July 1, 2023

Game Recap | WPG 17 MTL 3

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Drew Wolitarsky (82) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Montreal Alouettes during first half CFL football action in Montreal, Saturday, July 1, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

MONTREAL – It was exactly the response you would have expected from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, even as the critics and naysayers had already begun circling.

Yes, there’s only one way for a football team that gets punched in the mouth to respond: Get back up off the mat and throw some jabs and crosses, uppercuts and haymakers of their own. The Blue Bombers did that and then some following last week’s loss to the B.C. Lions, authoring a 17-3 win over the Montreal Alouettes Saturday night in a weather-delayed mudder at Percival Molson Stadium.

The win ups the Blue Bombers’ record to 3-1, while the Alouettes fall to 2-1.

“It feels good to be back in the win column,” said quarterback Zach Collaros who, unofficially, completed 15 of 23 passes for 193 yards with TD strikes to Drew Wolitarsky and Dalton Schoen against one interception. “All of them are important and it’s always tough to win so we’re really happy about the way we rebounded in the last week. We gutted it out in not the greatest circumstances.”

The game had been scheduled to start at 7 p.m. locally but was delayed by an hour and 40 minutes due to lightning. And when the teams did return to the field, it was to a night filled with rain and sweaty, sticky humidity.

“It’s a testament to our guys staying focused and then getting out there and doing their job,” said Collaros on how the team handled the wait. “We didn’t really know what was going on (with the delay) and how much time we would have to wait. We didn’t really talk about the gameplan much. We just talked to each other and once we got that 20-minute warning we just locked back in and started focusing. We’ve been in this situation before. We handled it well.”

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


The Blue Bombers helped deliver the win with some dominant play against the Alouettes offence, limiting the home side to just the field goal while registering four sacks and forcing four turnovers. Willie Jefferson was at his menacing best with three tackles, two sacks and a knockdown, while Cam Lawson (2) and Ricky Walker also brought down Cody Fajardo behind the line of scrimmage.

“Ricky had the the first sack, Cam had two sacks and a fumble recovery… we were just out there trying to make it hard for Cody; make it hard for their offensive line and make them move around, get to (William) Stanback on first down and get to him in the backfield instead of letting him get his momentum going and try to get off the field on second down.”


A rarity in the last week: the Blue Bombers offensive line had been taking heat – extreme heat – after the Lions had racked up seven sacks in last week’s loss. But the big eaters were back to their dominant ways against the Als’ stout defence as Winnipeg racked up 358 yards offence – including 177 along the ground – with Collaros being kept relatively clean all evening.

“It didn’t feel perfect, but it felt good,” said right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick. “It felt physical. We’ll look at the film, but it felt like the things we’ve done over the years. Hat’s off to them, but I think we leaned pretty good and while we’ve got things to fix there’s definitely a better feeling in this locker room right now.”


Blue Bombers offensive coordinator Buck Pierce dialled up some different looks for an offence that was without Nic Demski – who remained in Winnipeg for the impending birth of his first child – and saw Greg McCrae in the lineup for the first time this season.

McCrae rushed four times for 49 yards and pulled in two passes for 10 yards as four different players carried the ball – including Collaros, Rasheed Bailey and Brady Oliveira – while the passing attack was efficient.

Oliveira was pounding the ball behind the big eaters up front, rushing 20 times for 112 yards after shaking off an early fumble.

“Total group effort,” said Oliveira. “With the weather conditions, with how the game started with the delay we did a great job responding to adversity and went out there and the offensive line played amazing. We had some new pieces in there and the receivers that were in there and got their opportunity did a great job when their number was called.

“I’ve got great teammates in my corner. Nighthawk (McCrae) was the first one to get to me after the fumble and say, ‘It’s OK. Flush it.’ I get to the sidelines and my teammates know I’ll respond. Knowing I’ll have their back means everything. I take pride in protecting the football. We’ll get back in the lab, work on ball security and make sure that doesn’t happen again.”


The Blue Bombers were in control of this one to start to finish, but there was a moment where momentum might have turned. Leading 10-0 in the third quarter, Fajardo found Kaion Julien-Grant for a 69-yard bomb to the Winnipeg 14-yard line.

But on the next play safety Brandon Alexander stepped in front of a pass and returned the interception 62 yards to the Montreal 46. Six plays later Collaros connected with Schoen for the dagger.



The Blue Bombers averaged 7.5 yards on first downs against the Als, opening up the playbook for Pierce & Co. to be creative in how they approached second down. It was a big point of emphasis leading into the week, and the attack delivered.

GAME BALL: Willie Jefferson, DE

Willie doing Willie things. Two sacks, a knockdown and a forced fumble.

NEXT: The Blue Bombers are back home next Friday, July 7th, for a West Division matchup with the Calgary Stampeders with a start time of 7:30 p.m.