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October 16, 2022

Game Recap | WPG 32 BC 40

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Dru Brown passes during the first half of CFL football game against the B.C. Lions in Vancouver, on Saturday, October 15, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER – Let’s begin with this big-picture take in the immediate aftermath of what unfolded at B.C. Place Saturday night and especially before any possible overreactions and criticisms even gain an inch of momentum: The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will still play host to the Canadian Football League’s Western Final on November 13th, still have the best record in the land and still have tied a franchise-record with 14 wins.

So, in that respect, absolutely nothing has changed for the club in the wake of an occasionally sloppy but also somewhat inspired effort in a 40-32 loss to the Lions – especially knowing the roster the Blue Bombers fielded.

With first place secured, the team rested quarterback Zach Collaros, offensive linemen Stanley Bryant, Jermarcus Hardrick and Pat Neufeld, was without defensive back Deatrick Nichols, had two new faces in the secondary in Desmond Lawrence and Alden Darby, Jr. and is still without receivers Greg Ellingson and Drew Wolitarsky and defensive backs Nick Taylor and Demerio Houston.

Now 14-3, the Blue Bombers will head into their third and final regular season bye week, regroup for an October 28th rematch with the Lions at IG Field and then await the Western Semi-final winner between B.C. and the Calgary Stampeders.

“We hate losing. We lost,” said head coach Mike O’Shea afterward. “I like the way we battled, I like the way we gave ourselves a chance and at the end… we came here prepared to win a football game and it didn’t work out.

“There are things we can fix, mistakes we’ll go through, and we’ll stick to our regular process like we do every single week – win or lose. But, trust me, nobody in there (nodding to the locker room) … it stinks.

“We weren’t hoping to win. We’ve got a whole room full of good football players that put a lot of time in, and the coaches get these guys prepared. We just missed on a couple of things. We need to execute better and clean up a couple of mistakes, especially at the end of the first half.”

Down 27-10 at the intermission, the Blue Bombers were full credit for an inspired second half that saw Dru Brown connect with Rasheed Bailey for two TDs and Dalton Schoen for a third, but the rally fell short against a Lions squad that moved closer to hosting the division semi-final with the win. B.C. is now 11-5, while the Stampeders are 10-6.

“We talked about it all week: we were coming in here to battle and just like coach said in (the locker room) we came to win,” said Bailey, who led the club with 11 receptions for 121 yards. “We don’t play to lose. We fought to the end, unfortunately we missed a couple of plays, and we didn’t come out with the ‘W.’ All the guys were ready, suited and booted, we just didn’t make it happen.”

Brown was making his first professional start and first since the 2019 Texas Bowl for Oklahoma State and threw a pair of Pick-6s – the first to Marcus Sayles in the first half, the second to TJ Lee with just over two minutes remaining – and finished the night 28-of-39 for 325 yards and the three TD strikes in the final 30 minutes while working behind a revamped O-line.

“I thought we battled pretty hard. I don’t think anybody gave up and I think everybody believed we were going to win in the end, despite what happened in the game and that’s pretty promising,” said Brown. “All things considered, if I don’t make two mistakes, if I’m a little more detailed on two of those plays and if you asked anybody in the locker room, we were going to pull it out.

“But it’s awesome being a part of this group. The guys that got opportunities to play, it was like they were trying to honour the veterans by battling the whole game. No one ever folded and that’s really encouraging.”

What will be intriguing now for the Blue Bombers is how they approach both the upcoming bye week and then what their roster might look like for the regular season finale against the Lions on October 28th.

O’Shea had no word on the status of centre/guard Chris Kolankowski, who limped off under his own steam after getting rolled up on in the second half, or whether the club exited the game without any other knocks. As for the bye week ahead…

“We have a schedule set and we’re going to treat it like past years: we’re going to work,” said O’Shea. “We’re going to get a few days here and there, but we’re going to come in to work.”

THE BIG MOMENT:

Down 27-10 at halftime, the Blue Bombers had moved to within nine points in the fourth quarter at 33-24 and were driving for another score when Lee gobbled up a Brown pass attempt and returned it 102 yards for the dagger.

THE BIG STAT: 14

The Blue Bombers had three turnovers in the game – the two interceptions and a turnover on downs in which the club kept the ball after a facemask penalty – and the Lions instantly converted those mistakes into points.

BLUE BOMBERS GAME BALLS

Offence: Rasheed Bailey, WR: Had 11 catches and his 121 yards was the second 100-yard game of his career. The totals also pushed him to career bests in receptions (58) and yards (658).

Defence: Jamal Parker, DB: Making his first start at halfback after lining up at cornerback, Parker was all over the stats sheet with seven tackles, another on special teams and a sack.

Special teams: Janarion Grant, KR:  Winnipeg’s ace return man set a franchise record with the seventh return TD of his career with his 94-yard punt-return score in the second quarter. Grant moved out of a tie with Keith Stokes for the all-time lead, and his seven scores have come in just 33 career games.

MILESTONE WATCH

Dalton Schoen finished with four catches for 82 yards and his league-leading 15th TD. That total is the third highest in CFL history for first-year players after David Williams (18 with B.C. in 1988) and Derrell Mitchell (17 with Toronto in 1997).

He now has 1,357 yards receiving – just shy of the 1,373 yards Perry Tuttle had in his first year with the Bombers in 1986. Matt Clark set the CFL record in that department with 1,530 receiving yards for the Lions in 1991.

NOTABLE

  • Nic Demski had his streak of consecutive games with a TD end at six.  The club record is eight, set by Milt Stegall n 1997 and the CFL record for consecutive games with a touchdown is 10, set by Terry Evanshen over 1967-68.
  • The Bombers had their five-game win streak vs. the Lions – including three in a row in Vancouver – snapped with the loss.
  • Brady Oliveira had 10 yards rushing on three carries before being replaced by Johnny Augustine. Oliveira now needs 71 yards to hit the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the first time in his career.

NEXT: The Blue Bombers will enjoy their third bye – they do have another prior to the Western Final – and return to action at home in a rematch with the Lions on October 28th.