June 22, 2023

Game Recap | BC 30 WPG 6

Pre-Game - Zach Collaros 8 warm up

Let’s make this clear from the get-go: There are no asterisks, no excuses and no yeah-buts about the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ third effort of the 2023 Canadian Football League season.

The B.C. Lions waltzed into the league’s toughest building on a picturesque Thursday evening and thoroughly dominated the three-time defending West Division champs in front of 25,662 at IG Field in a 30-6 victory that spoke volumes about the visitors’ effort and raised some red flags about the home side.

The Blue Bombers, simply put, haven’t been manhandled like this – especially at home – in eons. And so, the first question to Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea after the game was a simple one: what went wrong?

“Ooof,” began O’Shea. “I think the better question is, ‘What went right?’ Not enough, obviously, to win. Full credit to them. They came in here and beat us pretty good in front of our fans. That’s the one thing you always have to think about, is we let our fans down, too. We’re all thinking the same thing: We didn’t play well enough to beat a good B.C. team.”

The Blue Bombers entered Thursday’s game 28-2 in their last 30 at IG Field, including playoffs, and over that span had gone 19-0 against West Division rivals. Updated after Thursday night: 28-3 and 19-1.

And while it’s early, this is also worth pointing out this recent rarity: with the Lions at 3-0 and the Blue Bombers now 2-1, Winnipeg also finds itself looking up at someone else in the standings. Circle this one on your calendars: the rematch between these two teams, the second of three meetings this year, goes Thursday, August 3rd at IG Field.

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


B.C.’s defence posted the club’s first shutout since 1977 in last week’s win over the Edmonton Elks and then trumped that with an even more impressive performance against the CFL’s most prolific offence on Thursday.

The Lions were in the Winnipeg backfield all evening, sacking Zach Collaros seven times and in addition to keeping the Blue Bombers out of the end zone, limited the attack to 19 first downs and 218 yards net offence.

Remember, the Blue Bombers had scored 87 points in their first two games – wins over Hamilton and Saskatchewan – while averaging 39.0 points offensively.

“Give credit where it’s due: they played a great game. They were physical, they covered us up pretty well and at the same time I’m sure when we watch the tape and see some of the stuff that happened there are certain things I can do better to get us more first downs, get a lot more points and score more points. Early on we had a few drives resulting in field goals. We’ve got to score touchdowns.”

The Lions’ defence has now surrendered just 21 points in three games – and just one TD – and shut the Blue Bombers out in the second half.


Vernon Adams, Jr, B.C.’s veteran QB, entered the 2023 season still somewhat in the shadow of Nathan Rourke – who parlayed a sensational 2022 campaign into a gig with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Adams, Jr. won’t make fans on the West coast forget Rourke any time soon, but he is now playing the best ball of his seven-year career.

B.C.’s QB1 completed 20 of 30 passes for 241 yards and two TDs – one to Alexander Hollins the other to Justin McInnis – while rushing twice for 30 yards.

“Honestly, that’s the best game I’ve seen Vernon play since he’s been in the CFL,” said Blue Bombers defensive end Willie Jefferson. “Hats off to him. He came in prepared; he was getting the ball off quick to his targets and putting it in places where only they could catch the ball while making plays with his feet when he had the opportunities. He didn’t make any big mistakes.

“He had a really good game. He was locked in. We had pressure on him, we got back to him and were on him, he was just able to get the ball off in time.”


The seven sacks surrendered were alarming and while the Blue Bombers managed three of their own, Adam’s 20 completions and their conversion of 9-of-20 second downs were tough numbers for the defence to swallow.

Yet, after being so steady through the first two weeks, Winnipeg’s attack seemed to be swallowed up by B.C.’s front six and their coverage in the secondary.

“They just played physical, and we didn’t match it,” said Blue Bombers centre Chris Kolankowski. “We got away from what makes us a good O-line and we’ve got to learn off it, get better and make sure we get back to that play style next week.

“We’ve got to be more physical. It comes down to that. They punched us in the mouth, and we didn’t recover from it. We have to play better from the get-go, from the opening whistle. The first quarter was a rough start and then we were playing from behind at that point.

“Now it’s about how we come in tomorrow and get back to work and making sure we’re honouring our teammates by finding out how we can get better.”


The Blue Bombers have been the CFL’s least-penalized team for years but were hammered for nine penalties – the yardage total, according to the live stats was 40 yards, but it was certainly more than that.

“Yeah, there were the giveaways, too,” said O’Shea of Winnipeg’s three turnovers. “So, we’re behind on a bunch of categories that really determine the outcomes of games usually. We say the same: we always look at the tape to see the reasons why you win or lose. The guys already know. They already good idea of how this happened.”


The Blue Bombers had clawed back some momentum near the end of the first half, piecing together a 10-play drive that began at their own one yard-line and covered 95 yards before stalling out and leading to a 21-yard Sergio Castillo field goal that cut B.C.’s lead to 10-6 with 49 seconds remaining.

The Lions then counter-punched big time, putting together a five-play 70-yard drive of their own that was capped by an Adams, Jr.-to-Alexander Hollins TD on the last play of the half. And with that B.C.s’ four-point cushion had ballooned to 17-6 at the intermission.


Touchdowns by the Blue Bombers, marking the first time the team has not found the end zone in a game since November 20, 2021 – a 13-12 loss to the Stampeders in Calgary in which some starters were rested and Collaros played only the first quarter.

GAME BALL: Matthieu Betts, DE, B.C.

A rarity here in this space – saluting the other guys – but Betts was dominant off the edge, registering three sacks and a pass knockdown and even chipping in with a tackle on special teams.

NEXT: The Blue Bombers are on the road next Saturday, July 1st for a Canada Day matchup with the Montreal Alouettes at Percival Molson Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. CDT.