Andrew Harris (33) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers after winning the 107th Grey Cup game between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, AB, Sunday, November. 24, 2019. (Photo: Johany Jutras/CFL)
CALGARY – The tumbleweeds and dust clouds that long swirled over Bomber Nation for almost three decades were wiped out Sunday night by a giant blue and gold tsunami.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers ended a 28-year championship drought – the longest in club history — with a 33-12 mauling of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 107th Grey Cup in front of 35,439 fans at McMahon Stadium here in Calgary for the franchise’s 11 championship and first since 1990.
So, yes, bulk up on your headache medicine Bombers fans and remember to call in sick on Monday – and maybe Tuesday and Wednesday — because this party and, ultimately, the accompanying hangover could last a spell.
After all, there’s a whole lot of celebrating to make up here, as 10,591 days had passed between the faded glory of 1990 and what unfolded Sunday night in southern Alberta.
“It’s a dream come true,” began Andrew Harris, who was named the game’s MVP and the Most Valuable Canadian – a first in the history of the Grey Cup. “Getting to this game was a goal of mine and winning the game was a goal of mine.
“When you set goals and you have a plan and you envision things and when it comes true it’s amazing how put all that together and accomplish your dreams and goals.”
Four significant storylines emerged in the wake of the victory separate from the end of the Bombers long championship drought.
First, there was Harris who rushed 18 times for 134 yards and a TD and also pulled in five passes for another 35 yards and a score.
“Unbelievable,” said Bombers guard Pat Neufeld. “Best player in the CFL. He had that look in his eyes today that he wasn’t going to be stopped. He came out and he was the best player on the field. Period. He’s the most relentless football player I’ve ever been around in my life. That guy will die for a win for this team. He was more than willing to do that today and we followed him.”
Second, there was the work of quarterback Zach Collaros, who was a solid 17 of 23 for 170 yards and improved his record as the Bombers starter to a perfect 4-0.
“These last four games total and last five-six weeks of football have been a lot of fun,” said Collaros. “I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun playing the game, practising and going to meetings. It’s just been an amazing time.
“Everyone I’ve been in the town it’s been cool. Saying hello to people and having people wishing me luck. It’s been great. I’m happy the drought is over for all the fans.
“It’s amazing. We’re really excited to bring the cup back to Winnipeg.”
Third, a salute to the men in the Bombers trenches – the O-line for opening gaping holes for Harris, Chris Streveler and Nic Demski who combined to rush for 186 yards.
And, not to be overlooked, was the work of the defence, which forced an astonishing seven turnovers and limited one of the most-explosive offences to just one TD and 298 yards net offence.
“We did a lot of film study, a lot of meetings, a lot of talking, a lot of practice,” said defensive end Wilie Jefferson, who was phenomenal with two tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles in arguably his best game as a Bomber. “This was the only team we didn’t beat in the regular season. This was a statement game for us. We had to come in and show those guys we weren’t the same team we played in the regular season.
“We knew if we could get to Dane (Evans, Hamilton QB), make him uneasy and get him off his spot. We put a couple licks on him, got him on the ground a couple times and then did the same thing to (Brandon) Banks. Then we had the game in the bag.”
The Bombers led 8-3 after the first quarter, forcing three turnovers – an interception and fumble by Evans and stuffing a third-down gamble – but the Ticat defence mostly held firm, aside from a Harris 15-yard TD run. Winnipeg would be up 21-6 at the intermission after Harris caught his TD pass from Chris Streveler and two Justin Medlock field goals.
Expecting some sort of punch back from the Ticats in the second half, the Bombers instead kept their foot on the gas and slowly squeezed the life out of the Ticats with four more Medlock field goals countering Hamilton’s only score, a Bralon Addison TD.
But it was the work in the trenches that truly set the tone.
“We’re the Grey Cup champions. And all I know is when I die my name is going to be on that iron over there,” said right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick, nodding toward the Grey Cup. “If you look at every game we won this year it looked like this, with us dominating the line of scrimmage.
“I don’t think anybody picked us, but us. And Andrew? This is for Winnipeg and he’s from Winnipeg, so we did it for him, for everyone.”
This crew will now join the 11 other championship teams in the Bombers 89-year history. And what made it special? Good question.
“It just comes down to we’ve got the guys, we’ve got the locker room, we’ve got the unity, we’ve got the team, we’ve got the family, we’ve got the guys that believe and care and put in the work,” said Adam Bighill. “We’ve got the coaching staff that loves us and we love them back. It was destined to be.”
THE BIG STAT | 7
The Bombers forced seven turnovers – two fumbles, two interceptions and three times on downs – to boost their playoff total to 14 in just three games
Winnipeg’s turnover ratio in the playoffs was an incredible +13.
The Bombers became the first third-place team to win the Grey Cup since the 2005 Edmonton Eskimos. Since 1953 third-place teams are now 6-4 in Grey Cup games, with the winning teams being the Eskimos (’05), B.C. Lions (’00, ‘94), Saskatchewan (’89) and Montreal (’70).
The three longest droughts in Bombers franchise history were all ended with wins over the Tiger-Cats in Grey Cups. The 1958 Bombers ended a 17-year drought with a 35-28 win over the Tabbies, the 1984 Bombers stopped a 22-year drought with a 47-17 victory over Hamilton and Sunday’s win, again against the Ticats, stopped the 28-year absence from the winner’s circle.
11: Grey Cup championships for the Bombers: 1935, 1939, 1941, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1984, 1988, 1990 and now 2019.
6: Winnipeg has won its last six postseason games against Hamilton since a loss to the Ticats in the 1989 East Final.
6: Justin Medlock connected on six field goals, from 45, 17, 39, 41, 17 and 18.
24-1: Since 1988 the teams that had the better turnover ratio in the Grey Cup are now 24-1. Only the 2014 Stampeders made more turnovers than the opponent and still won.
40-45: Justin Medlock’s career playoff field-goal numbers.