saskatchewan fans.

"My God, we're just very happy," said Marlene Zuk, sitting on the back of a pickup truck. "The team and the fans have a right to celebrate," she said.

Not everyone was shocked by the Winnipeg victory.

"I was optimistic," said Bombers fan and armchair psychoanalyst Don Peleck.

"We haven't won a game and they were tired of getting a beat-down and they knew it was a sold-out game. They were driven to win. The Roughriders weren't as hungry for victory and it showed," Peleck said.

"It's going to be a long ride home for Rider fans."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 9, 2013 A3

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