July 2, 2016

Game Recap: WPG 22, CGY 36

Andrew Harris (33) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the game at McMahon stadium in Calgary, AB. Friday, July 1, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

CALGARY – New uniforms, new pieces, new offence… and the same old, same old for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers deep in the heart of cowboy country.

The Bombers fell to 0-2 to start the 2016 Canadian Football League season in a 36-22 loss to the Calgary Stampeders that had all the ugly trademarks of so many other defeats at McMahon Stadium.

Winnipeg has now lost 13 of its last 14 contests here and is 3-22 at McMahon dating back to 1992.

“Quarters two and three were garbage,” said a livid Bombers coach Mike O’Shea after the game. “We weren’t playing football out there. Penalties… we didn’t tackle at all, we weren’t swarming to the ball, I don’t think we were catching the ball, we weren’t staying on the field, we weren’t getting off the field.

“It was just garbage. Two and three (quarters) were garbage.”

Coach Mike O’Shea

Indeed, there was actually a stretch of about 12 minutes in the second quarter in which the Bombers held a lead – courtesy a Macho Harris’ blocked field goal attempt that was returned to the Calgary two-yard line by Julian Posey before a QB sneak for a touchdown by Matt Nichols – but the rest of the movie was essentially a horror show for the visitors.

The Stamps rallied from down 7-3 early in the second for 30 unanswered points before some late scoreboard cosmetic surgery for the Bombers with TDs by Darvin Adams and Jace Davis.

Drew Willy (5) and Matt Nichols (15) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the game at McMahon stadium in Calgary, AB. Friday, July 1, 2016.  (Photo: Johany Jutras)

The Stamps racked up 516 yards total offence, including 207 along the ground, while the Bomber attack struggled to move the sticks for most of three quarters, but a strong finish did boost their offensive numbers to 414 yards.

When it was suggested afterward that the Stampeders seemed to have everything working offensively, O’Shea said:

“We gave up over 200 yards rushing. I don’t think everything was working. I think you’re going to see probably 20-30 missed tackles. That doesn’t mean everything is working, it means we weren’t tackling.”

O’Shea’s next answer – to the question about how to address that tackling issue – was telling.

“I tell ya, the hardest thing these guys have to do is put on the film and watch it with their teammates and see themselves turning down a hit or ducking their head and missing,” he said. “It’s painful. It’s painful when you watch it with your peer group. It’s not painful when your coach says, ‘Hey, you ducked your head’ or ‘Hey, you turned down a hit.’ It’s painful when you sit beside a guy in a meeting room and they know, everybody knows, you turned something down.”

Stampeders QB Bo Levi Mitchell, who is now 29-7 as a starter and 6-1 against the Bombers in his young career, completed 24 of 37 passes for 309 yards, with touchdown strikes to Marquay McDaniel and Simon Charbonneau-Campeau.

Andrew Harris (33) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the game at McMahon stadium in Calgary, AB. Friday, July 1, 2016.  (Photo: Johany Jutras)

Calgary was just as effective along the ground as Jerome Messam, who has done this before against the Bombers, rumbled 16 times for 137 yards – a bruising 8.6 yard average per carry. The Stamps change-of-pace tailback, Tory Harrison, rushed for 40 yards on just five carries and one score, as did Canadian QB and short-yardage specialist Andrew Buckley on a one-yard TD.

The Bombers did show a pulse late in the game when Willy and the offence worked an up-tempo attack to make the score respectable. But, as was the case in last week’s loss to Montreal, the quarterback’s numbers – 32 of 43 for 358 yards – and the final stats for the offence were misleading.

“We gave it a good go there in the end, but we have to be way better in the first half and everybody knows that in our locker room,” said Willy. “It hurts. We need to really look ourselves in the mirror and go out there next week and give everything we have. It’s unacceptable in the first half right there.

“We have to look at this film, be very critical of ourselves and be tough on yourself and make sure you don’t make the same mistake.”

The Bombers are in Hamilton next week, before returning home to face the Grey Cup champion Edmonton Eskimos and Stampeders again.

“The first step after we get back and watch the film is to ask yourself, ‘Was I running as hard as I need to be? Could I have done a better job of wrapping up? Did I get to the ball?’ Those kind of things,” said Bomber defensive end Jamaal Westerman.

Finally, asked afterward if he was worried about his future as the coach, O’Shea gave a succinct answer.

“No. I never have been,” he said. “There’s so much going on on a daily basis to worry about coaching the team, you don’t worry about those things.”




20:39 – Time of possession in the first half for the Stampeders. The Bombers held the ball for just 9:21.

39 – Yards rushing by Drew Willy, leading the Bombers. Andrew Harris managed just 13 yards on eight carries, but did finish with a game-high nine catches for 87 yards.

73 – Stamps D-lineman Charleston Hughes finished with one sack, moving him past Stu Laird into second place on Calgary’s all-time sacks list with 73.

1 – Calgary improved to 1-1 and, after losing its opener last week in B.C., avoided losing back-to-back for the first time since the second and third weeks of the 2012 season. That span of 71 games is the longest a team has avoided consecutive defeats in CFL history.

32-7 – The touchdown-to-interception ratio of Calgary QBs in winning 13 of their last 14 at McMahon Stadium.

14-16 – The touchdown-to-interception ratio of Winnipeg QBs in losing 13 of their last 14 at McMahon Stadium.

NOTABLE: LB/DB Teague Sherman did not dress, allowing 2016 draft pick Taylor Loffler to suit up for his first CFL game… Another Bomber draft pick from this year, defensive end Trent Corney, registered his first career sack with a first quarter bring-down of Mitchell… The victory was the first for new Stampeder head coach Dave Dickenson, who replaced John Hufnagel, now solely the GM.