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August 15, 2019

Game Recap | BC 16 WPG 32

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have pulled in for a pit stop at the midway point of the Canadian Football League season on a two-game heater, but with one size-large question mark looming large for the days ahead.

The Bombers cranked out a 32-16 victory over the B.C. Lions in front of 24,914 fans on another perfect night at IG Field Thursday night – extending their home win streak to eight games – but also saw quarterback Matt Nichols leave the game in the fourth quarter due to an arm injury.

And so, the club’s solid 7-2 record at the halfway mark – good for first place in the West Division – doesn’t quite have the sunshine and rainbows vibe you might expect. Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea did not have an injury update on Nichols in his post-game availability, but added:  “I know he’s tough.”

Nichols was injured with just over nine minutes remaining after taking a blindside hit from Lions defensive end Shawn Lemon. He came off the field moving his throwing arm, but immediately motioned to the trainers and left for the locker room and was nowhere to be found post-game.

The veteran pivot was having a solid game, too, having completed 10 of 12 passes for 179 yards with a TD strike to Nic Demski, an interception that glanced off Drew Wolitarsky’s hands while also rushing for a TD on a QB sneak.

Chris Streveler finished up for the Bombers and was 0-for-3 with an interception, while also rushing six times for 23 yards.

“Matt is a good friend of mine, someone I spend a lot of time with and so anytime you see not only Matt but any teammate go down you feel for him,” Streveler said. “But my job is to step in there and close the ball game out there at that point.

“I feel for him and I talked to him for a bit when he comes out, but at that point you’ve got to focus up and close out the game. The defence did a great job getting stops, we got a couple first downs at the end and closed it out.

“That’s the position you’re in as a back-up – you’ve got to flush it and get out there, but that’s not to sell short how much I care about Matt and everyone on this team, so when a guy like him goes down not only me, but everyone in this locker room feels for him and hopes for the best.”

The injury to Nichols somewhat overshadowed what was a solid performance by the Bombers, who limited B.C. quarterback Mike Reilly to 177 yards passing, intercepted him once and sacked him a whopping seven times, while the special teams chipped in with a punt block scoop-and-score TD by Marcus Sayles.

Willie Jefferson, the Bombers disruptive force defensive end, registered one of those seven sacks, but also intercepted Reilly with Winnipeg leading 15-13 and returned it 30 yards to set up the Nichols QB sneak.

“That’s just me… I’m an athlete,” said Jefferson. “I don’t want to be known as just a pass rusher, I don’t want to be just known as a guy who can drop back and catch balls in the flat. I just want to be known as an athlete that can go out there and get the job done. Period.”

The night also had a rather historic component to it, as Bombers running back Andrew Harris became the CFL’s all-time leader for a Canadian player in yards from scrimmage (rushing and receiving), moving past Ben Cahoon into first place with 13,377 yards.

Harris also moved past Dave Thelen into 10th place on the CFL’s all-time rushing list and now has 8,477 yards along the ground. Worth noting: all nine players ahead of Harris on that list are in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

“Honestly, I was trying to downplay it, but I got super emotional when I saw the little video (on the scoreboard) and everyone started congratulating me,” said Harris. “I’m still at a loss for words, just based on all the people that have been around to help me out, the opportunity I got playing in B.C.

“I could never imagine myself being at this point in my career and at this point in my life to be doing things like this. There’s just a lot of respect and thanks to a lot of different people. It’s an accumulation of a lot of hard work and just opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it now and I’m happy we got the win and I can enjoy it with my teammates.”


THE BIG STAT: 8

Consecutive home wins for the Bombers, the longest home win streak in these parts since the Bombers racked up 10 straight at ole Winnipeg Stadium over the 1993 and 1994 seasons. The club record for consecutive home wins, just FYI, is 16 and was set between October of 1983 and October of 1985.

NOTABLE:

The Bombers inactive player was OL Cody Speller. That meant 2019 CFL Draft first-round pick Drew Desjarlais made his first start while Asotui Eli, another pick from this year’s draft, dressed for his first game… DE Craig Roh, who had a sack in the first half, left the game before the intermission and did not return. With Jackson Jeffcoat already out, that meant a ton of work in the second half for Willie Jefferson and Jonathan Kongbo, while Thiadric Hansen also got snaps on defence and finished with a sack and a forced fumble.

NUMBERS GAME

7: Sacks by the Bombers – two by veteran tackle Jake Thomas, with singles from Willie Jefferson, Adam Bighill, Thiadric Hansen, Jeff Hecht and Craig Roh.

3: Marcus Sayles punt block was his third as a Bomber in just 25 games as a Bomber.

4: Turnovers forced by the Bombers – two fumbles, one interception and one on downs.

NEXT:

Thursday’s game was the second leg of a five-game run against West Division rivals. The Bombers edged Calgary last week, took care of business against the Lions tonight, and will now head out on the road for two games away from IG Field with visits to Edmonton and then Regina for the Labour Day Classic before returning home for the Banjo Bowl. The club will then enjoy the second of its three bye weeks this season.