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Blue Bombers execute perfect Banjo Bowl trick play

TREVOR HAGAN / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Roughriders' Tobi Antigha (92) and Kacy Rodgers III (45) battle with Bombers' Andrew Harris (33) to recover a fumble during the second half.</p>

TREVOR HAGAN / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Roughriders' Tobi Antigha (92) and Kacy Rodgers III (45) battle with Bombers' Andrew Harris (33) to recover a fumble during the second half.

If you were wondering what the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were plotting when they held two closed-door practices in a week of preparation for the Banjo Bowl, you got part of your answer Saturday afternoon at Investors Group Field.

Winnipeg staged likely the most perfectly executed trick play of the CFL season when, with the game tied 7-7 in the second quarter, Saskatchewan punter Josh Bartel dropped back to midfield for what began as a routine kick to Blue Bombers returner Kevin Fogg.

Bartel’s sidewinding kick was heading the southeast corner of the field, but Fogg, playing his part in the ruse, sprinted to the southwest corner, motioning wildly as his would-be blockers, while pointing at Fogg, set up a phony protection wall.

Teammate Mo Leggett, meanwhile, raced back to retrieve the ball which was dangerously close to bouncing out of bounds inside the Winnipeg 15-yard line.

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If you were wondering what the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were plotting when they held two closed-door practices in a week of preparation for the Banjo Bowl, you got part of your answer Saturday afternoon at Investors Group Field.

Winnipeg staged likely the most perfectly executed trick play of the CFL season when, with the game tied 7-7 in the second quarter, Saskatchewan punter Josh Bartel dropped back to midfield for what began as a routine kick to Blue Bombers returner Kevin Fogg.

Bartel’s sidewinding kick was heading the southeast corner of the field, but Fogg, playing his part in the ruse, sprinted to the southwest corner, motioning wildly as his would-be blockers, while pointing at Fogg, set up a phony protection wall.

Teammate Mo Leggett, meanwhile, raced back to retrieve the ball which was dangerously close to bouncing out of bounds inside the Winnipeg 15-yard line.

"Sometimes you never really know if it’s actually going to happen," chortled Fogg as he recounted his role in the play. "But I’m glad we called it. I’m glad for Mo. More than anything it was a great team win. More than anything I’m just glad he scored and we executed very well. I had everybody on me."

Clearly, the power of suggestion was too much for the Roughriders cover team and most of them converged on Fogg, who added some dramatic flair by falling down on the play. Leggett, meanwhile, sidestepped a couple of defenders and rumbled 97 yards for the major.

'You never truly know if he's going to shank it or not' — Mo Leggett on the trick play

"We knew what we were supposed to do," Fogg said. "We knew how it was supposed to go. I even had a good fall in there — like I tripped. And I had to try and meet him at the end zone. It was fun."

Leggett, who added a pick-six on a 54-yard interception return in the second half, was the hero of the game. But Fogg certainly deserved an Oscar nomination for his stagecraft.

The Bombers were prepared for Bartel’s twisting kick, which has some similarities to Justin Medlock’s boomerang kick (a side-winding boot Winnipeg’s kicker uses in shorter field situations).

"(Bartel) does a certain kick every time he gets a certain spot. It’s not a boomerang, it’s the Ozzie. Instead of it going like that, it flips like that," said Fogg, demonstrating the rotation of the ball.

"You never truly know if he’s going to shank it or not. It’s my job to wait until the ball’s kicked and then run over and make sure most of the attention’s on me."

Fogg was asked if the play was a recent addition to the playbook.

"This was last week, too," he admitted. "I don’t think I was supposed to tell you that."

Winnipeg’s perfectly executed return was remarkably similar to a bit of flim-flam pulled off by the St. Louis Rams during a Week 7 game against the Seattle Seahawks during the 2014 NFL season.

Following a Jon Ryan punt, the Rams behaved as if returner Tavon Austin was going to signal for a fair catch. Austin, however, was nowhere near the ball. As the Seahawks lurched toward Austin, Stedman Bailey caught the punt on the other side of the field and raced 90 yards for the TD.

Fogg said the Rams masterpiece served as a template for the Blue Bombers.

"We can’t do that because there’s no fair catch in this league," said Fogg, still giddy over the play. "... But it was cool. I was gonna use that fair catch, but I (fake a) fair catch when the ball’s actually coming to me. So it kinda sucked."

Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea was thrilled.

"It’s a good football play and it takes some good work and the guys are committed to it," O’Shea said. "It was well executed. (Special teams coach) Paul Boudreau has been very good for our team."

Playing with an edge

The Banjo Bowl provided a stage for some of the most physical play of the season. It often got downright chippy.

"Pretty much every run there was something going on in the scrum there," said Winnipeg tailback Andrew Harris who finished the game with 57 rushing yards on 12 carries.

"I mean, it was an intense game and I feel like it’s gonna be like that for the rest of the season. The West is so tight, tempers get flared and there’s a lot of emotion in this game."

The game atmosphere owed something to the fact the teams were playing for the third time this season — fourth if you include pre-season.

"Absolutely. Absolutely. Very physical," said Roughriders linebacker Henoc Muamba.

"There was a lot of shots after the whistle. It’s kind of tough to kind of gauge how to play the game when it’s like that, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to play the game the way it’s being refereed.

"We’re no pushovers. It was a physical game, but that’s the type of game we like and that’s the type of game I specifically like. But like I said, they played very well and they made enough plays to win the game."

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @sawa14

Read more by Mike Sawatzky.

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