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July 4, 2022

Game Recap | WPG 23 TOR 22

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Drew Wolitarsky celebrates his touchdown with teammates Geoff Gray, right, and Brendan O'Leary-Orange during the first half of CFL football action against the Toronto Argonauts, in Toronto, Monday, July 4, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

TORONTO – The deep-dive analysis and the post-game autopsy will come in the days ahead. There will be time for that for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, even in the shortest week between games on their 2022 schedule.

But in the immediate aftermath of Monday night’s 23-22 victory over the Toronto Argonauts at BMO Field – the win sealed by a missed convert by Boris Bede with 25 seconds remaining – the Blue Bombers had collectively seemed to have just one thought in mind:

“We won,” said head coach Mike O’Shea with a grin. “Load up the plane and let’s go.”

Yeah, that works.

The Blue Bombers improved to 4-0 on the season on a night with one juicy subplot – the game marking the first meeting against old friend Andrew Harris since his departure to Toronto – against some familiar themes for the two-time defending Grey Cup champions.

Harris rushed for 111 yards on 22 carries in the latest chapter of a career filled with gritty performances, but this was another victory highlighted by just enough offence and some critical plays in critical moments by the ‘Dark Side’ defence.

Winnipeg generated 17 points off four turnovers and, despite surrendering just the second and third touchdowns against this year – including the potential game-tying score with less than 30 seconds remaining – still needed a blessing by the football gods on the Bede missed convert.

“That ending… I’ll just say Winnipeg is living right,” said cornerback Winston Rose, who opened the scoring with a Pick-6, with a smile. “God is on our side.”

The result keeps the Blue Bombers atop the West Division with a 4-0 record with Saturday’s quick turnaround visit to Vancouver to face Nathan Rourke and the B.C. Lions, now 3-0, coming quickly on the horizon.

It also ends a two-game losing streak for the Blue Bombers in Toronto, a place where Winnipeg has only won a dozen times against 38 losses and one tie dating back to 1990.

“It’s what the CFL is known for – the game is never over,” said linebacker Adam Bighill of the dramatic final minute. “They did a great job to make some plays and come down at the end. Fortunate for the miss at the end obviously, but it was a dogfight out there.

“Winning on the road, winning at home… I just look at it that we’ve got to win. I don’t care where we are. I expect our guys to play lights out football every single time. I don’t care if we’re home, away, if we’re in the parking lot, it’s morning, it’s at night, you’ve got flip-flops (on)… I don’t care. I expect us to play lights out football.”

THE BIG MOMENT

Let’s not complicate things here: the Argos had pulled to within a point with a McLeod Bethel-Thompson to Markeith Ambles TD with 25 seconds remaining. But Boris Bede’s convert attempt was way wide left and instead of heading to overtime the Blue Bombers exited with a 23-22 decision.

THE BIG STAT: 17

Points off turnovers by the Blue Bombers, courtesy Winston Rose’s 46-yard interception return TD, a Drew Wolitarsky touchdown after a Nick Taylor interception, a field goal following a pass that was called a forced fumble by Winston Rose in which Adam Bighill scooped the ball to Malcolm Thompson who lateralled it to Nick Taylor.

GAME BALLS

Offence: Dalton Schoen, Rec – Winnipeg’s offence was inconsistent – scoring 17 points in the first half and managing just two field goals in the finals 30 minutes – but the rookie receiver finished with a team-best five receptions for 73 yards, two of the catches converting second-down situations.

Defence: Nick Taylor, DB – Picked off his third pass of the season, had a team-high eight tackles and also returned the lateral from Thompson 42 yards to set up a field goal.

Special teams: Thiadric Hansen, DT – We could go with Marc Liegghio again as he did his job by hitting all three of his field goal attempts and – it’s worth noting, both converts – but Hansen led the club with four tackles on special teams.

NOTABLE

A number that somehow doesn’t get talked about enough around the league: the Blue Bombers are now 21-2 in the games Zach Collaros has started since being acquired at the trade deadline in October of 2019 – including Grey Cup wins that year and last season.

MILESTONE WATCH

  • LB Adam Bighill added four tackles to his career total and now needs just six more to pass former Blue Bombers LB Greg Battle and move into eighth place on the CFL’s all-time list. Bighill is at 761, Battle retired with 766 career tackles.
  • Greg Ellingson’s consecutive games with at least one reception now stands at 74. He ranks 43rd all-time in receiving yards at 8,220 yards.

FYI

  • Nick Taylor’s third interception of the season is a career high.
  • Drew Wolitarsky’s TD was his first of the season.

NEXT: The Blue Bombers are in the most gruelling portion of their 2022 schedule, a stretch that will see them play five of six tames on the road. The next game comes quickly, with the club in Vancouver this Saturday against  the B.C. Lions on Saturday, July 9th.

Winnipeg next home date is Friday, July 15th vs. the Calgary Stampeders, followed by road trips to Edmonton to face the Elks, a stop in Cowtown and then a visit to Montreal to play the Alouettes.