June 2, 2023

Game Recap | SSK 28 WPG 16

2nd Half - Tyrrell Pigrome 3 pumped

There will be many tough decisions for Winnipeg Blue Bombers coaches and management in the next few hours – with some of them no doubt absolutely gut-wrenching – but let’s go out on a fairly sturdy limb here with this declaration after two preseason games: Tyrrell Pigrome can unpack his suitcase and start apartment hunting ASAP.

Yes, on a Blue Bombers team stacked with veterans – and subsequently, fewer openings than most clubs across the Canadian Football League – the young quarterback did everything possible and then some to earn a roster spot on the eve of cut-down day.

Pigrome served up his second solid performance in as many games in Friday night’s pre-season finale, as a Blue Bombers lineup missing a ton of regulars fell 28-16 to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in front of 24,654 at IG Field.

The 25-year-old Birmingham, Al. product engineered two scoring drives in his two appearances behind centre, energizing a crowd enjoying a scorching evening by throwing for one score to Amare Jones and handing off to Jordan Salima for another while completing 5-of-6 passes for 65 yards and rushing five times for 43 yards.

Couple that with what he did last week by rushing for 71 yards and two touchdowns and going 2-of-4 for 43 in the passing department and he did exactly what every CFL rookie is supposed to do with his opportunity: he wrapped his hands around the chance and squeezed hard.

“I feel good, I feel blessed and I just thankful for the opportunity, like I keep saying,” began Pigrome post-game, with a nearby teammate humming the ESPN Sports Center theme as the cameras and media swarmed around him. “I had a lot of help from these guys – from the receivers, the running backs, to the line, from Zach (Collaros) and Dru (Brown) just helping me out and being around vets and talking to them, it really helped me a lot.

“I just had to show what they teach me, take everything they teach me and put in on the field.”

Mission accomplished, in that regard.

“He’s electric,” said Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea. “He’s extremely tough to bring down and he just makes plays, which is pretty neat to watch.”

Pigrome’s ability to run the short-yardage package – he’s generously listed at 5-10, which makes him shorter than Dakota Prukop, Sean McGuire and Chris Streveler, the men who held that role before him – but is a solid 200 pounds and lightning fast, is now also no longer in question.

“Definitely that’s a spot we have – a short-yardage quarterback,” said O’Shea. “We’ll see. It’s not the body-type we’ve had (in the past), but that doesn’t mean he can’t get down. I think he’s hard to see back there, too. You see him just shrink down, bend the knees and he kinda disappears for a second and then comes flying out somewhere and is very elusive and greasy.”

Here are some other post-game observations from our perch in the press box…


1. What’s next?

The Blue Bombers have until 10 p.m. Saturday night to make their roster decisions for the final round of cuts of camp. And while this is a lineup that looks set in so many places, there will be of a ton of discussion about the roster from top to bottom.

“We don’t go in saying it’s set,” said O’Shea. “I mean, we want to be surprised. You want to have those tough decisions. Obviously, we are a veteran-laden team, but that doesn’t mean guys can’t make their mark with us.”

That means a nervous night for so many, including a second-year vet like linebacker Brian Cole, who had a solid effort against the Riders.

“When it’s preseason there’s a lot of cuts, a lot of movement,” said Cole. “It’s nerve wracking, but you see guys’ best efforts – some guys who don’t know the playbook and they’re giving it their all, too. That’s all we can ask for, for people just give it their all.

“You never know. I’ve been on a lot of teams. I’ve been cut from a lot of teams, as well,” added Cole, who had looks from Saskatchewan and Edmonton before landing here last year. “At the end of the day nobody’s safe. That’s why when you put in the work and put it on tape you know you’re doing it for other teams, too.”

2. The Lawler news

The Blue Bombers announced late Thursday that star receiver Kenny Lawler had been transferred to the suspended list ‘pending resolution of matters related to his 2021 off field incident.

‘We will provide a further update once the situation resolves, which we expect to occur in 3-4 weeks.”

As for the impact of the Lawler news, O’Shea offered this post-game:

“The biggest impact is on the personal side. You’ve got a lot of guys that are good friends with Kenny, and they are concerned about how things are going to shake down with him. They’re more concerned about the person Kenny Lawler than they are about the Blue Bombers and what we do with Week 1.”

3. The ‘Other’ QBs

Zach Collaros did not dress, meaning Dru Brown got the start. He went 8-of-15 for 69 yards with no TDs or interceptions while rushing once for 11 yards. Josh Jones had the tough act of following Pigrome, and he went 3-of-4 for 23 yards in late mop-up work.

4. The Specialists

Marc Liegghio led all punters with a 49-yard average on three punts, although he had his first attempt sail out of bounds for a penalty. Jamieson Sheahan rushed one, getting it off quickly to avoid being blocked and had a 36.5-yard average while Karl Schmitz had a 48-yard average on two punts.

Matt Cole stood out in the return game with Janarion Grant not dressed, averaging 13.7 yards on three kickoff returns and almost taking a missed field goal to the house before being tripped up by Riders kicker Brett Lauther at midfield.

5. A push up the middle

Defensive tackle Caleb Thomas had one defensive tackle, a tackle for a loss and one sack – all this after registering a sack and blocking a field goal in last week’s win over Edmonton.

“I felt like I put my best foot forward and left it all out there,” said Thomas. “A big play came out of it (the sack) and I can hang my hat on that. This would be the most sacks I’ve had in a while. That’s one thing I wanted to improve on in the offseason. I knew I had the explosiveness, but to improve as a pass rusher I had to work on the little things. I think it’s paying off.

“I’ll be one of those guys sweating tonight, too. You just can’t take anything for granted. I put my best effort out there and whatever happens I know I did my best.”

NEXT: The Blue Bombers open their 2023 regular season next Friday at IG Field with Bo Levi Mitchell and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats visiting with a 7:30 p.m. start.