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August 26, 2017

Game Recap | WPG 34, MTL 31 (OT)

Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicker Justin Medlock, right, celebrates with teammate Matt Coates after kicking the winning field goal against the Montreal Alouettes during overtime in CFL football action Thursday, August 24, 2017 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

MONTREAL – The Winnipeg Blue Bombers – these Cardiac Kids, these Masters of Disaster – have certainly honed their flair for the dramatic.

The Bombers squeaked by the Montreal Alouettes 34-31 in double overtime Thursday night in a thrilling affair that once again had not only the 18,564 in attendance at Molson Stadium sliding to the edge of their seats, but left the Canadian Football League riveted.

And in the process, the Bombers have reached the halfway mark of the season at 7-2, courtesy of two overtime wins and another two games decided on the final play of regulation.

“You know what it is?” began Moe Leggett inside a jubilant Bombers dressing room, his face breaking into a wide grin. “A lot of us want to be actors. So we like the big stage.”

Do they ever, it would seem.

The win, Winnipeg’s fifth straight, certainly didn’t come easily. Facing a flock of angry Alouette birds after they were crushed on the weekend in Toronto – and a team that was a solid 3-1 here in downtown Montreal – the Bombers built an early 10-0 lead only to have the home side rally to tie the game at 10-10 by the intermission.

The Bombers looked to be in control late too, as they held a 23-13 fourth-quarter lead before the Als rallied with a Darian Durant-to-Ernest Jackson TD and then a Boris Bede 48-yard field goal that bounced off the right upright and in to tie the game with nine seconds remaining.

Both teams scored a TD and two-point conversion in the first extra frame – Winnipeg getting a Matt Nichols-to-Clarence Denmark score and Darvin Adams conversion; Montreal countering with a TD strike to B.J. Cunningham and a Brandon Rutley conversion.

Enter Bombers cornerback Chris Randle to grab the spotlight at the critical moment.

The Alouettes were first and 10 from the Bombers 23-yard line when Randle stepped in front of a Durant pass to snuff out Montreal’s second possession. And after a couple of Andrew Harris runs totalling four yards, out trotted Justin Medlock for a 39-yard field goal that sealed the deal.

“You see what happens when people throw at him?” said quarterback Matt Nichols. “He had two picks tonight (the first in the first half) and the second was huge. We got a touchdown off the first one, too.

“He’s a playmaker. He’s a team leader out here. That’s an unbelievable play.”

“We were in a cut coverage defence where I’m able to play a little more aggressive on routes,” added Randle when asked what he saw on the OT interception. “I had two sit-down routes, one on the outside and one on the inside, and I just had a read on the quarterback and I jumped it. It was a timely play. I was able to be there for my teammates and I’m happy we came out with the win.

“It’s the resiliency of this team, the mindset of this team… at no point in time on the sideline did we think we were going to lose the game. It all comes from the head coach, the leaders and all the players all over this team.”

Nichols finished the night 26 of 38 for 227 yards with three TDs – a pair to Denmark, the third to Julian Feoli-Gudino – while being intercepted once as the Bombers finished with 367 yards net offence.

Montreal cranked out 422 yards, but also had four turnovers – the two Randle interceptions, a Durant fumble and turnover on downs on a botched fake punt.

“Huge win,” said Nichols. “It’s our fourth time with us finishing on the last play of the game with points to win. Coach O’Shea talked about it in the locker room after the game: it’s the confidence this team has. We knew we were going to find a way to win.

“Your attitude is a deadly thing in this league and this team feels like we’re going to win every time we step on the field and guys stepped up and made plays in all phases.

“We’re a team that can play with anyone. We’re excited about where we are right now, but we understand that it’s only the halfway point and there’s a lot of football left to be played and a lot of records can flip flop and teams can go different directions.

“We get a couple of days rest here and then we know we’ve got a couple fistfights with Saskatchewan.”


 

THE BIG STAT

4: Turnovers forced by the Bombers, two Chris Randle interceptions, a turnover on downs and the recovery of a Darian Durant fumble by Moe Leggett after he sacked the Alouettes quarterback. The last one – Randle’s pick in OT – set up the winning points.

TRACKING HARRIS 1K-1K

Bombers running back Andrew Harris is attempting to become the first player in CFL history to finish a season with 1,000 yards rushing and receiving. He finished the night with 13 carries for 75 yards and added another four receptions for 31 yards.

Harris now has 570 yards rushing and 490 yards receiving at the midway mark of the season.

MILESTONE WATCH

Overshadowed in the win was the work of Alouettes receiver Nik Lewis, who moved past Geroy Simon to become the CFL’s all-time receptions leader with 1,031. Lewis was sensational for Montreal, pulling in 10 passes for 88 yards, 47 of them coming after the catch.

A post-game ceremony featured a speech from CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie and a video message from Simon.

NUMBERS GAME

178: Passes thrown between interceptions for Matt Nichols, who had his streak end on the final play of the first half in a Hail-Mary attempt.

4: Field goals for Justin Medlock on a perfect 4-for-4 night. He now has 32 at the midway point of the season, putting him on a pace for 64 that would break his own CFL record of 60, set last year.

17-5: The Bombers record in their last 22 regular season games dating back to late last July.

302: Rushing yards by the Alouettes in their two games against the Bombers – 183 when they met last month and another 119 Thursday night.

4: The total point difference in the two Bomber wins over Montreal this year – 41-40 in Winnipeg and then 34-31 last night.

7: Consecutive games in which the Bombers have scored at least 33 points.

THE COACH SAYS

“What gets you fired up on the sideline is there are a few mistakes here and there and some decisions the players would like to have back. But at no time are you standing on the sideline worried about the outcome. With these guys, when you look at the sideline – and I do look to see how they are reacting – at no time are they worried or concerned. They already know the outcome, it’s just how it is going to happen. If the outcome was different, I think they’d be shocked. It’d be ‘How did that happen?’ That’s a great feeling as a coach to look around and see that.” – Mike O’Shea.