June 10, 2023

Game Recap | HAM 31 WPG 42

1st Half - Drew Wolitarsky 82 - Zach Collaros 8 touchdown celebration

It had the early makings of an Oscar winner, temporarily morphed into a horror show and ultimately settled into a damn fine bit of drama.

And my goodness, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers season-opening, all-over-the-map 42-31 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats had enough moments to keep the 29,057 diehards at IG Field on the edge of their seats all evening long.

“That was a wild one, for sure,” said Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros, who was sensational in throwing for 354 yards and three TDs. “The viewers at home and the people in the stadium got their money’s worth.

“Our fans were probably a little nervous there at the end, but it was a great CFL football game, and it was a great team we played over there. Thought we did a lot of good things and lot of things we can clean up. It’s always better watching film after the win, there’s a lot of things we can need to get better at, but we’ll enjoy this one tonight.”

The Blue Bombers forced six turnovers – and spit out four of their own in springing some leaks in the second half after a 29-4 lead at the intermission – in what started out as a waltz and transformed into a mosh pit brawl.

“It’s a win. We made enough mistakes to make things interesting but listen (Hamilton) is going to be a very good football team, they’ve got a lot of very good players, so it’s good just to come out with a win,” said head coach Mike O’Shea. “We’ll fix all the mistakes tomorrow.”

“It was a little crazy out there, but you know what, we came through,” added slotback Nic Demski, who finished with six catches for 113 yards and a superb touchdown.

“Our team is always going to depend on each other, we’ve always got each other’s backs. We came through even through that roller-coaster of a game. Obviously, we’ve got a lot of things to clean up, but we got the win.”

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



The reigning two-time CFL Most Outstanding Player was dominant with the 354 yards passing and three TDs as the Blue Bombers rolled up 481 yards of net offence. In addition to connecting with Demski, he also found Rasheed Bailey and Drew Wolitarsky for scores.

“We had some stuff we had been working on and we got the right looks in coverage and the guys made great plays on the ball,” said Collaros. “As the game went on Brady (Oliveira) got on a roll a little bit and the offensive line got going so it was a complete effort on offence. So, it was good.”

Six different players caught passes as the Blue Bombers flashed a ton of new looks and wrinkles for a season opener. And all this, it should be noted, without Kenny Lawler.


Winnipeg’s defence was stellar, forcing six turnovers – including two interceptions by Bo Levi Mitchell, both by Demerio Houston – registering three sacks and limiting the Ticats to just 229 yards net offence.

“The defensive backfield in general were challenged with some deep balls and made some nice plays all round,” said O’Shea. “And stayed clean while doing it. I liked their game a lot.”


Brady Oliveira missed a ton of training camp but looked fresh and dangerous in the season opener with 22 rushes for 115 yards and a TD, while pulling in two passes for an additional 58 yards.

“Obviously happy with the performance, but the main thing is going 1-0 every single week,” said Oliveira. “Starting the season 1-0 is huge. That’s the biggest takeaway.

“My individual performance… after missing camp, missing preseason I wasn’t on top of my game fully and there’s lots of times where if I had hit the hole, I would have got some bigger runs. I’ll treat this game as a little preseason game for me and I’m just excited to get back into it.”


It started inauspiciously enough, with Demski putting the ball on the ground on the club’s offensive play – but the veteran slotback more than made up for it with his six catches and 113 yards.

“Obviously that’s not the way you want to start off,” said Demski. “But at the end of the day everybody had my back on the sidelines, nobody was pointing fingers, and everybody was telling me it’s all good.

“(The 100th game) means a lot. I put a lot of time, a lot of work into this, so just to be out here for 100 games, being at home and wearing this Winnipeg Blue Bombers jersey does mean a lot.”

O’Shea, post-game, when asked about Demski:

“It’s the same thing we say every time about Nic – he’s good. Very versatile. As good an athlete as you’ll find on the field. He can make guys miss, he can pull away from guys, he’s strong to break tackles, he’s got excellent hands, he’s really smart, he understands the game and how he fits in it.

“He’s pretty damn good.”


The Blue Bombers continued their dominance at IG Field with the season-opening victory – a result that improves their record in south Winnipeg to a remarkable 28-2, including playoffs, dating back to a Banjo Bowl loss to Saskatchewan back in 2018.


The Ticats had clawed back in the second half to pull within eight at 39-31 in the fourth quarter when the Blue Bombers pieced together a solid drive that was capped by a 50-yard field goal by Sergio Castillo with under five minutes remaining. Castillo was 4-of-4, connecting from 32, 19, 18 and 50 and hitting on all four of his converts.


The Blue Bombers had 345 yards at halftime in building up their 29-4 advantage. The team’s 478 yards offence was the most since amassing 503 yards in a 48-11 win over Edmonton last October.


Slam dunk – Collaros… three TDs, 345 yards and the precision of a surgeon in dissecting the Ticats defence.

FYI: Jackson Jeffcoat was injured in the first half, but O’Shea did not have an immediate update afterward. “Lower body. We’ll see.”

NEXT: The Blue Bombers hit the road next week to Regina to face the Roughriders on Friday, June 16th with an 8 p.m. CDT kickoff.