July 8, 2023

Game Recap | CGY 11 WPG 24

1st Half - Greg McCrae 29 - Dalton Schoen 83 touchdown celebration (1)

Confirmed and fact-checked Friday night in south Winnipeg: the world did not – as so many had recently gloomily declared – spin off its axis a couple of weeks ago at IG Field.

Yes, all is right in Bomberland again following a 24-11 home victory over the Calgary Stampeders Friday night as the club got up off the mat after a sluggish first quarter and fought back to victory. And in the process the Blue Bombers pushed their record to 4-1 in front of 30,561 on a perfect Manitoba summer night.

Worth reminding to everyone again: the Blue Bombers are now 29-3, including playoffs, in their last 32 at home. Down 11-1 and getting pushed around at the line of scrimmage in the first 15 minutes, the Blue Bombers clawed back to tie the game 11-11 at the intermission and then outscored the Stamps 23-0 to the final whistle.

“I don’t know that we played 30 minutes in the first half,” said Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea. “I think we probably played less than 10 where we played good football. We were out there, but I don’t know that we were playing good football. We still go in at halftime tied, and then come out and have the second half that we did… I mean, it’s one thing to expect it, it’s another to come out there against a well-coached football team.”

Asked what the biggest difference was for his club in the second half, he added: “Resolve. I don’t know that our guys were happy with their first half, and they came out and they played better. I thought we executed better. We certainly increased our physicality in the second half.

“I think they gave what they could in the first half, too. They were trying and they were working hard, it just wasn’t amounting to much. And then they find something else to give.”

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


They call him ‘Nighthawk’ in the Blue Bombers clubhouse and Greg McCrae authored two mammoth plays in Friday’s win – the first brought the home side to life and the second put the visitors to bed.

Trailing 11-4 in the second quarter, McCrae slipped behind coverage and latched on to a Zach Collaros pass from a 68-yard touchdown that evened the score.

And then on the second play of the fourth quarter McCrae – filling in on return duties for an injured Janarion Grant – took a Rene Paredes miss on a 47-yard field goal 102 yards the other way to Calgary’s 13 yard-line. The ensuing drive stalled, but a Sergio Castillo field goal from 17 yards out put the Blue Bombers up by 10.

“It was great blocking by our return team to get out in front of me and fight to get to get blocks. They were running just as hard as me to spring me free. I’ve got to finish that one.”

Asked if he had run out of gas after that run – which might have covered 200 yards with all the zigging and zagging – McCrae grinned.

“I’m not going to lie – I was tired.”

“I was just assessing the situation,” he said of the decision to take the miss out of the end zone rather than concede a single. “Me and coach (special teams coordinator Paul Boudreau) go over these situations prior on the sideline before I go out there. He trusts in me to make a good decision. If it was granted, I would have taken the point, but I believed I was able to get out and I did and made something big out of it.”

McCrae also finished with 73 yards on two receptions, seven yards on three carries. Remember, too, that he wasn’t in the lineup in the first three games of the season.

“I’m just showing up every day and hoping the coaches use me and staying ready for whenever they need me,” he said. “It feels really good. It’s just being patient and waiting for your time. Tonight, my number was called, and I just tried to make the best of that opportunity.”


Calgary stuffed the ball down the Blue Bombers throats early, as running back Dedrick Mills had 74 yards on seven carries in the first quarter alone. By the game’s end he had 14 carries for 97 yards. For those of you without a calculator in hand, that means his last seven carries were for just 23 yards.

Even after the tough start, Winnipeg’s D limited Calgary to just 215 yards net offence.

“It was a battle, first half, for sure,” said defensive end Willie Jefferson, who had two tackles and two sacks. “There were a lot of punches thrown. It was back and forth and that’s the time of game you expect from the Calgary organization and then us. It’s going to be a battle until somebody gets tired.

“We stayed locked in and got focussed. Down 10 points… it’s not much for us. All we need to do is just stick together, put some plays together, put the ball in the end zone, take the ball, get off the field on defence and then let the offence put some points on the board.”


Up 21-11 in the fourth quarter, the Blue Bombers took possession at their own seven-yard line with 11:40 left in the game and then pieced together a 15 play, 99-yard drive that resulted in a Castillo 12-yard field goal and – most importantly – took 9:29 off the clock.

The drive featured 10 runs, including seven by Brady Oliveira, and was typical Blue Bombers smash-mouth football.
“I thought we finished the right way,” said Collaros. “To have a drive like that to really seal it there. I wish we would have punched it in there at the end, but our offensive line really took it to them at the end, as well as our receivers who are always willing to mix it up and Brady was running really hard. And when we had to throw the ball, we were able to sustain the drive and run it out.”


O’Shea moved into a second-place tie in franchise history with Cal Murphy with 86 career wins. Bud Grant is first all time with 102 victories.

Not surprisingly, O’Shea did not want any part of that discussion post-game when asked what he thought about the accomplishment.

“Nothing right now,” he said. “Cal’s a great coach.”

The Sun’s Paul Friesen then asked O’Shea to describe his situation with the club, with O’Shea not missing a beat before adding: “Tenuous at best.”


Blue Bombers middle linebacker Adam Bighill has been through hell and back in the last 10 days following the unexpected death of his father Andrew on June 27th. Bighill flew to Portland to be by his dad’s side before his passing and then joined the club in Montreal for their Canada Day win over the Alouettes. Bighill was at his absolute best against the Stamps Friday night with one of his trademark sideline-to-sideline efforts that has him destined for the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

The veteran finished the night with a team-high seven tackles and on top of helping backstop the victory, also moved past former teammate Solomon Elimimian into sixth place on the CFL’s all-time list. Bighill now has 840 tackles in his career.

“I’m going to think about my dad on every game day – just like I think of my mom,” said Bighill. “That’ll be something going forward. I know he’s up there looking down super-proud right now.”


The McCrae return was massive, as described above.


The Blue Bombers fell behind 11-1 in the second quarter and then did not allow another point while outscoring the Stamps 23-0 the rest of the way.


Outstanding performance by the second-year Bomber. No chance he comes out of the lineup now.

NEXT: The Blue Bombers head out on the road next week, travelling to Ottawa to face the RedBlacks on Saturday, July 8th with a 6 p.m. CT kickoff.